Just back from hiking the “Three Ridges”, Friday 22 June to Sunday 24 June 2012, per the description found in Hikingupward.com.
See all the photos at http://www.meetup.com/OCBackpackers/photos/9415752/
Backpacked this with our hiking group “Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers”, which has members from Richmond to Virginia Beach.
I drove up to Sherpa’s house in Williamsburg where we linked up with Mukta (Ashley). While we were waiting for Mukta, Sherpa and her husband laid out a totally fantastic European buffet complete with Caprice Salad, grilled Brussels sprouts, spiced humus, tuna salad, brie, crackers and other stuff I can’t remember. But what a feast!
After Mukta arrived, we drove up to Charlottesville where we linked up with Biscuit, Evenstar, Longshanks, Mark and Mark.
We arrived at the trailhead at Reed’s Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway about 11pm, thank god it wasn’t raining. We saddled up and started the 1.6 mile walk to the campsite located in front of the Maupin Field Shelter on the Appalachian Trail. The trailhead starts out about about 2600’ goes up over 3100’ then back down to about 2700’.
Here we linked up with Tom who had brought his dog ‘stretch’ who is a Scottish Deer Hound (or something like this), this is the biggest breed I have ever seen! Bigger than any Great Dane, more like a small pony, OMG!
Anyway, it was – or seemed – warm and muggy that night as we all settled in.
Saturday was a leisurely start with a late breakfast, we didn’t start walking until almost 10am.
Saturday was another hot one and unfortunately Stretch, who is about 7, was struggling so he and Tom turned around and headed back to the trail head.
The hike was pretty uneventful, we made a couple of breaks, hiked up and over the three ridges, getting up to 3900’ and stopped for lunch at the last flat rock overlook before the trail dives back into the forest and begins a very steep downhill section.
We arrived at the area of the Harper’s Creek Shelter (about 1800’) around 4pm. We were the only ones there so I was pretty psyched; normally the place is pretty popular with boy scouts who can hike in from a forest road only about 2 miles from a parking lot.
I was beat from the long hot downhill and very glad to reach the shelter.
We were very lucky to have a group of closely located campsites all to ourselves, and pretty close to the stream for water and cooling off. The ONLY drawback was the place was covered with poison ivy so you had to be careful to stay on the paths.
After we set up, a group of us went down to filter some water. Shadeau, Biscuit’s dog, was playing in the stream, so I started up-stream where the water wasn’t disturbed and almost latched onto a 4’ rattle snake moving in and around the rocks! YIKES! Needing to change my pants, I slowly backed away to where the others where resting, we watched the snake for a minute or three, as it slowly starting winding its way down to where we were – Time to go!
Needless to say, subsequent water trips were in groups where we could have a look out for the thing. We didn’t have any more encounters.
We made a campfire around which we all made our dinners. I had instant mashed potatoes and made some ‘brown gravy’ on the side. After dinner I made a Banana Muffin in my ‘bake-packer’ and shared it with everybody.
That night, Mark who was ‘backpacking lite’, returned to his sleeping bag laid out on a tarp on the ground and encountered a snake in the dark near his area and decided to relocate elsewhere!
The next morning, Sunday, we had intended to break camp around eight, but that was wishful thinking. I think we hit the trail about 9, taking the AT to the Mar-har trail where we turned north on it heading back up to the parkway. We reached the Campbell creek campsite about 11, took a break and some of us jumped into the creek to cool off. It WAS SWEET!!
From Harper’s shelter the trail very steeply goes up from about 1800’ to about 3200’ and then loses all of that elevation gain, going back to about 1700’ when you pick up the trail at Campbell’s creek! So you’re already hot and beat, and then have to re-gain all that elevation on the steep rugged trail back to the Maupin Field shelter! Jeeesuz! What a long hot bitch of a hike. This hike is rated difficult, but since I’ve done it basically 3 times in the past 12 months, I knew, being the second oldest in the group, that it would be ok if I just take my time…so I rated it “easy(?)”, kind of tongue in cheek rating. But then I started feeling really bad when others where huffing and puffing because they trusted my “easy(?)” description. (in fairness, I did refer to the hikingupward.com description of the hike for detailed trip analysis and maps.)
We finally reached the Maupin field shelter around 1pm and everybody was pretty beat. Biscuit almost stepped on another RATTLE SNAKE on a path next to the shelter and almost jumped out of his boots. When I asked him if he took a picture, he looked at me kind of weird :-), so together we went back to find it, where it posed for several photos!
So the last phase was back up and over the 3200’ hill back to the parking lot. Not really much to write about, it went pretty well, no surprises or events to write about. The snakes, the poison ivy, the night hike, but everything went very very smooth. But it was hot and tiring. I call every hike a ‘training hike’ and this one was no different, I’m training for Maroon Bells in 4 weeks and was a little tester for me. Sherpa and Biscuit are also going to Colorado, and both looked to be in pretty good shape.
On the way back we stopped in for a little pizza in a great place Mark recommended, next the University of Virginia campus. It was great, “the mushroom” I think.
Anyway, not much else to report.
One good note, this was a little bit of a challenge for us, and everybody did fantastic, and as far as I’m concerned everybody earned some bone-fide bragging rights for completing a kick-ass hike! It’s all downhill from here (yuk yuk)