What better way to spend a long weekend than with a nice overnight in the woods. Since I figured most folks had plans for July 4, including myself, a simple weekend trip made sense. Some last minute car issues were resolved and everyone met at the trailhead on Rt. 211 within a 5 minute window. After a brief meet and greet (lots of applicants!) and a quick map recon we hit the trail earlier than targeted.
The initial miles to the Massanutten were pleasant. Then we hit Waterfall. We were all a predictably sweaty mess by the top despite the relatively cool temperatures for July. I heard comments about applicant hazing being discussed when I finally reached the top. I
have no comment. Georgia the trail dog (Aileens companion) wasn't even phased.
The ridge run back to the north was quite overgrown since my December visit. There were a fair number of blow-downs as well. Some looked pretty recent. We regrouped at Jawbone gap and de-ticked. Jeff led an extensive discussion on Lyme Disease and ticks in
general. I got the descent to the road/creek correct this time. I'd guess some of the blue blazes were recently repainted. We begrudgingly filled our spare water bottles for the dry camp. I think we managed to hit all the major water treatment systems: filters, pumps, UV, and drops.
We had the saddle campsite to ourselves and setup camp. We ate dinner early (5pm??) then had an unexpectedly long session on hanging bear bags. We managed just about every possible method of failure which was very instructive! Jeff managed to a great throw, but with a tangled line resulting both the his rock line and tangle knot to bet out of reach. Dan lashed a stick to a hiking pole and managed to retrieve it. Ruth and Aileen both celebrated successful throws only to have me dash their hopes about the 12 ft high branch they selected being insufficient for the PCT hang we were attempting. Kate had a good time throwing my line while I tried to run around and provide hints or help untangle mis-thrown lines. Derek had the most successful throws, but on a few wrong branches. Ultimately I think he ended up with technically the best given the height and distance from the trunk. Dan and Amy sat on their bear cans and watched smugly.
After the hour or so of fun we headed up to Duncan Knob. The "clear" day/night was becoming increasingly overcast and dark. With any chance of a pretty sunset rapidly decreasing we descended and headed back to camp. Given the heat nobody seemed motivated enough to hunt down firewood. Amy went to bed early (7pm?) and the rest of us sat around the campfire rocks (sans fire), shared libations, and chatted. It now occurs to me that Amy slept for about half the trip.
A gentle rain started sometime after bed and came and went a few times during the night. I enjoyed the patter on my tarp and the cooler breeze. We woke to a cooler but more humid day. A few folks did the breakfast thing and we were on the trail around 7:30. Sooner than I expected we were at the spur to Strickler Knob and headed out for the views. Despite having 4-paw drive Georgia couldn't make the last few climbs so Jeff and Aileen waited for us at the first "rock wall". Given the overcast day the sights weren't quite as grand, but visibility was decent. As we returned to the orange-blazed I mis-judged the mileage (again) and fell back to answering every "how much further" question with "3.5 miles" or "less than 8".
Since I took my GPS this time I can say with relative accuracy that day 1 was about 10.25 miles (minus the jaunt to Duncan Knob) and day 2 was a bit under 9 miles and includes the spur to Strickler Knob.
We made it back to the cars around noon and got cleaned up for a stop in Luray for food. Given the conversation the last few miles,
clearly food was on many minds. Dan found a screw in his rear tire that concerned us. We failed to find any open shops in Luray but it managed to hold up until he got back home.
All in all it was a very pleasant weekend and much cooler than I expected it to be. I hope everyone else had a good time too. It was nice to see new faces and I hope to see everyone on future trips. I posted a few of the better photos I took. If anyone wants a high-res, non-watermark version for themselves just let me know.
Some topics of discussion:
Ticks and Permethrin:
Permethrin premixed 0.5% (available at REI, etc too): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001ANQVYU
Permethrin concentrate 10% (dilute 20:1 down to 0.5% -- this is what I use. I mix a 10oz spray bottle at a time.): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001EVKCKM
Bear bag line:
DynaGlide (aka Dino-Floss) is available several places. I got mine from Dutch. Note that it's good for 1000lb (vs paracord) and if you saw mine it's very slippery and very light weight. Remember you need 50ft!
The fuel I use is simple Denatured Alcohol, available many places. I get mine at Lowes/HomeDepot. It's with all the other solvents (paint thinners, etc). If you just use it for fuel it'll probably last years if you keep it well sealed.
Aside from the applicant hazing (The Waterfall--really?) this was a great trip :) Dave had to deal with many newbies/applicants (new or newly returned to backpacking) but had a few experience but new folks as well. Georgia the trail dog was a great companion --I think she may have been the tick whisperer and saved some of us! The group dynamic was just lovely. Hope everyone else had as good a time as I did! and Dave thanks for the pictures--they are great!
What a great summary! I felt good about my hiking, saw some nice sights and learned new things. Everyone's good spirits and generosity (bourbon, whisky, and jolly ranchers, hello!) made it a really fun trip, and man did those pancake batter fried green tomatoes at the end taste good. Jeff and Amy kept the group laughing with their nature horror stories and legends of dinosaurs. Despite the number of ticks, Georgia was a true champion and it was great to have a canine companion. Dave's pictures are great, and I'm enjoying the views now again from my air conditioned living room.
Sounds like a fun trip. I skipped Duncan Knob last time due to rainy/foggy weather conditions - I still have to make it up there with nice weather.
Dave - Surprised to hear you didn't make any dessert on this one... :)
Yeah... I was wondering if that would come up. Thanks Karan! With all the heat and humidity I was having a hard time really wanting to stoke a fire.
Makes sense; It's too hot to make a fire..