Sat morning we parachuted into the Roanoke area from all directions. I split the group into FULL and PARTIAL, based on either hiking to Dragon's Tooth from MacAfee lot or starting at the Dragon's Tooth lot then later driving to the McAfee lot. Both groups would meet at camp Saturday night, at the sites just beyond Catawba shelter.
The FULL crew all arrived at the overflowing McAfee lot around 1PM then set off for Dragon's tooth on the AT. Trisha and LN decided to tackle the day in BEAST MODE with full gear, the rest of us had daypacks only. At some point, Anil and L N, far ahead of the rest, missed a double blaze and found themselves headed back toward the lot; the lost lambs caught up a few hrs later as the rest reached the Dragon's Tooth spur. Oddly, the FULL crew met with part of the PARTIAL crew travelling opposite on the AT; Deb and Liz were doing their own thing and had been shuttled to the Dragon's Tooth spur from McAfee lot. Shrug… The FULL crew pushed on toward Dragon's Tooth passing the rest of the PARTIAL crew headed down and back to their cars. FULL ascended, checked out the overlook and then started the hike back to the McAfee lot and ultimately Catawba.
Notes from Day 1:
1) Know your hiking speed and make sure the organizer knows if you probably cannot sustain 2MPH+ either due to a lack of physical conditioning or a recent injury. Some members could not keep to 2MPH+, especially during steep elevation gains. We arrived to camp much later than expected due to attempts to keep the group relatively close together while hiking in the dark.
2) Hiking with "daypacks" only is risky since you may not have the gear to set up camp at some random location if necessary. A daypack for backcountry probably should be better equipped than just water and snacks.
3) Night hiking… oh yeah, poisonous snakes… that is all.
4) Maintain situational awareness on trails, especially at intersections. Members of both the FULL and PARTIAL groups had to make corrections after straying from the route.
5) Inconsiderate folk were setting up tents INSIDE the shelters making it impossible for anyone else to use them
I was up early, finished my Lara bar breakfast, broke down camp and headed to Campbell before restlessness set in. The rest of the reunited FULL and PARTIAL group were to head over later, after a proper wake-up routine. We had all day to set up camp at Campbell then hike to Tinker and back, no rush. I studied maps before the trip so took the shortest route from Catawba to Campbell, the fire road. The rest of the team snaked around the AT climbing up to McAfee then back down to Campbell; everyone else took the tougher route but that gave them an additional chance to enjoy the majesty of the knob.
Besides Tukta and Laura carjacking a tractor, the hike to and from Tinker was uneventful. In true DC UL fashion, everyone sauntered to/from Tinker at his or her own pace but we stuck mostly near one another.
Notes from Day 2
1) We were never settled on the mileage from Campbell to Tinker. The signs said it was much shorter than the 7.5 miles (one way) that I got when plotting the trip via google (yip directions via AT are on Google). Round trip, to the first part of Tinker Cliffs is about 9 miles.
2) Use online forums and any resources available to gauge water source levels on trail. Campbell had water but it took 10s of minutes to collect each liter.
Predawn trek to McAfee to catch the sunrise. Uneventful hike back to the cars mostly via the fire road. Since we were leaving so early, plans for a brewery or the lauded Homeplace—closed on Monday's—were nixed for a breakfast spot. We chose Country Cookin, which I didn’t know was a 2-3rd rate buffet till too late… It'll do in a pinch, is awesome after a couple days in the woods, but I'll likely not seek it out in the future.
Notes from Day 3
1) Meal discussion veered into Member Rankings. That some members are being held to 2.5MPH, for achieving Vet, while we all know that several, who are already Vet, cant hack that speed. Rankings are subjective, sometimes based on friendships, some feel unfairly bestowed or denied.