The trailhead at Wolf Gap campground was a relatively short drive from Vienna metro, so the nine of us started the hike by 10:30am after meeting at Vienna at 8:00. The parking lot at Wolf Gap was nearly completely full, so we were expecting to see a lot of people on the trails.
When we got to the rocks at Big Schloss, an entire boy scout troop was already there. They had backpacks and departed down the trail in the same direction that we were going, so there was some wonder as to where they were going to camp. In retrospect, we probably should have just asked one of their adults, as maintaining a 1/4 mile from the boy scouts campground seems prudent if we wanted to get a full night of sleep. As is, we passed that group before hitting Sandstone spring and didn't see them again on the hike.
Navigating out to our campsite at the start of Long Mountain trail was relatively uneventful. We briefly took a left turn too soon off of the Tuscarora trail onto what looked like a trail / fire road. After about 200 feet, it still looked like a fire road, but there wasn't as much usage as the trails so far and no blazes, so we checked our maps and folks checked GPS's. The decisive factor was getting out a compass and noticing that the trail that we wanted was heading North and the trail we were on was heading closer to South. Looking at the map, an additional way we could have determined was that the contour lines showed that the trail we wanted was heading downhill, while the unmarked trail we were on was clearly going uphill. We got back on the Tuscarora and found the correct intersection five minutes later.
Since we expected that the nice campsite at the start of Long Mountain trail would likely already be taken, the folks at the front of the group played a variant on the "I spy" car game. Specifically, finding and pointing out all of the good campsites along the way that we could backtrack too. When we got to the campsite at the start of Long Mountain trail, we lucked out and were able to take it. We got there about 5:15, which gave us an hour of daylight to setup.
In comparison with camping in Shenandoah National Park two weeks ago, this campsite had plenty of options that didn't involve camping under dead trees. Based on the number of tree stumps and the relative lack of downed dead wood, there's been a fair amount of clearing of the site for firewood, which is also consistent with it being by the road.
For the bear hangs this time, we remembered to tie it off to a tree other than the one we hung it from. Some folks were happy to hang using a line that someone else had already put up, but were reluctant to throw their own line. My estimate is that reviewing and helping folks with it might increase the camping discipline. While there's some amount that using someone else's line is doing what is easier, I feel that there's also some degree where-by it's seen as a more difficult skill, thus could use some practice. With that said, I'm aware of some experienced folks in the group who prefer keeping their food on them to hanging it, even though they clearly have the skills to hang it without much effort.
Sunrise was at 7:30 DST, so we got up at 6:30 and hit the trail right at 7:30. It's great to be on the trail so early in the morning.
Overall, the weather was cooperative. Saturday was dry and we had only a brief rain shower at night and some light rain while breaking camp. We had scattered showers for the hike out though, but folks had brought at least their rain jackets.
Backpackers in the mist:
For various reasons, we ended up fairly far spread out on the trail. Deb had volunteered to sweep, which helped. None-the-less, toward the end of the trip, the group was spread out by a little bit over a half an hour, which is pushing it for a LM trip. I was glad that I had gotten everyone's cell phone number at the start of the trip when we were waiting for the last hiker to arrive, as it would make searching for the last hiker easier if they didn't show.
We stopped at Jalisco's in Front Royal for Mexican food on the way home. Nick gave us some stories of the local Front Royal culture from the year that he lived close by. We were back at Vienna metro around 5:20 pm.
[quote]We briefly took a left turn too soon off of the Tuscarora trail onto what looked like a trail / fire road. After about 200 feet, it still looked like a fire road, but there wasn't as much usage as the trails so far and no blazes, so we checked our maps and folks checked GPS's.[/quote]
If you were where I think you were, and I'm pretty confident of that, that old fire road eventually rejoins the TT, maybe a quarter mile from where the TT turns down Pond Run. Some people I hike with prefer going that way, because of the all rocks on the TT.