Well, we found fall in all its windy glory this weekend. I was excited to do this section of the Tuscarora since it would be connecting some stretches that Iíve hiked in the past.
The trip started smoothly. We met Anil, who was driving up from Richmond, at the Fetzer Gap trailhead, and left Brianís car there. We then cruised up to the new trailhead along Capon Springs Road, and managed to wedge my car and Anilís into the tiny lot. The wind was whipping along, and we started hiking just around 11 a.m.
For those who are following the Tuscarora reroute (a large contingent, Iím sure), our first few miles took us along the new stretch of trail. Rather than dipping down to Hawk Camprgound, the new trail keeps you along the ridge. It is a pretty stretch. We could see hints of blue sky popping out above, and some fall colors starting to emerge. We crossed 48/55, and then regrouped at the Gerhard Shelter for lunch and a break from the wind.
We were making good time along the ridge. Alison and I even remarked that the trail seemed rather un-Tuscarora-like as it wasnít too rocky. We made our descent to Waites Run, and then headed back up to the ridge. There were a number of backpackers and dayhikers along this stretch, with the campsites by the intersection with Halfmoon being full. I was aiming for a campsite by the Sugar Knob cabin, and was pleased to see that it was empty when we got there--and we arrived just before dark. Not a bad day of hiking.
Brian Crowe got a nice fire going, and we all enjoyed our dinners. The wind, however, was still going strong, and we all fled to our various shelters soon after 8 p.m. I was using this trip as a shakedown of sorts since I was curious to see how low I could take my new hammock set-up. This was definitely the limit, although I probably should have gotten out of the hammock to adjust the tarp better. I was able to adjust the underquilt but every gust of wind moved it, causing cold air to collect under me again. Again, probably should have gotten out to adjust it, but I had managed to wiggle into a somewhat warm spot and did not want to move. Not the most restful night.
Up at 6. People started to filter out of camp as soon as it was light, with Patrick taking the lead. Alison and Anil followed, and Brian headed out just after them. I waited for Alieen and Theo to come back from their water run, and then started moving since it was chilly. Aileen caught up to me quickly, and Theo caught up to us at the junction with the White Rocks overlook. Aileen and Theo opted to take in the views, while I decided to head along and see if I could catch up with those ahead. Backpackers were scattered along this section. It certainly was a popular weekend to be out.
I told Aileen Iíd wait for them by the footbridge indicated on the map. I kept hiking along, and realized along the climb back up to the ridge that there was no footbridge, unless the rocks I hopped over were considered one. (FWIW, it also is not clear that there is a Shaffer Gap Road. #newmapfail) I saw Brian Crowe ahead of me, who paused for me to catch up with him. He remarked that he was now in the lead -- or, at least, folk coming the opposite direction had not seen any other backpackers. Odd, I thought. Aileen and Theo were behind--and Patrick, too, since Brian said he stopped at White Rocks. Perhaps Alison and Anil had, as well?
Brian and I waited at the top of the ridge for a bit so we could see who was behind us. Patrick, Theo, and Aileen strolled in, but no one had seen Alison and Anil. Patrick mused that maybe they could have passed him when he stopped for a PopTart. Operating under the PopTart theory, we assumed they somehow leapt ahead of us. We started on the last few miles.
It became a classic Tuscarora stretch. Rocks. Brambles. Rocks with brambles. Ah, the memories. To be fair, the ridge yielded nice views of the valley below. Soon, though, the trail flattened out, and saw the end--but not Alison and Anil.
We pulled out our phones and started to check for service. A text message from Alison popped up: they were behind with an ETA of 1:30 p.m. to the trailhead. Brian and I decided to start reversing the shuttle while we waited. Sure enough, Alison and Anil were there when we arrived: they had made a wrong turn at the intersection with the Sluice Mountain Trail, but quickly corrected. They also encountered a man with a double-hammock set-up for him and his dog.
We headed over to Lost River for food and beer, and then made our way home. All in all, a good weekend outdoors. Thanks to everyone for making it a fun time!
Good write up! You're nearing the end of the Tuscarora Trail!