Event details: http://www.meetup.com/DC-UL-Backpacking/events/229785576/
As we've run this hike a few times before, this trip report only covers what we did differently this time.
When I posted it, I expected it to be as straight-forward to run as when I had led it last fall. However, the weather this time wasn't as cooperative:
Saturday Night: Snow likely, mainly before 2am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 23. Windy, with a southwest wind 17 to 27 mph increasing to 28 to 38 mph after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 60 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
Given the wind gusts to 60, we elected to camp in the AT shelter instead of tent / tarp camp. Last time, we stayed near Birch Run which results in fairly even splits. Due the number of hours of daylight, we elected to complete the bulk of the loop and camp at the Quary Gap shelter, which only left 2.6 mi for Sunday. We had also cut off a mile earlier in the day by cutting down the first intersection with Locust Gap trail instead of going down Hosack Run Trail to get to Locust Gap.
As the applicants appeared to be in good shape, if we had headed straight to the Birch Run Shelter, we would have gotten there just before 3pm, but sunset wasn't until 7:30, so doing more miles on Saturday was the DC UL style for passing the day. Three of us elected to try Dughill Trail to Furnace Hollow Rd to Linsay Lot Rd to Methodist Hill Rd to explore some new trails. It took us some time to find Furnance Hollow Rd, as it's just an unblazed trail at the start instead of a road. Using that it was at the geographic saddle point according to the elevation contours along with a GPS, we got close enough to explore a side trail which turned out to be it. We walked right past Methodist Hill Rd though as we assumed that it would be a trail as the PATC map showed and we thought most of the gravel roads we saw on that section of roads looked like they were for structures. So we road marched on to catch back up with the AT at the Ridge Rd / Stillhouse Hollow intersection. Splits for this variant were around 17/3. While we arrived at the AT shelter a full hour before sunset, 17mi seemed to be pushing it for one day for a LM trip. None-the-less, with a small group, it's nice to have the spirit of exploring even if it was a LM trip.
We met and hung out with random people at the AT shelter. One of the guys is going to the gear-gasm event next weekend, so will get to meet a lot of the group at that. The site that the Quary Gap shelter is located at is fairly sheltered from the wind, so while we heard it at night, the air in the shelter wasn't moving too bad. We saw a number of downed branches on the park road at Caledonia on the way out. And 85,000 people in PA lost their power that Saturday night due to the wind. My watch said 28F at the shelter and 26F on the trail back to Caledonia, so it was slightly warmer than forecast. We hit the trail on Sunday about 15 min after sunrise, as we didn't want to wake up too many other people at the shelter by trying to get an alpine start.