VA Triple Crown : Into the mist and out of it!

Posted by Karan on

So everybody is already in or is about to go to those beautiful places. This made me want to do a weekend trip where it would be beautiful too. It was an obvious choice - it was time for VA's Triple Crown.

I knew this trip was going to be challenging because of the water situation. But the weather forecast seemed to be adding further complications. Just a day before the trip was to happen, we were looking at forecasts predicting rains and thunderstorms Friday through Saturday night with >80% chances. With predictions like these, we began our trip.

Five of us - Me, Kylie, Reid, Liza & Megan - started from Vienna on Friday evening. The drive to McAfee Knob parking lot went smooth with a little rain on the way. Jessie met us in the parking lot and at 10 PM, we were all on the AT. Given the scarce water situation, we were all carrying near-full capacity water with us. In the initial few minutes, I missed a turn in the dark and made everyone bushwhack 40 yards to get back on the AT. It was about 11 PM when we reached Johns Spring Shelter and setup camp. Everyone (except Liza who used a hammock) slept in the shelter keeping the rainy forecast in mind. The disturbing *music* of the insects kept us all awake for a bit, but soon we gave in and slept. It ultimately did rain in the night.

A tough wake-up at 4:30 the next morning and we were all on the trail at 5 AM. After a good climb, we made it to McAfee Knob at dawn with little hopes of having any views at all. To our surprise, we found that it wasn't completely foggy and we ended up having a decent time after all. Once the cameras stopped clicking, we were on our way to Tinker's Cliffs. We took a break at Campbell shelter where I surveyed the water situation. The stream was completely dry - I was glad we started the trip assuming the worst. Further along, we came across a deer - the first of the wildlife species we would encounter on this trip. I thought I heard a cow moo too and I was judged to be crazy to believe that. Anyways, we continued on the trail and approached Tinker's Cliffs. Again, we had little hopes of any views and sadly, this time we couldn't see anything at the top at all besides the infinite white backdrop. We took a short snack break here and began our descent. About 2 miles later, we hopped on the yellow-blazed Andy Lane Trail. We continued to descend a bit more and stopped to fill-up water to last us till the next morning. Loading up our heavy packs, we crossed Catawba Creek and came across a cow - so maybe I was right. We left the Andy Lane trail once we reached Catawba Road and started ascending on the Catawba Valley Trail. This was a good steep climb. Upon reaching the North Mountain Trail junction, we took a lunch break. Shortly after we resumed hiking, I happened to walk upon a beehive lying on the ground, with Kylie just behind me. With failed efforts of evading the bees, we both got stung once. We tried warning the group behind us - but were unsuccessful to do so in time. Megan got stung several times - luckily no one else got bit. We counted 7 stings on Megan's legs and began worrying about her. Miraculously she was just fine for the remainder of the trip. Somebody suggested the trail name Queen Bee and Megan accepted. The journey continued with the unforgettable ups and downs on this ridge. At some point, we came across a bear too. It was about 4 PM when we all made it to the campsite. Liza got a great fire going and just when I started dreaming of the Apple Pie I had here last time, Reid added in to the treat by sharing delicious Kahlua with everyone he had brought along. Early dinners were had and tired from the lack of sleep the night before, people starting heading into theirs shelters around 7 PM. It was the end of a good day - there were no rains or thunderstorms throughout. The weather seemed to have taken our side.

The next day we were all on the trail at 7 AM. Determined to finish off the remaining 14 miles in good time, we soon reached Dragon's Tooth parking lot. The day started foggy too, but by the time we reached the parking lot, all of the mist seemed to have disappeared. I, and so was the whole group, was quite eager to catch some good views. After we got to the junction of AT and Dragon's Tooth Trail (Lost Spectacles Gap), we began the rocky ascent to Dragon's Tooth. Finally, we were rewarded at the top with spectacular views. The weather had completely turned around and it was bright and sunny. We spent a good time taking it all in. Then, we retraced our path to the junction and continued northbound on the AT. Around this time, I started noticing that Liza's feet were hurting as her new hiking shoes were not working for her. She had braved the discomfort for more than 30 miles, but the pain seemed to have reached formidable levels. After a brief discussion, I convinced her to stay put at the last road crossing of Rt 785 where we would come get her at the end of the trip. The remaining 4-miles of the journey commenced with a steady climb to the last ridge. The last section on top of the ridge did not come easy and we ended up in the parking lot with a bit of a delay. Soon it was all over and in no time we were enjoying the Fried Chicken and the fresh lemonades at Homeplace. With our stomachs full of dessert, we bid farewell to each other and started the long drive back to DC.

All in all, I was happy and relieved about the way the trip went especially after the dreadful forecasts. I was glad too to lead such a great set of people - all of you dealt with the challenges very well. As I promised, we were all rewarded with the clear views on Dragon's Tooth :) It was beautiful up there. It was also interesting also to come across a variety of wildlife - dear, cow, bees, bear, turkeys - you name it. Having done this trip twice, I feel kind of connected to this route. I most certainly will be eager to come back here in the future.


Joffrey Peters posted on

Sounds like you got all of the weather luck I lacked last Nov. when I did this trip. I was just in the fog and clouds the entire time. I guess I'll have to go back!

Megan Berg posted on

I think I am now cursed. I got to more bee stings this morning.

Karan posted on

Whoa! Hope the stings were ineffective as before..

Michael Martin posted on

Nice trip report, Karan! Glad you guys had a good hike!

Karan posted on

Thanks Michael. Read about your misadventure on the Wind River trip. Hope you are in good health now!

Michael Martin posted on

Oh, at sea level, I feel great! ;)

Megan Berg posted on

This round of bees were yellow jackets. The stings hurt less but they swelled up and were sore the rest of the day.

I am going to become a connoisseur of various bee stings.