Friday, March 29, 2013

A Dog, A Trail and Some Snow - Day 3

Morning came once again.  Ginger was moving around at 0200 and I let her out for a bit to see if she had to go to the bathroom, but she just looked around a bit and came back in.  It seemed that there wasn't too much snow at that time, but at 0600 when we both got up there was quite a different scene.  It looked like around 3 or more inches were on the ground and the flakes were still coming done steadily.

I started getting breakfast ready in the now 45 degree cabin and we waited for the day to begin.  The alcohol stove had no problem getting lit this morning and after eating a warm breakfast and drinking some coffee, I started packing up, cleaning the cabin and getting ready to face the snow. 

Snowy morning arrives
Cabin in the morning
The trees have eyes
We were all ready to go at 0750.  Ginger eagerly headed out breaking trail.  We had quite a climb out of the valley to the trail and the snow was pretty deep with our tracks the only ones in the forest.  The snow had stuck on everything.  Every branch, twig and leaf had a white coating.  I could tell within the first few minutes that this was going to be a challenge with Ginger.  Snow just loves to clump on her paws and after about five or ten minutes, she was laying down and working on her paws.  This started the process of letting her break trail (she wanted to be out front all the time), me watching her and cleaning off her paws of all the snow I could when the need arose.  We had about 2.5 miles until we hit the first road crossing so my concern grew as Ginger's hiking times became shorter and shorter.  I was pretty sure that we weren't going to be able to do the whole 10 miles of trail.  I wasn't too worried because I know that things have a way of working out on the trail.  It would be interesting to see just how things would turn out.  We would find out before too long.

Ginger on the snowy trail
The heavy snow sticking on all the rhododendron made the plants lean into the trail.  One time my pole and leg slipped out from under me and I went down on my left knee and bumped into a tree next to the trail.  Of course the tree's whole load of snow cascaded right down on to me.  I just laughed and moved on.

Back on the AT after quite a climb
The temperature was right around freezing, maybe even a little warmer and there was no wind at all.  This made my hiking rather comfortable even though my two merino wool shirts were soaked with sweat from climbing out of the valley.  I just kept walking and cleaning Gingers paws, which made my gloves rather wet, but I wasn't cold in any way. 

Same view of White Rocks as yesterday, but a little different
We arrived back at White Rocks overlook and you couldn't see very far this day.  The rocks were truly white along with everything else.  Every once and a while the snow would decide to fall off a bush or branch off in the distance and Ginger would see it.  She would always go on alert, thinking that it was an animal or something.  It was rather funny to watch.  I used my hiking poles a lot to knock the snow off branches blocking the trail.  Once I tapped the branch, the snow would fall and the branch would spring up out of the way.  It was magical.

A creative sawyer
We made our way up to the top of the knoll and before too long, we came upon the road that leads to the top of the knoll.  I was rather surprised that the road was clear, but being clear, I knew what our next course of action was going to be.  I got out the map and saw that the road led to Fox Gap exactly where the trail would come out.  The road it was.  My relief was palatable as we started walking down the road and Ginger's paws, which had resembled large Q-Tips for the last hour or so began to look normal again as the snow melted off.  The road was actually a few tenths of a mile less than the trail, so no worries.  

Our road out of here
We got to the bottom of the hill at Fox Gap where we had seen the Union Soldiers two days ago.  I studied the map again and saw that it was a one mile straight shot on the trail to Rt 40 where the Old South Mountain Inn was located.  My plan was to get there, even though it was probably closed, and get my phone out, study maps, maybe find a shuttle driver to call or something, but I knew I would do something.  The map also showed that I could walk down the road for about .6 of a mile then head north on another road for a mile that paralleled the ridge.  I again decided to go the road route.  There would be people driving by on these roads, and who knows when you would find an angel behind the wheel ready to help a pitiful looking hiker and his snowy, wet dog.

Same power line I would have crossed on the trail
The road was going to be about 1/2 a mile longer than the trail, but all was good.  Keeping Ginger's paws clean was worth the extra mileage and it was real easy trail.  We got to the bottom of the hill and started up the second road.  This road rose back up in elevation as we made our way to Rt 40.  Just as we came to the stop sign at Rt 40, an SUV came down the road we were walking on and stopped.  I saw the window go down, so I went over to the truck.  The woman inside said I could cross the street, but I asked her if the Old South Mountain Inn was up the road.  She confirmed it was and also confirmed that it was closed.  I told her I just wanted to regroup there as I was just trying to get back to my truck outside of Myersville.  Eventually she told me to get in and we loaded up and we were off for the trail head.  Gale was the name of my trail angel.  We had some good conversation during the ten minute drive back to the truck and by 1100 Ginger and I were back at the Subaru and heading to McDonald's to celebrate our weekend of adventure. 

Looking at Google Maps the next day, I saw there were good roads paralleling the trail all the way back to the trail head.  It would have been another five miles of road walking, but we could have made it easily.

Like I always say.  There is something magical surrounding the trail.  Things just work out.  Keeping the right attitude and a clear mind is all it takes.  I can't wait for the next adventure. 

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