Tag Archives: appalachian trail

Winter 2014/2015 RECAP

As of today, 6 March 2015, this has been the ‘winter that almost wasn’t’.  We’ve had a ton of rain and warm weather (40’s – 50’s), up until about Mid February 2015, then it started to get ‘Polar Vortex Cold’ along with lot’s of snow that Virginia is not geared to deal with.

On the coast, where I live, we got a foot of snow in early February, then a week went by, then we got another foot, while I was off for a week Skiing in Colorado, paradoxically, looking for snow.

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The temps on the coast have been single digit, which broke records everywhere around here.  Gunny just posted that it’s currently -4F where he lives now, up near Staunton, Va.

That said, I have just scheduled a short 2 night backpacking trip for next week, a short loop thru the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area and Shenandoah NP.  Camping will be ‘Stealth Camping’.  Hoping for snow camping.  Hopefully the 2 river crossings will be easy and we won’t have to take our boots off (December 2013 below), else, it’s going to be a bit ‘nipley’.

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In late December we had a backpacking trip up and over Cold (Cole) Mountain, off the AT, near Buena Vista, Va.

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We’ve done this area many times and it’s always a beautiful trip.  The temps were pretty mild, I think above freezing the whole time, and we had sunshine (yeah!).  We had 8 or 9 show up from OC Backpackers.  Here’s a link to the photos :http://www.meetup.com/OCBackpackers/photos/25818110/ .

In February we had a Backpacking 101 course, which went, IMO, really well. Instead of speaking to a powerpoint slide show,  I and several others brought our backpacks fully loaded for a spring/summer 3 day/2 night hike and slow unloaded, explaining and discussing the concepts and variations as we went on.

Also in February, I met up with Geardog in Denver and we drove out to Summit County, Dillon, Co, for a week of skiing at Keystone.  It was GREAT!.  I bought a season pass for about $300 in October, which brought the price of skiing 5 days down to about $60 a day, versus the walk up price of $105-$120 per day!!!

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We had sunshine for ALMOST everyday, a few days the clouds would roll in after lunch, and we had small amount of snow 1 or 2 days, but not enough to drive one off the mountain.  The biggest thing though, is when mid-week skiing, the slopes are almost deserted!  You can ski so much that you (I) can become exhausted by about lunch time! YIKES!  Each day we would trudge back to the condo for lunch, a small break, then hit the slopes for the afternoon.  According to the Keystone app, we skied over 100,000 vertical feet, and that was with a short day on Friday, when we had to check out by 11 and drive up to Denver.  We were determined to leave early and take our time driving to Denver as the weather on the I70 corridor between Denver and Summit Couny had been literal shit the entire week, with, I kid you not, hundreds of accidents due to the speed, snow, and ice. On the Wednesday we were there, over 60 cars where in a massive pile up on the interstate on the way back to Denver, leaving motorists stranded all night!  Luckily we had sunshine on the drive back.  Single digit temps, but the roads where clear except for the constant mud spray on the windshield from the cars in front.

I’ve got my annual 6 day, 5 night corridor backpack in the GRAND CANYON coming up the first week in May!

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We’ve got 4 people going (that’s all I requested on the permit application).  We’ve got myself, Jen, Biscuit, and Bones going.  Normally we go in March, but I was undecided if I wanted to do a trip this year and didn’t decide to go until the earlier deadlines had passed and May was up for the lottery.  It promises to be a lot warmer, possibly shorts weather down in the canyon, that will great!

I guess the big thing going on for this summer is a planned hike to do the James Muir Trail (JMT), 210 miles in the California High Sierra’s with Biscuit and Geardog.  After we went to the Jim Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range, Wyoming last August, where I was pretty much under the weather the entire trip, mostly due to my own doings, I was determined to make this years’ BIG ADVENTURE a ‘sleepy, easy’ fishing trip loop either in Colorado or back in the Winds.  However, after a winter of sitting around, pretty bored, Biscuit and I kept talking about the JMT, so I started researching it.  It’s a huge logistical undertaking and permits are required and have been greatly reduced due to enormous demand, by the park service in the northern terminus of the trail in Yosemite NP.  Reduced to lessen the impact on the corridor the JMT traverses in YNP and just outside the park.  We were able to snag permits going NOBO from about 22 miles SOUTH of the JMT’s southern terminus at the ‘Mt Whitney Portal’, with a start date of 15 August.  I also applied for a permit starting at the Whitney Portal, which are awarded based upon a lottery, which will happen in mid-March. So we’re still waiting to see what happens with that.  I’m not sure my body is up to doing 230 miles, we really won’t have a time limit.  The limits are really based upon the number of meals one sends to the resupply points.  We’ll see what happens.


Getting Ready for Tar Jacket Ridge (AT), Skiing at Keystone, Grand Canyon 6 day backpack, and another Winds Trip?

Getting ready for the next weekend’s winter backpack to/on Tar Jacket Ridge, on the AT.  However the weather’s predicted to be not-so-cold, maybe low 20’s, at least no rain is predicted yet.  This will be TJR hike number 5 or 6?  highres_246741902I got sick just after the last trip, ‘gastro’ thing (’nuff said), thought I had giardia.  Went to the doctor’s about a week or two after the trip and did have a gut infection.  Had to take cipro for 10 days, this was in Jun/Jul, but I got rid of it the day before our trip to Grayson Highlands.  We’ll camp at wiggens spring and take the AT 7 miles to the seely shelter, camp, then hike back, eat and go home.

Then, I need to ship my pack to Las Vegas, where 8 of us will meet at the LV airport and drive to the Grand Canyon for 6 days, 5 nights on an easy out and back, easy if you don’t DSC02431count the 3000′ hike out from indian garden on the last day, then it’s 1 night at one of the lodges followed by a drive to Vegas on Saturday with flights back to Virginia that same day.

But, on the way to the GC, Red Baron and I will meet in Denver, drive to Dillon and stay a 028week to ski at Keystone, probably for me only 3 days, before driving back to Denver and flying to LV to pick up that backpack I shipped earlier. (Don’t break a leg!).

Then back to planning another trip to the Winds in August.  This will probably be a ‘by invitation only’ hike, not posting it on our meetup group, need to avoid the ‘first timers’ DSCN2752and hiking with strangers thing.  Not that I mind hiking with strangers and making new friends, but that needs to happen on the weekend trips where we can get past the ‘group dynamic stuff’ in an easier, less remote scenario.

I need to put this away and get on the treadmill.


Three Ridges Trip Report, Applachian Trail Virginia 22-24 June 2012

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)

4 Days On The A.T. And Virginia Creeper Trail In The Blue Ridge Mountains

This is about our six days and five nights backpacking and camping in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, where Virginia meets North Carolina and Tennessee.

We hiked the Appalachian Trail to the Virginia Creeper trail, starting from the Fox Creek Trail Head near Grayson Highlands State Park, to Damascus, Va.

Nine of us from our meet-up group Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers (www.meetup.com/ocbackpackers) from Hampton, Williamsburg, Richmond, Chesapeake, and VA Beach, did this 4-7 May 2012.

The trip included Chupa, Biscuit, Sherpa, Trail Surfer, Crockett, Condor, Mark, Tim, and Paul.

Day 1, Thursday 3 May:

We rendezvoused in Newport News Va and drove the 8 hrs to Damascus so we could check out the area, eat dinner, and allow Condor to get a new canteen.  When we were in the Mt. Rogers Outfitters (MRO) store, I noticed a hiking “kilt” for sale and remember thinking, I bet that would be pretty cool, as is ventilation, to walk in, but I would need to carry a broadsword to keep myself, um, gender appropriate 😉 .   We then drove the 30 miles back to Grayson Highlands State Park to camp for the night.  There are showers and additional trail head parking.  Theoretically, you could sneak into the showers even if you’re only using the area to park.

Day 2, Friday 4 May:

Next morning at Grayson, we pack up the tents, load up and drive back to Damascus to link up with MRO, for the shuttle to the TH.  We piled into their van and they drove us to where the AT crosses S.R. 603 (Fox Creek TH – I guess).

At the trail head, I noticed a tall woman wearing the same ‘kilt’ or skirt over a pair of leggings I had noticed at the MRO store.  I thought that was neat until the women greeted us with a deep husky voice and we noticed the huge muscles, the only things missing were a Viking helmet with large horns and an axe…time to sit on the jokes and hit the trail!

At the point where the AT crosses Pine Mountain Trail, we had a long lunch and watched the small herd of ponies fight amongst themselves – and – there was a small herd of  (and I’m not making this up) Texas Longhorn cattle.  After lunch we voted to cut off the AT loop which takes you south into the trees of Grayson Highlands, opting instead to turn west on the Pine Mountain Trail, before rejoining the AT.

We camped about 1/4 Mi E of the Thomas Knob shelter in one of the most beautiful campsites you will ever see, with views deep into Tennessee and North Carolina.  The spring was barely flowing behind the shelter.  I had to use a cup to fill my water bottle to use a steri-pen.  A purifier with a hose intake could be dropped into the very shallow stream.

Day 3, Saturday 5 May:

We then hiked to the Mt. Rogers side trail and by the time we got to Elk Garden Ridge, the rain had started.  So from here to around Whitetop to Buzzard Rock and on to Beech Mountain, we had a pattern of rain-sun, then rain-sun, and so on.  It finally stopped raining on the long haul around and down Beech Mtn but it was hot, humid and muggy as we walked down and across Hwy 58 and up to Lost Mountain Shelter.  This is an extremely long haul, over 12 miles.  Next time I’ll break it up and stay an extra night somewhere between Beech Mtn and Buzzard Rocks. It had been raining off and on all week and the spring was from a pipe over a huge mud hole. When I got to the campsite there was a large crowd at the shelter but we found a great clearing to pitch our 9 tents.  I put up my tent and made a dash to the mud hole/spring, without my parka, and just as I was leaving the spring, – you guessed it – it started to pour, shit.  End of day 3.

Day 4, Sunday 6 May:

That morning it started raining as we’re all getting up for breakfast and I ate in my tent under my awning.  We got lucky as the rain soon stopped and the sun came out in full strength!

After Lost Mountain, the trail eases up quite a bit and we chose to get on the Virginia Creeper trail and follow the very large trout stream to Taylors Valley for lunch.  Extremely beautiful walking!  If you’re coming from this direction there are several ‘pretender’ food stops before you get to the main attraction, the Creeper Trail Restaurant which is in the main section of town, with a picnic deck on the water, full menus and service to a gazillion day bikers.

Departing Taylors Valley, we camped in a lovely sight on the water about 4 miles from Damascus.  Some of us fished for trout, others, went swimming.  Water shoes recommended for the rocks in the stream.  The Creeper and AT run literally side by side, The Creeper has the fantastic water views, the AT is literally a rhododendron tunnel.


Biscuit started fishing and caught a trout, but released it.  He had promised us fish cooked over a fire, so when asked about it, he said he thought Sherpa had turned vegetarian on us, so he didn’t want to offend her (don’t worry about offending the rest of us ! ), anyway, this was just a misunderstanding, but we didn’t get any more fish :-(.

Day 5, Monday 7 May:

This day was a leisurely walk getting us into Damascus and MRO around noon.  Plenty of sunshine, only very brief showers.   MRO has a shower you can use at their hostel, directly across the street from their store, which you can use for $2.00 and they give you a bath-towel (bonus!).

We hung around the MRO hostel, drinking a powerful Ale Sherpa had purchased, feeling no pain until we decided to take a side trip to Tennessee to see Rock Hole, or something like that, a large hole blasted into a narrow natural rock wall to make the shortest railroad tunnel ever!

We ate a great meal at the Old Mill Restaurant in Damascus, which didn’t open till 5PM.

After dinner, we drove back out to Graysons State Park and set up camp in the same spot as on Thursday night.

As we hung around MRO hostel, drinking lots of beer and waiting for the restaurant to open, we got to see quite a few AT thru hikers, coming in for showers or just a break.  There was one tall tattooed covered dude actually wearing the hiking skirt I had seen in the store and again at the trail head several days before.  Although he had tattoos, he was more like an accountant than a biker dude.  We had a chuckle about a dude wearing a hiking dress, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it was cooler and suitable for walking.  Sherpa did point out that his skirt was too short and should have gone over the knee.  I don’t know, something about kneeling or stooping.  I’ve seen plenty of women hiking in both the US and Europe, but nobody in skirts, just saying.

Day 6, Tuesday 8 May:

As luck would have it, it started pouring rain as the sun started to come up.  So we had to take down the tents and load the pickups in a driving rain.  We didn’t stop for breakfast until we got to I81.  The rain finally stopped and the sun was hot as we got to Williamsburg to drop off Sherpa and see her take off in her vintage WWII motorcycle with sidecar.  How perfect!

End of book.

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