Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lessons from a Winter Weekend Section Hike

Lots of views and lots of mountains too in this section
I am in the process of completing my third trek of the Appalachian Trail via section hiking. So far I have walked from Springer Mtn (the southern terminus) to outside of Erwin and from Crabtree Falls Rd in VA to Pen Mar Park, PA. For this trip I decided to piece together a bit more of VA, taking it from the Tye River (or about five miles north of Crabtree Falls Rd) to the James River. I elected to do the trail southbound because of shuttle availability, and as I would discover through the course of my wander, it was the correct choice. 

What is the saying about how a man plans his way but God directs the steps? It proved quite true. We’d had some good melting of any previous snowy precip, so I had to make a decision whether to bring traction devices for my shoes or not (like my Yaktrax). Seeing the bare
An icy trail and no traction devices!
woods up at 2500 foot elevation in Shenandoah, I elected not to carry them. But one doesn’t realize that snow and ice are slow to leave the north facing slopes of the mountains. So it was on this section hike as I faced icy trails and no traction devices. But when one goes southbound, you go UP the north side of the mountain, and that was the lifesaver of the hike. It’s much easier with momentum to go slipping up an icy slope rater than trying to sneak down. So I was able to do it, even though I was kicking myself for not carrying the traction devices in early February.

I also discovered that while guidebooks are a must to have on any hike, long or short, there can be some discrepancies. A campsite I thought would be there as outlined in the pages had a NO CAMPING sign posted in it. Ok, so onward I went. Except the trail takes a meandering approach around the Lynchburg Reservoir with hills on either side for several miles. There was NO place to camp, and daylight’s burning (it gets dark early in winter nights). I finally found one small sag in the trail by some boundary markers and threw up my tent there. Better safe than sorry. But with night falling, I now attempt to locate a rock to toss up my bear rope – none were found anywhere. Then a thought occurred to me—use my water bottle. So I did, and it worked fine. After 4,000 plus miles of trial it was the only time I ever used my water bottle to help hang the rope for bear bagging!

On day three of my wander, I was to be picked up at the James River. It wasn’t until I finished the section and dealing with very sore  muscles that I realized how much elevation I had accomplished AND the mileage I had put in a simple Friday to Sunday wander (47.6). It was a bit extreme to say the least. I guess I’d rather be hiking, even if I’m sore, then get to camp early and sit there shivering (at least the final day of the hike warmed up to the sixties!). Now I pay the price as I recuperate from an arduous adventure that saw me again dealing with new situations every time I go out.

On the lighter side of things, I am glad for several gear choices for the trip:

My new LUCI solar charged lantern when those nights sneak up on you quick

The lantern glows as darkness falls

Terramar silk baselayer as a secondary baselayer for very cold nights (and also very ultralight)

Woolx midweight merino wool socks that performed beautifully for two solid days of 30 plus miles with a great cushy feet and zero blister issues afterwards (I highly recommend them and will likely follow-up with a SOCK blog soon on my favorite brands for hiking). 

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1 comment:

Bubnugget said...

Your post makes me laugh at all the things that went wrong on my trips. One of the best things I like about hiking and camping is how I cope with something going wrong or equipment I forgot. On one occasion, I forgot all utensils of any kind and spent about two hours whittling a spoon to eat with. Plus, the benefits of these mishaps are you have a good story to tell. Much like yours. Thanks for the post.