Saturday morning eight of us from the DC area met at Vienna Metro Station to head off to do the Ramsey's Draft - Shenandoah Mountain loop. After finding everyone between the South and North parking lots, we headed off around 9am, meeting up with The Most Interesting Man in America (MIMA) just outside of Strasburg, VA, bringing our total number to nine for the weekend. This was going to be a departure from most DC UL trips in many months, where it was a group of this size without any women, whereas the ladies have been dominating DC UL attendance over the past several weeks. It appeared that it was going to be a boys only trip.
The Ramsey's Draft parking lot was pretty full, with a group of 12 from Washington Backpackers doing the same trip the same weekend. A quick gear up and we got on the trail just around noon. There were four first timers with us, some declaring they were slower hikers, so I wasn't sure what to expect. We started off up Ramsey's Draft at a pretty good clip, being slowed down somewhat by several blowdowns early on that forced us up the hill around them, and losing the trail here and there at some of the numerous stream crossings.
The weather remained it's unseasonably cool self for our hike up the Draft. This was my second of two August trips I had set up to challenge myself in dealing with hot and humid summer temps, but summer 2013 turns out not to have been the season to let me test that out. It didn't get much above 70* during either day.
While Ramsey's Draft is a popular stretch of trail, it isn't blazed, although the trail is straight forward to follow when you don't miss where it starts up again on the other side of a creek crossing. Here in the summer it was also relatively overgrown, with burn hazel, poison ivy, and other less annoying plants hanging over the trail, which added the challenge of trying not to let any plant matter touch us for those of us that were wearing shorts. Even those with long pants weren't immune to the touch of the burn hazel, as it was tall enough to get hands and elbows. The stretches of open trail were a much welcome intermittent relief, but as we climbed higher and turned west towards Hiner Spring, the vegetation became a lot less threatening.
About quarter to 3 we pulled into Hiner Spring. Yes, DC UL got into camp by 3pm!! I was super impressed that all four of the new guys had had no problems keeping up with a 3 mph pace up the Ramsey's Draft climb, even if it was a bit faster of a pace than they were usually used to. At Hiner Spring, the crew from Washington Backpackers had also recently arrived and was trying to determine exactly where they wanted to be. While a few of them decided to go do some scouting further up the trail, eventually opting for a site about 200 yards uphill, DC UL decided to start setting up camp in the large area right around the spring. After some general chilling out around the campsite (literally - it had dropped to about 60* by this point), six of us headed off to do the short hike up Hardscrabble Knob, being joined by three of the ladies from the Washington Backpacker group. This led to a nice little view, where there was much discussion about TV/movies, with Buffy being the favored topic.
We returned to camp, had dinner, got a small fire going, and in rare splurge had some s'mores. After it finally got dark, it was time for the movie. Yes, in another splurge Doug had brought his projector and screen along with a small selection of classic horror films, from which the group selected "Wolfman Meets Frankenstein" for the evening showing.
With only 9 miles remaining, the plan was to allow for a relaxed morning on Sunday. Nevertheless, even without a wakeup call everyone was pretty much up by 7am or earlier. By 8am, everyone was pretty much ready to go, but there was good conversation going on and we didn't hit the trail until 8:45. We passed by the WB campsite and headed off at a pretty standard DC UL clip. The Shenandoah Mountain Trail was gorgeous, with nice open areas through a mix of tall pines and best of all - no burn hazel. With the trail pretty much being all downhill, the pace held steady and we pulled into the parking area a bit before noon. The majority of the crew then headed off to Capital Alehouse in Harrisonburg, VA for fantastic beers, some deep fried cheese curds, and great burgers.
All in all it was a short but fun trip. Congrats to our newest DC UL Members: Jessie (Green Lantern), Kevin (Mexican Beef), Matt the resident beer guru, and Nic (MMA) who all seem to fit right into the DC UL crowd. Thanks to Steve for being on top of assigning trail names and to Doug for hooking us up with a movie in the woods. And a shout out to George, MMA, and MIMA for the inspiration your tiny packs caused.
Whoa! You beat me to the movie night in the woods! I'm definitely curious about the projector tech, because I was trying to think of a way to rig up a projector with battery power only. What kind of projector did you use?