On the Friday before we were scheduled to set off to Ramseys Draft, we received a little "good news/bad news" as Jen put it. Bad news: Jen was too sick to join us on the trip. Good news: Denise (Haley's Mom) graciously agreed to take the lead.
So Saturday morning, Denise, Haley, Aileen, Stephanie and I piled into Denise's Prius. Jen stopped by to dropped off a bag of cold weather goodies (the bottle booties are great, by the way!). On the way over, we kept hearing a series of beeps (beep beep beep BEEP!) go off about every five minutes. Denise determined that it was coming from Aileen's watch but Aileen could not even hear it. Stephanie and I attempted to stop the incessant beeping but we only succeeded in making it more frequent. Denise suggested "Beeps" as a trail name for Aileen.
We pulled into Ramseys Draft parking lot some time after 11 and found Jessica already there. From the info board, we determined that, as Denise had thought, "draft" was another word for stream. The temperature wavered around 20 on the ride over but with the warm sun, many of us starting shedding layers before we even began hiking. A little after 11:30, the six of us ladies (including Haley of course) set off out of the parking lot to find the trailhead. We quickly discovered that we missed the actual trailhead parking which was 0.2 miles further on.
Another quarter mile into the trip we hit a figurative wall: a stream crossing. As this was my first winter trip, I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into.Try as we could to find a dry route across, we eventually accepted our fate. Jessica and Aileen chose to cross in their boots while Denise and I elected for socks. Stephanie went all out in bare feet. We were a bit chilly after we made it to the other side but started to warm up as we climbed the gentle, winding incline up the Bridge Hollow Trail. It was sunny and reached the high for the day- upper 20s. As we walked along the ridge, Stephanie and I talked about how the views were great for the winter but you would probably not be able to see much through the leaves during the rest of the year.
We walked along the ridge pleasantly and uneventfully for a while until we came to a pond at the Dividing Ridge Trail. Unfortunately, we did not know that we made it to Dividing Ridge. We admired the pond for a moment and then headed off to the right. We lost elevation quickly and it seemed like we were headed down into the valley. Aileen remarked that if we were going down this low, we were going to have to go back up. Man, was she right. About 3/4 of a mile down the hill, Stephanie and I stopped to look at the map because the trail just didn't seem right. Aileen was in front and walked on. Within a few minutes, Denise came running down the hill to tell us that we had all been on the wrong trail. Jessica had recognized it. Stephanie and I headed back up while Denise went to find Aileen who had made it to the bottom. Before our "bonus" climb, we had discussed hiking an extra mile or two but after our detour, we just wanted to get to camp.
We rolled into camp around 5:30 with 10 miles behind us, after walking the ridge on a slight decline and watching the sun set to the west while a light pink sky lit up the east. Everyone retired pretty quickly to their tents (or hammock) as the temperature dropped. Haley proved her worth again by cleaning up Aileen's spilled dinner.
We slept relatively warmly (or at least not too cold) as the temperatures reached lows of around 15 degrees. The next morning was as beautiful as the day before. The low sun lit up the trail and inch or two of powder until we descended into the valley. Pretty quickly, we came across our first stream crossing. Without much trouble, we able able to cross on rocks or logs. That was how the first few went. At one crossing, Aileen attempted to scoot across a log that was too high and skinny to cross on foot. A little ways across, she lost her balance and slid around the trunk, holding on to it with her arms and feet- like a sloth, which also became a suggestion for a trail name. Jessica helped get her down and because of her sloth-like abilities, Aileen avoided getting soaked.
Eventually, we came to some crossings that there was just no way around. This time, Jessica and Stephanie elected to walk straight across them while Denise, Aileen and I went through the painstaking process of removing our boots & socks, strapping them to our pack, putting on nearly frozen socks, crossing an icy stream, drying off, rebooting and walking on. And after another quarter to half a mile, repeating the process all over again. The crossings slowed us down a bit but we made all had made it out by 12:30. In all, we estimated we that had about 11 or 12 stream crossing the second day over 7 miles, half of which required fording.
We then enjoyed some much deserved beer and food at Capital Alehouse. Thanks to Jen for choosing such a great spot! At lunch we all decided on a tagline for the trip that Denise proposed: Ramseys Draft- this would be great...in the summer.
I think that about sums it up.
Nice write-up! Of course it if were summer, we would never have had the views on the ridge...
I've also heard that, in the summer, the underbrush is almost impenetrable in places...
To add to the summer issues, I've heard that the stinging nettles are out in full force.
Perhaps it should be: Ramsey Draft - This would be great... for the third week of October when the stinging nettles are gone and it isn't too cold (yet)
Ramsey Draft- this would be great... in waders
I believe the title of the Ramsey's Draft trip in U-Turns book is 'Amphibious Landing'.
In mid-summer, the nettles are so bad that they were stinging through my pants. It was like wading through... nettles. Awful. April was much better - cool, but no nettles. Jen probably has it right, October after a longish dry spell so the draft is as low as possible, and the blasted undergrowth isn't so harsh.
I wonder if there really is an ideal time for the draft.
Once I did it Memorial Day weekend. It was nice. Water wasn't too cold. Nettles weren't bad. I recall standing in the stream and watching the early morning sunlight sparkle, thinking, "This is nice!"
When Joffrey and I did it in June, it sucked. Nettles from hell. Undregrowth so think it was like a jungle. When we did it April 2013, it wasn't too bad., but not memorable. It was a late winter and there were no plants yet.