Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Dog, A Trail and Some Snow - Day 1

My obsession with the AT continues.  I look for ways to hike on it and sleep on it whenever I can.  Last weekend, was another of those chances to do some hiking and some sleeping on the trail.  Three days of hiking with two overnights.  My hiking partner for this trip would be my faithful companion Ginger.  She loves going for walks and when she is in the woods, she is even happier.

Since my Friday nights are still occupied with Wallyball, the plan was to head out Saturday morning and stay out until Monday afternoon.  I had taken a day of leave on Monday.  One of my last days of leave before my final chunk as I head into retirement.  The first night we planned on staying at the Rocky Run Shelter, about 6.9 miles south of the Rt 70/40 trail head.  For the second night I had reserved the PATC Bear Spring Cabin.  I had also looked up a few Geocaches as something I might do to break up the hiking day.  I was very excited to get on the trail again and even though the weather forecast called for possible snow on Sunday night, so it was sure to make things interesting as we hiked back to the truck on Monday morning.

I left the club a little earlier than usual as I wanted to try and get some sleep before we hit the trail.  I got up just before 0700 and after some coffee and gear load out we were on the road at about 0850.  We stopped at McDonald's for some breakfast and were at the trailhead at about 1015 or so.  Now, this is a Saturday with a bright blue sky and the temperatures near 50.  Everyone and their doggie brother were at the trail head and after a ride through, there were no real spaces to park.  I found a place to put the Subaru while I waited for a space to open up.  I hoped it wouldn't be too long, but I knew I had some time before things would get dicey.  I let Ginger out and we were going to walk to the end of the lot where a guard rail cache was supposed to be hidden, but before I got 30 feet I saw two guys getting into their car.  I asked them if they were heading out and when they replied in the affirmative, I ran back to the SUV and got a pretty primo spot in the lot.  We were on the trail by 1037. 
The start of our hike. Crossing over Interstate 70
I have done this hike to Rocky Run before,  It is a real nice and pretty easy going, but I was in no hurry.  After we cleared the two road crossings, I let Ginger have her lead and we meandered on to our first waypoint.  The Washington Monument is about three miles down the trail.  This monument dates back to 1827 and was initially built by the citizens of Boonsboro, MD and was refurbished by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936.  Just before the path veers off towards the monument, there is a large boulder field.  Within this boulder field is the next Geocache that we were going to find.  I headed into the field using the hint and Ginger bounced along behind me.  She seemed to enjoy the boulders and she explored while I quickly found the cache on the cold stone and signed the log, then re-hid the cache.
Ginger hopping boulders
Ready to head out
We continued up to the monument for our first break, where Ginger had a little snack and some water.  The breeze was cold moving over the ridge, so we shouldered our packs and continued on down the hill.  After refilling our water bottle with some nice rusty water at the pump near the visitor center, we continued on our hike.

Before long we were approaching the old Route 40 where the Dahlgren Chapel has stood since 1881. 
Dahlgren Chapel

View to the east
Here I found another cache after enjoying a nice view to the east.

A short few minutes later we were at Dahlgren campground, which is a free campground with a shower house and rest rooms.  Of course the building was closed for the season, but there was a porta potty there and water was 150 yards back up the road.  We filled up on water took a little pack off break and then headed on after eating some more snacks.  We were getting pretty close to the end of our first days hike, but we had one more cache to find before we arrived at the shelter. 
Dahlgren Campground
Fife and Drum Family
 As we came upon the road crossing at Fox Gap where Major General Reno's monument was, I saw an interesting sight.  Next to the monument dedicated to the general who was killed here in 1862 by friendly fire in the darkness after a battle were three union soldiers all equipped with fife and drum.  I had to see what they were doing, so Ginger and I headed over.  They were practicing and I asked if I could take a picture.  They obliged and as I headed back down the trail I could hear their music flowing across the field.

We found the last cache of the day on the edge of a power line about a mile or so from the shelter and before long we were walking down the blue blaze trail to the shelter.  Rocky Run shelter is actually two shelters.  The older one is further down the trail near the nice spring and the new one is a really nice shelter.  There was no one else around and after checking out the area for good tent sites, I decided to set up the tent inside the shelter.  I wanted to use the tent to corral Ginger since she can get a little skittish at night, growing and barking at imagined noises in the dark.  I figured if anyone else showed up I could always move to one of the other sites I scouted, but we ended up being the only occupants of the shelter for the night.

The last time I was here I was also all alone.  That night was quite different back in July of last year, I suffered through the night as the local tree frogs peeped a cacophony throughout the night.  I cursed myself for forgetting my earplugs.  This night would be filled with a deafening silence as the woods continued their sleep not realizing that Spring had arrived a few days ago.

Just chillin
As I hung out by the shelter, doing the chores one does while preparing for the night, I had three sets of visitors.  First a couple who were were looking for the shelter that had a swing.  I told them that the swing was at the old shelter down the trail a little by the spring and I pointed it out through the bare woods.  The second was a group of three that were just out checking the area in preparation of bringing some boy scouts out later in the year.  The third was a man and his son. The man was a two time thru hiker by the name of Han Solo.  He was introducing his younger son to the trail.  The boy's older brother was on the trail now, down south, attempting his own thru hike.

I made a nice fire and was getting ready to get inside the tent as the sun dropped behind the ridge and the temperature started to plummet.  I enjoyed talking to each of the other hikers and it would have been nice to share the large shelter with other hikers, but tonight Ginger and I would be alone together. 

It ain't camp unless there is a fire
Ginger was in a playful mood and would keep grabbing her blanket in her mouth and taking it down by the fire pit to play with.  She seemed to be really enjoying herself and already had a hiker's appetite. 

Playful puppy
The night would grow even colder, but we both survived it and were ready for a new day as the forest grew lighter and the new day arrived. 

To be Continued...  Next - Day 2 - Hiking to the cabin
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