Tag Archives: philreedshikes

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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DEVIL'S CORKSCREW FROM PLATEAU POINT

DEVIL’S CORKSCREW FROM PLATEAU POINT

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.

 

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More Thoughts On “Rain Management”

More thoughts on Rain/Cold weather management while backpacking

Here’s my perspective and frame of reference;

I’m not a thru hiker of anything. I just like to backpack. I am primarily able to get out and hike at least once a month, sometimes twice, and when I say hike I mean backpacking. I try to get out west once or twice per year for a week long backpack. My normal hiking range is the Virginia-West Virginia National Forests and Wilderness areas along the Appalachian Mountains (AKA Blue Ridge Mountains).

I used to climb but am retired from that now. I lived in Europe for 14 years and did quite a lot of ‘stealth’ backpacking along the German-Austrian frontier, especially in the winter (less chances of being caught).

So on with Rain Management.

As I reflect on the Spring/Summer of 2014 here in good old VA, it was pretty lousy, lots of rain, lots of cold windy days.

But what didn’t kill us made us stronger (Friedrich Nietzsche) and wiser and better able to deal with the weather.

Last week in the Bridger Wilderness we had cold and windy and sometimes rainy conditions for most of the trip. But guess what, it didn’t seem to matter, we were prepared and dealt with it. We had been doing it all summer.

Good tents.

The tents went up easily in the rain. We had experience putting them up in rain. We knew how to put them up while keeping the inside nice and dry.

All our tents had some sort of vestibule, most had two vestibules. You threw your wet stuff in a pile in one vestibule and cooked under the other.

A canister stove with an attached pot, like a jet boil, works great under a vestibule, no flare ups. No way to cook under a vestibule with a white gas stove, you’d burn down your tent for sure.

We were automatically conditioned to keep our stuff dry in our packs while walking in the rain. We had lots of down clothing/bags and it was imperative to keep that stuff dry to avoid hypothermia. Everyone had some sort of layered waterproofing both inside and outside of the pack. I use, in addition to the stuff sacks, a thick black industrial garbage bag for everything inside my pack and a good, tested pack rain cover. It seems however, no matter what I do, wind-blown water will creep in around your neck and shoulder strap area and make its way into the pack. That’s why you need to wrap everything up inside the pack.

Every night’s camp requires water to be drawn and filtered, so you just have to suck it up and do it, wait for the filtering, then take your water to your vestibule.

You can’t hike in your rain gear, you just get all your layers totally soaked, and if there was a chance for a little air drying, it won’t happen. While you’re walking you only need to wear something light enough to keep you warm. But whatever you’re wearing, it’s sacrificed to the rain gods and you need to change out of the wet stuff and into something warm and dry when you get to camp. You can put your wet stuff back on tomorrow and dry it out while you walk in the sunshine!

If it is still raining and you changed into your dry and warm stuff once you got to camp and before you got your water, you absolutely must keep that stuff dry!! But now you’ve got a rain layer wet along with your walking sacrificial clothing. Sometimes it’s best to stay in your wet walking clothes until you can finish your camp chores, getting water, hanging bear bag, and then you can finally dive into your tent for the final change into your warm stuff.

If it’s raining when you set up camp, get your tent up, get the dry stuff in your pack into the tent. Put your food under one of your vestibules. Get your water and start filtering. Hang your bear bag rope. Now that your water is filtered take it to your tent. Get in as best you can, take off the wet stuff and place inside the vestibule, dry off the inside of the tent with your bandana, then change into your warm stuff.

Now that you have warm clothes on and your food and water under the vestibule, go ahead and eat.

Now one of the bitch things. Now that you’ve eaten, you need to get back out in the rain and hang your food. That means putting your wet socks back on and grabbing your parka and hat or something to keep your head dry (hood?) and making a dash into the trees to hang the bag and then back to the tent. Keep the wet socks and parka outside the dry part of the tent and under the vestibule. Dry the inside once again with your bandana.

I keep my backpack under one vestibule and eat under the opposite side. I’ve learned to place my pack on top of my pack rain cover so the bottom doesn’t get any wetter while on the saturated ground during a good soaking rain.

Next morning, you’re going to need to put back on those wet socks and pants and shirt and walk them warm. Your boots are still wet from yesterday’s walk in the rain and if you put on your last or next to last dry pair of socks, well, you’re going to have a second pair of wet socks. Better to keep one pair dry for inside the tents.

When you got in your tent where your pants wet? Get them off quick, not to avoid hypothermia, but to minimize dripping inside your dry cocoon. How to keep your legs warm then? I carry a spare set of thermal bottoms, but you could carry an extra set of pants to keep dry, or just push your sleeping bag around you.

Next morning you need to be able to pack your stuff up and tear down your tent in a rain. If it’s not still raining, your tent is probably soaked on the outside. Pack up your stuff into your backpack while inside the tent, be wearing whatever you’re going to walk in that day, probably yesterday’s wet stuff, as you exit the tent. Take down your tent in such a manner that keeps the rain fly over the inside and folds up nice and neat, keeping the inside dry.

Your probably should practice this in the back yard.

Because you’re probably walking in wet socks, little irritations on the feet and small hot spots are magnified, so best to tape them up before hand.

If the sun is shining, you’re going to dry out and everything will be alright! If it’s raining, chug on, take photos of your ‘ordeal’ and just remember you’ll have great bragging stories around the next campfire!

And remember what Friedrich Nietzsche said, if the weather doesn’t drown you, you’ll have great stories…or something like that.

Backpacking the Sky Pilot Loop, Bridger Wilderness August 2014

Sky Pilot Loop, Jim Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range, Pinedale, Wy

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23-29 August 2014.

Phil, Gunny, Buff, Pyro, Biscuit

Click here to see my favorite pix from this trip.

“Let me explain, no, there is too much, let me sum up” (Inigo Montoya)

Another great trip to the “Winds”. Very long drive. Cold wet weather. Great photos. Took longer to acclimatize to the altitude.

So, let’s get started.

Buff and Pyro drove up from VA Beach and met me at my house in Hampton on Wednesday 20 August. We then drove up to Verona, VA to Gunny’s new house where we stayed for the night. Gunny and Nancy were perfect hosts preparing fresh chicken enchiladas and salsa and supplying us with plenty of iced cold craft beers!

We then sat around in Gunny’s study and watched him finish packing getting to bed around 10 or 11. Which isn’t anything to talk about until I tell you wake up was planned for 3a.m. with departure set for 3:30 yikes! But, happily, but not much, since we were already in Northern VA, we moved back departure to around 4 a.m.

So there we were at 4 a.m. pulling out of Verona and heading to St Louis, Mo our destination for day 1 (day 2?).

From St Louis (departing at 0330 hrs) we were off to Cheyenne. Going through St Louis and then Kansas City at this time of day is a piece of cake, if you can keep awake! Fortunately our plan of switching drivers every 2 hours worked out very well.

We got to Cheyenne, in the rain, around 1900hrs. We could tell we were at higher altitude already (6000′) as we huffed and puffed just going up stairs to our rooms.

Saturday, 23 August.

We departed Cheyenne again at 0330 hrs arriving in Pinedale, Wy around 1000 hrs, later than planned due to quite a bit of highway construction.

We linked up with Biscuit at the outfitters in Pinedale then grabbed some early lunch at the micro-brew next door to the outfitters.

We then dropped into the outfitters for last minute supplies and fishing licenses. It was getting ready to rain and getting cold, like it wanted to snow, so Buff decided on purchasing some more layering.

It was then off to the trail head, but not before a detour into the grocery/hardware store and a stop into the Museum Of The Mountain Man. This is great museum and I highly recommend it if you ever make it to Pinedale.

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It started to drizzle slightly on the way to Elkhart Trail Head. It was cloudy and dreary and there were remnants of an earlier snowfall in the trees. When we were able to make out distant peaks through the clouds you could clearly see the snow cover at the upper elevations. Temps were in the upper 40’s to lower 50’s at this point.

We got the parking lot about 1400 hrs and were headed down the trail by around 1500 hrs. The sun was trying to peak thru the clouds, which helped our morale quite a bit.

The trail down to Long Lake was maintained and in pretty good shape. We arrived on the shores of the lake about 1700 hrs.

We found a super campsite and since we had dropped down about 1800′ it had warmed up a bit. We got the tents up and Pyro and Gunny got a good fire going in spite of the very wet conditions from the day prior’s rains.

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Sunday, 24 August.

After breakfast and photos on the beautiful shores of Long Lake we started walking at 0930hrs.

At this point I had started to get an ass kicking cold, sore throat, headache, dripping sinus, not fun. To add to my fun, the grass/vegetation around the trail was sopping wet and the water proofing of my normally reliable boots immediately failed soaking my left sock, great.

This year, in order to complete the Sky Pilot Loop we needed to drop down almost 2000′ from the trail head, to Long Lake and then back up to Glimpse Lake where the rest of the trip would be more or less between 10,600′ and 11,060′.

Well, the trip up to Glimpse Lake was harder than we hoped, a 2000′ climb over 4 miles, The trail wasn’t too bad, but adjusting to the altitude was a bitch. The altitude was affecting everyone differently. We didn’t arrive until about 1530 hrs. To be fair, we walked really slow, stopped for quite a few breaks, and took a ton of photos. A long day for such a short walk.

Once at Glimpse, we had the pick of several great campsites. Pyro and Gunny once again got a great fire going under very damp circumstances. Gunny, ever the fisherman, found some reserve strength and went fishing for a little while.

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Monday, 25 August.

We departed Glimpse Lake around 0900 hrs headed for that day’s goal of Summit Lake. The going was still pretty slow as we were still not acclimatized and at 1500 hrs we had only reached Borum Lake. We were all dragging, Borum was beautiful, so we decided to camp. I was only too happy not to continue the 1.6 short miles to Summit Lake for several reasons, I still had my sore throat and was still feeling weak, and, Summit lake is above the tree line so there’s no campfire there. Borum turned out to be a very beautiful place to camp indeed! We had 2 short thunder/rain storms which negated a campfire and I was so tired I sacked out early, eating only snacks in my tent.

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The next morning was clear skies and beautiful. We had terrific reflections on the still lake waters.

Tuesday, 26 August.

I’m feeling better, but still not much of an appetite.

We depart Borum Lake about 0900 hrs. headed for Upper Jean Lake, arriving about 1630 hrs. This is our best day so far, clearing skies, a bit warmer, above tree line.

We hike on past Summit Lake, cross the bridge on upper Pine Creek, over to Elbow Creek to Pass Lake and Twins Lakes following the creek above tree line, in a moonscape environment, past countless stream crossings and unnamed small lakes/tarns. We spot the tip of Elbow Lake in the distance. As we get closer, the Lake is enormous and the walk around it very long. We’re on the Highline trail headed for the junction of Shannon Pass Trail, where we’ll turn south, go over our high point at 11,060′ and drop on down to Upper Jean Lake.

We arrive at Upper Jean Lake around 1630 hrs and go on with the business of setting up tents before any rains can move in, get water for filtering, getting stuff unpacked so it can air out/dry out/fluff out, getting ready for another night in the 30’s.

No trees so no campfire. Gunny goes fishing. My appetite is getting better, but I have trouble finishing my one hot meal.

When you’re above tree line and in mixed company, going to do your ‘business’ can be a little tricky. A small ridge behind out tents along with some huge boulders provided a small bit of privacy. The obvious little piles of rocks meant to conceal made me coin the term for the area “monument valley.”

This area was the only area on the entire trip where we were bothered by mosquitoes and used head-nets. Except for Gunny, who had some repellent in this clothing, which also, I guess, deterred the critters from bothering his exposed face.

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Wednesday, 27 August.

We depart Upper Jean Lake around 0915 hrs headed for Freemont (Creek) Crossing, then down an un-maintained trail to the big “Water Slide”, then off to Lost Lake.

After a short lunch at the “water slide”, we decide to bushwhack, more or less, from the water slide, follow “game” trails down to Lost Lake, like we did last year.

Gunny leads on following very feint trails, but after about 20 minutes the trail disappears so we have to thrash about a bit to find what we hope is the trail from last year. Well, after several dead ends over cliff tops or around impassible corners, I resort to the GPS. The “trail” we’re looking for is not on the map, of course, so we are left to head in a generalized direction over contours that we hope aren’t cliffs. After a few more false leads we miraculously find the path and finally meet the primary trail at the series of two fords where Freemont Creek pours into Lost Lake.

It starts to rain. Nothing to do but take off our boots and march across the series of fords. As luck would have it, the fabulous and only campsite is taken so we’re forced to set up in a series of clearings just off the trail.

So in the rain we set up tents, get water, hang bear bags, etc.. Pyro tries to get a fire going and succeeds for a bit. Gunny goes fishing and brings back 4 or 5 good sized trout. He’s had wade out into the area where Freemont Creek enters the lake and fish in the intermittent drizzle and fog.

Nevertheless, due to the constant drizzle, they can’t get enough fire and coals to cook the fish. I retired to dinner in my tent to avoid a slow soak.

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Thursday, 28 August.

The morning is glorious and clear. Lots of sunshine. However, due to the mountains surrounding the lake, the sun can’t quite reach our tents to dry them off before it’s time to leave. So yet another day of packing wet tents, oh well, no problem, the sun is glorious! My cold is finally gone.

We depart between 0900 and 1000 hrs and have a good walk up to Seneca Lake for a nice lunch in the sun. We arrive at Barbara Lake, I think about 1500 hrs. I discover the top of my fishing pole has slid out of my pack, oh well. We set up and Gunny goes fishing but doesn’t have much luck. Pyro makes the fire and we do our set-up chores and hang bear bags, which is very tricky with these lodge-pole pines and their short branches.

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Friday, 29 August.

My tent is on a sort of angled hump and I wake with little bit of a back ache which loosens up when we start walking.

We depart about 0900 arriving a short time later at Photographer’s Point for the obligatory scenic photos. A man with 4 or 5 very little girls is camped right on the point in the area people go for photos. I’m sure this isn’t allowed. Very bad manners to camp there.

We arrive back at the trail head around noon, hiking all day under very blue skies and warmer temps. My back starts to tighten up again and stays tight for the next 4 or 5 days.

We head on down the micro brewery for our traditional after hike feast. After a few short stops to look for souveniers, Pyro, Buff, Gunny and I are back in the truck around 1400 hrs and headed for Cheyenne.  Biscuit heads on back to Jackson Hole to catch his flight to Salt Lake City then on back to VA.

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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.

bye

Rapidan Hike 28-29 Dec 2013 Trip Report & Changing My Paradigm on What “Staying Dry” Really Means

I don’t normally blog about my monthly weekend backpacks but this was special for stress testing rain equipment in the cold and for the 3 river crossings!  My next post will be on my new phil-osophy on staying dry in pouring rain.

It’s not supposed to rain in the Blue Ridge, especially this time of year.  We (being myself, Buff, Pyro, and Bones from Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers Meetup) were looking forward to our first snow hike of the season, but warm weather had melted what little snow there was and as a bonus, a predicted front brought in a torrential downpour on our day 2.

We parked at the Graves Mill trail head parking lot, and with a late start we had about 4 hrs of daylight to make the days first objective, a flat spot next to the Rapidan River, just past the ‘Rapidan camp’ (this is a series of cabins that you can rent out on the road to camp Hoover.  The Marine guards for the presidential visits to camp Hoover were housed there).

But first we had to negotiate a crossing of the Staunton River and Rapidan River.  The first one went ‘ok’, we were able to barely hop across on the rocks and had no problems.  The second river was a little higher, so those of us who are vertically challenged, had a series of long jumps ahead of us which left us looking for an alternative crossing.  After spending a little bit of time searching to no avail, we wound up just sucking it up and taking off our boots and socks fording barefoot.  The river at that point had a few sections 1 1/2 – 2 feet deep and had a pretty good current, so it was a good opportunity ‘stream crossing lessons’.  Once across, we used bandanas to dry our feet off.  The good thing about the water being freezing cold is that the numbing effect sort of negated the pain of sharp rocks on bare feet.

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After a few miles or so we happened upon a  junction of the trail, a fire road going up the mountain, and a gravel road coming in from the south-east leading to the Rapidan Camp.  There was a gravel parking lot for visitors to the Rapidan Wildlife Management area and a natural flat area with a not-so-old fire ring.  After some discussion about the pro and cons of stealth camping there (we were in the wildlife management area and not exactly in the park (SNP) and the fact it would be dark soon), we decided to go for it and camp there.

Despite the many pick up trucks passing on the gravel road, who we assumed were hunter who had to vacate the area before dusk, we didn’t have any issues with any ‘authorities’.

We had a great campfire and I strung the Christmas Lights on my tent that Buff and Pyro had carried.

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The rain started in the middle of the night and didn’t stop at sunrise, it just got heavier.  Soooo….we had every backpackers worst nightmare (no not a bear in camp), we had to get up and break camp in a driving rain!  I had brought my REI quarter dome and had a great breakfast, cooking under my vestibule  (or my tent’s ‘foyer’ as Buff and Pyro like to call it!)

Then it was out of the tent into the driving rain and packing up.  As a bonus, the rain was kicking up mud onto everything in contact with the ground, adding to the soaking wet tents that had to be packed up.

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And off we went!  We decided to take an alternative route back to the cars to avoid the 2 river crossings, the Rapidan, which we camped near had risen quite a bit.  So we hiked up the mountain on the fire road heading up towards the Sag and the junction of the Jones Mountain Trail.  We found on the USGS topo map a trail that formed a cut-off back down to the Staunton river Trail which would negate have to hike up to the Sag, and taking the Jones Mountain Trail to the Staunton River Trail.

Only problem was, that trail was not on the PATC SNP map so it was anybody’s guess if it was still there.  As it turned out, the trail intersection was not marked and we walked right by it.  Fortunately we were using the Backcountry Navigator GPS app, with the USGS map tiles pre-loaded and were able to double back, only 100′ or so, and found the trail.

The trail looked unmaintained at the start but well defined, but after about 200 meters, it started fading out and disappearing altogether, we knew it followed a creek to the Staunton River so we had to basically bushwacked down the mountain for a while, fortunately the app still received GPS signals and we knew we were in the trail’s vicinity, more or less.

We were able to hit the Staunton River and Staunton River Trail at the exact spot of the trail crossing, but as luck would have it, the river was very much swollen over. We searched, pretty much in vain, for a rock crossing.  However, Bones, who should be renamed “longshanks”, managed a daring rock hop leap and crossed (luckily) without falling in!

The rest of us short legged folks, have no alternative and being already soaked (did I mentioned it was still pouring?) said ‘fuck it’ and just plowed on through.  Swollen river crossing lesson number 3!  We’ll, it was touch and go, but we managed it ok.

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After the crossing, it was a short scramble up the bank, finding the main trail and straight on, easy walk, to the car.

The rain let up and had stopped on the way back to the parking lot, but, as again luck would have it, started raining when we got the truck (SHIT) so we had to hold up umbrellas for each other to change into dry clothes.

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It was then off to the Mellow Mushroom in Charlottesville and the post hike celebratory feast!

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)