Ramsey's draft + Wild Oak Trail - June 2016 (VMO, 40mi)

Posted by Andrew L. on

http://www.meetup.com/DC-UL-Backpacking/events/231676460/

If you don't read anything else in this trip report, please note that the solid blue line on Nat Geo map #791 labeled Tunnel Hollow is not a water source on the Wild Oak Trail. The USGS quad properly labels it as Tunnel Hollow Aquaduct.

I posted a Ramseyís draft + Wild Oak Trail as a VMO trip with under a week until the start of the trip, thus I was pleasantly surprised to find company for the trip. Mark had wanted to get out into the woods and wanted a lot of miles, so he joined me instead of hiking solo.

The trip started late Friday night, so we went for a night link up on the trail. As the recent Allegeny Front Trail outing went through a Ghost town and the Wild Oak Trail started at the ruins for Camp Todd, I was initially thinking of a ghost themed meeting. Markís cuban fiber tarp is the right shade of white and would make for a reasonable looking ghost were he to wrap himself in it. And he could even hide beside the trail and jump out when I got there. Unfortunately, the rural areas tend to be fairly conservative and thereís an election coming up, so we passed on this as someone might think of a bunch of white men with white robes around a bonfire as a Trump rally.

After camping for the night at Little Bald Knob, we set out at 6 am to hit the bulk of the Wild Oak Trail. Thereís a nice spring with a cistern and pipe flowing out of it right before the river crossing at FR-95. I initially grabbed no more than three liters of water, as despite the heat, we had figured on our next water source being in 7 miles. Mark wanted some extra weight for training, so he grabbed four liters. Given the trail name of Camel, I opted to follow suit mainly as the water source was so nice. Itís this bit of dumb luck that allowed us to stay with the original planned route as opposed to coming off the ridge to get to a closer water source. (It works out to 14-15 miles between the two water sources)

Some trail runners passed us near the water source. We would see them again about twelve miles later as they were doing the same loop in the opposite direction. They had used a car to create a water cache on the route that they were running.

We hiked and the day started to get hotter. While I had anticipated a high just around 80F, my watch read in the upper 80s in the sun and mid 80s in the shade. We saw a deer in a muddy pond. While she ran off when Mark got out his cell phone, she was back when I passed by. And I was even able to take a picture through the brush of her, as she probably just wanted to cool off in the muddy pond.

Mark had remarked on how he doesnít normally see much wildlife on the trail, so he got a few firsts on the trip. It was the first time that he had a rattlesnake rattle at him, and he helpfully waited to point out the spot on the trail that the snake was at to me. He saw a bear in the woods about a mile from our campsite. We both saw some fresh bear scat by the trail near the campsite and some backpackers from the other direction had seen two bear cubs, so it was another night to hang food. Tadpolls

Eventually, we got to the water source at Dividing Ridge. The stream is on the USGS quad, but not on the National Geographic map. Thereís a small trail to the right when heading up Dividing Ridge past one of the mountain bike mogals to access it. One also can both hear and see the water from the trail at that point. Both of us drank the remaining water on us and grabbed plenty more. Due to the weather, I probably drank through nearly a liter of water on the climb up to Ramseyís draft. We figure that we each went through something like eight liters of water on the Saturday alone, so itís important to stay on top of it. As a related note, while I like the Sawyer mini filter in weather where I need to sleep with it, I think that summer is the domain of the full size Sawyer filter if you happen to own them both. (Or use chem)

The view from the campsite just south of The Peak in Ramseyís Draft W.A. was awesome. That campsite is large enough to hold a number of people in it, even if it has a few dead trees. I liked the view near sunset looking East, as the light was interesting. While we got up for the sunrise, this time of year it was fairly far to our left. So still worthwhile to get up for, but not spectacular.

Some other folks who were new to backpacking ended up joining us at the campsite. They had brought their friendly dog along. And they even brought some burger patties and offered us burgers. If I hadnít already eaten my ramen, I would have gladly gobbled it down. As is, Iím sure that the dog preferred the half burger to itís chunky dog food.

The next morning, we went up Ramseyís draft after making a brief stop at the pit toilets at the Ramseyís draft picnic area. While we took the side trail instead of making the first wet feet crossing, we put our feet in on the second crossing and it felt great! So we made wet crossing after wet crossing up the draft. As Karen had warned us about, parts of the trail had foliage that came out and bit you. I got a bit of both stinging nettle and poison ivy. Itís likely that Mark got the same. And we both found some ticks on ourselves on Saturday night. While I checked my body for ticks when I went to bed, I didnít check my clothing, so I woke up in the night with a tick crawling on my arm. Itís also possible that it was hiding somewhere in my hair when I had checked, but I consider that unlikely due to my close hair cut and male pattern baldness,

We were done with the trail around noon and each went our own way home. In summary, DC UL seems to work for setting up trips with as little notice as a few days ahead of time. This one was made easier to organize due to the previous write-up and Karan posting the track from his GPS. While it would be nice to do the 44mi variant from U-Turnís book, that we would have wrapped up even later in the day on Sunday. And the 27 mi on Saturday in the heat was plenty.


Karan posted on

Glad you liked the route and survived the heat-fest, Andrew. I am sad I had to cancel in March and didn't get a chance to try this variation, so its good to hear it worked out well.

Do you remember how much camping space there was on Little Bald Knob? How many people could've fit in? That was the one thing I wasn't sure about - but would love to know for future outing.


Andrew L. posted on

We were about 1/3 mile South of Little Bald Knob at the big site with the good view. There's easily room for a full DC UL size outing of 10-12. Probably the larger problem is just avoiding the dead trees though, as I recall weighting various options before finding one that I was happy wasn't under a dead tree. The large campsite might be taken already of course.

I recall one or two small sites between the large site and Little Bald Knob. I recall that I figured that Mark and I could probably fit, but it would be tight, so would be fine for solo or trips with friends, but would be too small for a decent turnout DC UL outing. There might have been a semi-open area with brush that could be camped upon too before the 1-2 small sites, but my memory is a bit hazy on this point and I don't recall if it was reasonably flat. And if the brush was reasonably low, I don't recall if it was high grass or something with thorns.


Karan posted on

Are you referring to the Friday night campsite or Saturday night campsite? It sounds more like the latter : we camped there on our own trip and it was a nice, big campsite. I am more curious about your Friday night campsite (Little Bald Knob - map for reference: http://caltopo.com/m/74U9). Correct me if I am wrong!

I passed that point, but don't recall much on how many sites there were.


Andrew L. posted on

Sorry about that. I was referring to the Saturday night campsite.

For the campsite on Friday night at Little Bald Knob, you're basically camping at a tiny clearing where the fire road runs into the trail. To get in a DC sized group, one would need to pack it tent to tent. Some will be pitched on a small slope. Mark pitched on side of the trail with his head or feet pointing toward the trail. I pitched on the other oriented either the same way or 180 off. I recall that we probably could have slid another similar sized tent on both sides of both of us. And there was a tad bit more on Mark's side too as there was in a corner on mine. So you could probably get in a full DC UL sized group of 8 small tents, but it's going to be a squeeze. My memory is too hazy to support planning for a larger group than that. Checking my collection of pictures, it appears that I didn't take a picture of the campsite.

There was a fire ring there, so it's an established campsite. Thus if another group has taken it, there might not be enough space remaining.

If you're rolling up late Friday night like we did, then you are setting up around midnight and breaking camp at dawn, so it opens up the possibility of camping directly on the fire road that meets there. The initial portion had some slope to it, but was grassy, so there's probably a spot or two which would be acceptable, especially if someone's bivying. While I wouldn't go in with a plan of camping pretty much on the trail, if it's real late and there isn't enough space elsewhere, it's an OK contingency IMHO.