Friday, September 28, 2012

AT Section Hike - Snickers Gap to VA602

1. 23 SEP 2012
2. Day 1
3. 10.5
4. 58 degrees @ 1130
5. Mostly sunny, cool - Perfect!
6. Rod Hollow Shelter
7. Lots of hikers - a mushroom growing in the hollow of a tree

(Total trip for the day was 10.5, but the entry only measures the distance from Sam Moore to Rod Hollow, since the first 3.6 miles were a repeat from April)

We were up and out the door a little after 0800 and after dropping the truck at the NOVA 4H, we arrived at the Snickers Gap (Rt 7) parking lot around 1130, right on schedule.

We saw quite a few day hikers and a couple back packers as we made our way past Bear's Den Rocks and towards Sam Moore Shelter where we ate lunch. We had a nice talk with a group out for the weekend that had started somewhere south and were headed to Harpers Ferry.

The hike was nice, with perfect weather. We each felt good and at the two test points, decided to go the whole 10.5 for day 1. I had done some calculations using a 2 mph rate and found that we were a little behind the first few hours, but seemed to pick up our pace later in the day as we finished the roller coaster.

We arrived at Rod Hollow Shelter at 1810 which put our first hiking day at 6 hours and 37 minutes. So we averaged just under 1.4 mph. This includes all rest stops, water breaks and lunch. Not too bad. We felt good, but tired as expected.

We set up our hammocks using three trees and gathered some wood for a fire.

Today was my 50th birthday and Lisa surprised me with two cupcakes and a lit candle and a few "refreshments". We cooked some hotdogs over the fire and were heading to the hammocks to read and sleep at 2000. I can't think of a better way to spend any birthday than on the trail.

So ended day 1.

1. 24 SEP 2012
2. Day 2
3. 12.9
4. 44 degrees @ 0530
5. Clear and sunny. Some fair weather clouds off and on.
6. Manassas Gap Shelter
7. Rt 50, Ava (Hot Pants)

Lessons (re)learned: Socks and hat to bed. Covering those two areas sure help with keeping warm.

I wasn't too cold during the night, but could have been warmer. I had decided to bring my patrol bag (which is probably a 40 degree bag) and we were trying out some reflector type insulation under us, (which you really need in a hammock), but not having my feet and head covered made me notice the early morning chill.

I never sleep very well the first night on the trail and I was tossing and turning around 0400 and after some reading, I decided to get up at 0430 and start a fire. I puttered around a bit making coffee and packing up my stuff as I waited for the day to start and my bride to stir. We broke camp and headed out at 0805.

Once again, the weather was perfect for hiking. The mid 40's temp slowly rose into the 60's and the hills kept us warmed enough as the day went on. We moved along at our leisurely pace, taking short breaks when we felt like it and arrived at Dick's Dome Shelter just before 1300. This was a possible stop for the day at 8.4 miles, but it was still early and we felt good. Besides, there really weren't any good places to hang our hammocks near the shelter.

We headed out after our lunch and passed a possible SOBO thru hiker as we climbed back to the trail, saying hi as we passed. We really hadn't seen many people out during our morning hike, but we did pass a sleeping tent around 0900 about two miles from last night's shelter.

Onwards we headed south towards Manassas Gap Shelter which would be our stop for the night. We arrived at the Shelter at 1545 and scouted out the area. Our pace had picked up a bit today. We hiked 7 hours 40 minutes which put us at a 1.68 mph pace for the 12.9 miles. Not too bad for section hikers.

There were no good trees near the shelter, but a nice campsite on the other side of the AT, so we claimed that area for the night.

As we hung out at the shelter getting ready for dinner, another hiker came down the blue blaze to the shelter. She was Ava aka Hot Pants and that was her tent we had passed in the morning. She had started a SOBO thru a few years ago and got as far as Harpers Ferry and was now out for 10 days or so to get a little more done. She had been with a friend up until now, but he had a plane to catch and she was now alone.

We ended up making a fire after dinner and had some good conversation. Her plans were rather loose and free of care, but as she talked of her possible plans, I offered to give her a ride to Harpers Ferry if we all ended up at the same place at the same time at the end of tomorrow's hike. She readily accepted.

Our original plan was four days of hiking (about 8 to 10 miles a day) with three nights out on the trail, but we were making better miles and were going to easily finish the 35.4 miles that were planned by tomorrow afternoon.

Once again our hiker midnight approached and we headed up the trail to our waiting hammocks for another night on the trail.

So ended day 2.

1. 25 SEP 2012
2. Day 3
3. 12.1
4. 44 degrees @ 0730
5. Another beautiful day
6. VA 602, and then Harpers Ferry
7. Zoological Society area

After another cool night, I actually didn't get out of the hammock until daylight had started to creep into the woods and after breakfast and packing up, we hit the trail at 0903 for our last day's hike.

We had now found our groove and were getting used to hiking up and down ridges all day with 30 plus pounds on our backs. I had actually gotten my first blister in I don't know how long, but it was on my little toe of my right foot. I drained it and put a little neosporen on it and used a little of the liquid powder on my feet to try and make sure I didn't get more. We all had that hiker hobble that makes you move like an old person for a few seconds after sitting still for a while and just about every muscle from my lower back to my feet was sore. But as I always say, it was a good soreness. It told me that I was challenging my body and even though it was complaining, I was doing OK. It is that kind of feeling that tells you you are alive.

Hot Pants left a little after us, but shortly caught up. I think she was pacing herself to not get ahead of us, but she did say her hiking style is pretty slow as she stops to take a picture or talk to another hiker. All during the day she would fall behind quite a ways, and then would be right with us again.

Once again we couldn't have asked for better weather. The sun was shining and I actually put on my sun glasses for one meadow walk, if only to justify carrying them for over 20 miles without needing them. I will most likely leave them behind next time to try and save some weight.

We stopped at the Jim and Molly Denton Shelter for lunch. It is a very nice and new shelter and there was even a solar shower there that I used to rinse off my shirt and bandannas and give myself a quick upper body wipe even though the water was spring water cold. It was refreshing.

Before too long we only had one more climb ahead of us before our hike was over. We took a nice break at a stream where we filled our bottles for the final push. My epi pen was acting up so Hot Pants let us use her Aqua Mira. I decided to get me some of that for either my primary if the epi doesn't fix itself or at least a back up for future use.

We all arrived at the road within 5-10 minutes of each other and headed towards the truck. Today's hike was 12.1 miles and we finished in 6 hours and 15 minutes which showed we had sped up a tad more to 1.9 mph. They weren't hikers legs, but we were definitely improving our speed.

We had parked near the pool at the top of a hill, so when we got to the bottom, we dropped our packs and I headed up to retrieve the truck. I tried to run a little up the hill, but only lasted for a couple hundred meters. When I got to the Vue, there were stink bugs all over the sunny side of it. As I opened the doors, a whole lot of them had made their way into the cracks of the door and getting them off gave me the creeps. I had a flashback to 1975 when the movie Bug had come out. The bugs in the film were cockroaches that could heat up and catch people and things on fire, but still it was just creepy.

We loaded up the truck and headed to the van up at snickers gap and then to Harpers Ferry and the Teahorse Hostel. We checked in and Hot Pants treated us to some nice pizza down the road. There was a SOBO thru hiker there named Half Way who was trying to heal a shin problem and three section hikers who had slacked from Snickers Gap that day.

After a dessert of a Klondike bar, we headed off to bed at our latest for the week. Lisa and I were in the "women's" bunk room, while the rest stayed in the "men's".

Thus ended day three and the hiking part of our adventure.

Today was also a good day.

I woke up some time after six and got up to some nice coffee and waffle.

Lisa and I thought the ATC opened at 0800 and we went over there, but it didn't open until 0900, so Lisa brought me back to the Hostel and then she headed home.

I had offered Half Way a ride to the Urgent Care place in Charles Town which opened at 0900.

Hot Pants came along and we did a quick shopping trip to Wal-mart where I got a replacement food bag which I had broke while trying to get it off the bear pole yesterday morning.

We checked back with Half Way and he had a rather long wait, so we headed back to Harpers Ferry.

I dropped Hot Pants off at the Hostel and headed to the ATC.

I was like a kid in a candy store there and after joining the Conservancy, I bought a few items to feed my fixation of the trail.

Next stop was the outfitter on Potomac St where I bought some Aqua Mira and after that I headed home.

Once again this was a good hike and I had the best company I could wish for in my bride Lisa. She can not only keep up, but usually she leaves me behind on the up hills. She was going slow on the down hills as the were hurting her knee (downs hurt me too), so I was giving here the tentative trail name of Low Gear, which she promptly vetoed. I really need to find my own trail name before I go off naming others, but for now El Jefe will work.

I do get a lot of comment on my Steeler tattoo, so....

Thus ended our annual adventure. Turning 50 isn't nothin. It's just a number.

I'll see you on the trail.

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