Thursday, September 15, 2011

Just a Wander from Place to Place....

The mountains called, and so I went. With the plans waylaid this summer due to unforeseen circumstances, health, weather, and otherwise, I decided on a short Appalachian Trail section through the Three Ridges northbound into Shenandoah National Park. I had not done this part northbound in a number of years, so I thought it would be nice to revisit.

Monday, August 29, 2011
From Crabtree Meadows to Maupin Field Shelter
5.8 miles

Like all the other plans I usually make, this one did not follow the normal course of things. I arrived at the Crabtree Falls parking lot, intending to hike all the way up the falls route to access the AT, until  found out that without a season permit, you can only park for the day (and I was leaving my car for close to a week). So I had to quickly switch gears, and gears in my old car, and chug it up the narrow mountain road with obstacles galore to the Crabtree Meadows parking lot. Because it took a few miles off from the wander that day, I decided I could go farther than planned. And farther I did, hiking up and over the Priest, and on the way down, promptly fell flat on my face and scraped my knees as if I were an elementary student again on the playground. At least I didn't injure myself too badly.  I then proceeded  to head up into the Three Ridges. Now I recalled the downhill portion of this route, as it was there when hiking southbound that my left knee gave out, and I had knee pain for quite a while after the hike was done. So I knew it was steep going. But I made fairly good time and was rewarded at Hanging Rock with a gorgeous view as the video shows. Camp that night was in a nice tenting area away from the shelter, and thankfully there was enough water in pools for both cooking and water the next day. I managed to set up my tent and cook just before the rain fell. Good timing all around, but I was fairly bushed from a long hiking day.                                                                                                                                         

Tuesday, August 30th
From Maupin Field Shelter to Paul C Wolf Shelter
15.8 miles

This is a fairly lengthy portion of trail to go from one shelter to the next unless you choose to camp in between. But I chose to go ahead and do the route as I was fairly familiar with it. When arrived at the Blue Ride Parkway, the clouds were still in place from the evening's rain, but soon began to break, offering pleasant scenes of the woods with the sunlight streaming. I walked below the outcroppings of Raven's Roost where many climbers test their skill, and yes, have lost their lives. Near the end, I spotted my first and only bear of the trip, a medium size fellow foraging.
On my way to Humpback Mountain, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the trail club had rerouted the trail away from what I deemed back in an earlier Blissful Hiking blog post of a senseless rock pile that the trail meandered up and over. They had done away with the route and put the trail over to one side which made much more sense. Kudos to the trail crew for doing this!
New reroute to the left NOBO avoids a bad section of rocks
  I continued up Humpback Mountain to views of the Wintergreen Resort and noted a nice large campsite there, but of course, no water. In fact I was sad to see the companion lacked information on water, such as the potable water available at the picnic area only .03 miles off the trail and at a spring just north of crossing the BRP at Dripping Rock.
I arrived later that day at the shelter area expecting hikers to be there, especially as I had already passed two college orientation groups en masse going southbound. But no one showed, and I was alone for the night in my tent.

August 3st
From Paul C Wolfe Shelter to Calf Mtn Shelter
12.7 miles

Backcountry Permit Station along the trail in Shenandoah after leaving Rockfish Gap. Get your permit here. There is one here and one as you enter the park from the north.
Beagle Gap, SNP
This day saw me exit the Blue Ridge Parkway area at Rockfish Gap and enter Shenandoah National Park southern section. Lots of hikers ask about the permits and one is required for entering the park, easily obtainable at the self service kiosk pictured. You fill it out, keep one part with the wire attached to your backpack and deposit the copy in the metal box. Simple to do. On the back is the backcountry regulations which are pretty easy to follow and not nearly as rigorous as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park regulations. Just don't camp near developed areas, and you'll be fine. My hike took me up and over several smaller peaks (I personally think this is a tougher part of the AT in Shenandoah northbound, the climb up from Rockfish Gap to Beagle Gap). I soon crossed Beagle Gap where not too long ago a TV crew filmed me making my wander up the trail for an interview on the completion of my southbound hike. I arrived to Calf Mtn shelter in late afternoon to find quite a crew of hikers already set up. We gathered at the picnic table sharing stories. It was wonderful camaraderie.     

Calf Mtn Shelter, SNP

September 1st
From Calf Mtn Shelter to Loft Mountain Wayside
22 miles

I had not intended to hike this long today. My original plan was to go all the way to Swift Run Gap in the park. But realizing that I would soon be doing the very section with good friends of mine in just a few weeks, I decided to put in an extra long day and have my hubby pick me up at the Loft Mountain Wayside. It's amazing how you tend to get things rolling once you have a goal in mind. Today was no exception as I followed the green tunnel to my destination. I paused numerous times to try and reach my son as today is his 21st birthday but had to resort to leaving him a message. Thankfully I was able to talk to him later and wish him a happy birthday.
The day went quickly, but I was fairly exhausted by the time I reached the wayside, with just minutes to spare to buy a very pricey hamburger before they closed. But I credit this day with leading me to do my ultra marathon day hike the following week back up in Shenandoah when I hiked one whole section, 35 miles. I realize that this 22 mile day was the longest mileage I had ever done in the park, even with day hiking, up until my 35 mile day last Friday. I have seen a few personal bests done the past few weeks, and it helps to set my sights perhaps on some future goals as yet to be written. Time will tell.

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