Well, the weekend of December 6th had come to be, but with it, so came a bit of cold, wet weather. Considering how the trip was designed, I decided that I would take the gamble and postpone it to the following weekend in hopes for better weather. Well, the next weekend came, and the gamble paid off! Partly cloudy to clear skies and highs in the upper 40s!!
While waiting at the Vienna metro for the group to show, I got a chance to see and talk with 3 of other DC UL members (Matt S, Brian, and Andrew) who were waiting to head out for the Trout Run Valley trip. It was nice! Anyways, soon thereafter, the rest of the group arrived and we were off, on our way to the Massanuttens. When we arrived at the trail head parking lot off of 211, I was pleasantly surprised to see only 2 other cars. We had the whole range to ourselves practically. Geared up and eager to go, we hit the trail at about 11am.
I was happy to see that there was no snow, and was pleasantly surprised as to how warm it felt. I love it when I can get away with walking in trail runners and a T-shirt during the winter. Anyways, before we knew it, we arrived at the junction of the Strickler Knob spur trail. We then hiked the purple blazed rocky trail about .7 miles to the knob. For everyone except me, this was the first time being at Stickler Knob. I think most of us were expecting the “typical east coast overlook” with impeded views, but everyone seemed pleasantly surprised when they saw how dramatic and open the views were. We took some time here to snap away photos, and to eat some lunch.
Satisfied with the views, we hiked back out towards the trail junction and hooked back up with the Massanutten going northbound. At this point, the trail winds its way down the east side of the ridge and starts heading north. For about a mile or so, the trail was stricken with thorny bushes and fallen trees. It made me think about all those folks who did the “Death March” this past year. As if 71 miles, rocky terrain, bad weather weren’t enough, throw in plants that want to tear you up! Yeeesh!
After another mile or so, we ascended back up the ridge towards the saddle below Duncan Knob. Once at the top, there was a nice flat area with a couple camp areas strewn about. We quickly set up and gathered wood as much wood as we could before starting our little trek up to Duncan Knob to catch the sunset. I forgot how cool scrambling up the boulder field was and how amazing it was up there. Once up at the top, the views were just incredible. If I had to pick between the two (Strickler Knob), I’d pick Duncan!
Tripods out in full force, we were able to get some good shots of the sunset. As the sun dipped below the horizon, the temps were beginning to get noticeably colder and with that we quickly headed down. Picking up some more wood along the way, we arrived back at our camp and got a great fire going. Warmed back up with some nice hot food and some Scotch, we sat around the fire and got some interesting conversations going about the current meteor shower (I saw the brightest shooting star I’d ever seen!), summer backpacking adventures, the apparently amazing Whole Foods in Fairfax, UL backpacking, why I choose to constantly lead newbies to our group, and …… doing the No. 2 deed in the woods! :-) Backpacker’s midnight (9pm) soon arrived and we all retired to our shelters for the night.
The next morning, I planned for the guys to sleep in considering we didn’t have much to do in the way of miles. It was kinda nice! Andrew took some time in the morning to hike south to catch the sunrise. Soon though, we all packed up our gear and ate some breakfast while talking about how we had all slept the last night considering some were still tinkering with their winter sleep system. Everyone agreed that the night gave a good opportunity to give a baseline of what was still needed for a good warm night of sleep (temp got down to about 29 degs).
Soon after, we headed on the trail westbound to connect to the Gap Trail. Once at the junction, we made a left going back southbound to reconnect with the Massanutten Trail. It was all easy hiking from here on and before we knew it, we were back at the cars. Now originally, we had planned to go to Jalisco’s (Mexican) for lunch in Front Royal. But honestly, I was looking for something different and decided to go and hour longer to Gainesville where we would eat at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. This place was pretty awesome as it had great food and good craft beer!!! After lunch, we all said our goodbyes and headed back home.
Andrew, Nathan, and Vincent, thanks for being such good company on this hike! You guys really have some potential with the group and I look forward to seeing you guys out on the trails soon! Andrew: hurry up and develop your photos!! :-)
Nice done!! Thanks for the trip report [:D]