The weekend was certainly interesting. I think everyone learned something and we all made it back to the cars so we can chalk it up to a success. Things didn't quite go as advertised and no knobs were sat upon.
The group self-organized well from Vienna and beat me to the trail head by a good 15 minutes. I handed out some gear for folks to try out over the weekend, struggled with my camera clip, gave up on that, and we hit the trail. The expected "high of 61" was blown as it was already 75 degrees. Not hot compared to earlier in the week, but not the brisk air we expected.
The group stayed pretty tight for the first mile or so. At the first regroup point Ashley pointed out the little knob on my camera clip that was causing problems. Apparently randomly adjusting things isn't effective. Camera attached!
I had pre-announced that I'd be taking the climb up Waterfall slowly. Katrina, being very competitive, took up the challenge and we trudged up the hill together, each trying to go slower than the other. Frankly I think she cheated and actually went downhill at some point, but that's neither here nor there. (I bet it's on her fitbit though.)
We arrived at the top to find the rest of the group in the middle of their gourmet lunch. As I don't actually eat lunch on the trail (being a snack on the go kinda guy) I don't usually factor lunch (or stopping for any reason) into my plans. Apparently some people like to do that though. I'll learn... until I forget.
I've never seen a more food motivated group. Kyle had a grab bag of organic, herbivore, all-natural, artisan snacks. Katrina pulled out some fancy Spanish cheese (Mancheta?), and 1000 day aged Gouda (I really liked that one). James countered with Cheddar. As Steve said: bringing cheddar to a mancheta fight? Bold. I stood in the corner and ate my pack of peanut butter crackers, trying not to spill my plain boring crumbs.
The rest of the Massanutten ridge was uneventful. Steve, Ashley, and I were getting a bit worried at our Jawbone Gap regroup point but the rest showed up just as I was about ready to backtrack. The descent was enjoyable and we tanked up on water. Several shiny new Sawyer filters were put to use and some folks learned new water filtration techniques.
The climb up to camp took less time than I remembered, though we arrived a couple hours after I expected us to. A couple other folks had claimed a spot on the far side of camp. They were newly engaged a few hours earlier atop Duncan Knob. I congratulated them and confirmed our camp wouldn't bother them.
Diana has borrowed my TarpTent Notch so we got to show that off. Kyle borrowed my small flat tarp and mesh bivy. Ashley pulled off the biggest coup. James brought a hammock but forgot his straps. Ashley hammocks with a sleep pad and managed to swap her sleep pad for James' underquilt AND tarp. James slept on the ground with his bug net arranged above him below the shared tarp. Thoughts of B~~~~'s disaster trip came to mind.
My attempt to gather the troops for an assault on Duncan Knob led to near mutiny. It was 6:30pm and I got only 1 enthusiastic response from James. I got a variety of excuses including "but it's dinner time!", "uuuuggghhhh", "is it uphill?", "how far is it?", and (I'm not kidding) "I already showered." This is DC UL people. You'll stink and you'll like it!
So we ate dinner. There was more exotic food including some multi grain quinoa thing that Diana made, some array of home-dehydrated combination that Katrina engineered to mix in with her rehydrated dehydrated macaroni. Ashley ate regular food - Ramen - without the broth (the best part. Weirdo). James and Kyle were both no-cook and I didn't catch the exact meals but I think one contained coconut, lentil, and crystalized unicorn tears. It sounded very fancy.
Mid dinner it began to rain. We gathered under my over-sized hammock trap (with a strict no-spill policy) and ate dinner while we waited it out. Katrina saved her Macaroni from getting wet(ter?) but forgot about her clothes that were "drying out". Things apparently got pretty crazy while I concentrated on eating my beans and rice because by the time it stopped raining and folks wandered off there was an abandoned pair of pants laying under my tarp. If we had been atop Duncan Knob we'd have been descending in the rain after not seeing anything (being in a large cloud most of the evening anyway).
Fortunately the rain didn't last forever and we had a bear-bagging session which is always an entertaining spectator sport. Much missing of tree branches ensued. Almost nobody got hit by a rock. In the end we had 3 lines that were probably above bear-pinata height and all the food was hung. Of course we had to unhang some so Steve could add his tooth paste. And tooth brush. And floss. And tongue scraper.
After the enterainment, James and Kyle got a nice fire going with the help of Laura's "surprise vaseline lint". I didn't catch the recipe. We were up until just past 9pm before folks dispersed to their respective camps.
I was told it rained overnight but I didn't hear it. To avoid waking the non-DC UL campers we had a silent wake up call at 6am (and 6:15 for some people who conned James out of an underquilt). Folks did pretty well getting their things done and packed up and we were on the trail a few minutes past 7. Nobody really needed to tank up on water so we splashed along the typically wet and muddy trail up to Strickler Knob. Weather reports had heavy rain pending (which never did occur) and the enthusiasm level was for cars, dry shoes, and food. We moved on.
Nobody took me up on my offer to pick them up at the top of Waterfall if they wished to re-climb it. At the cars we dried off, changed clothes, and headed to Uncle Bucks for breakfast.
Now usually I'd end here, but our waitress, Sally, was hilarious and a lot of fun. Somehow Steve managed to get in her way while she started taking orders and she gave him a hard time for the rest of the visit, much to our delight. I think folks might have managed some free pancakes too. We were split with 4 to a table and the OTHER table (Diana, Laura, James, and Ashley) somehow managed to order and eat 2x the food my table did. I swear the first 3 full meals off the waitress tray all went to Diana who raised her hand more sheepishly each time.
Despite being a Knob-less weekend, some unexpected heat, some unexpected rain, some new gear, and some forgotten gear, I think everyone had a decent time. I think everyone walked away with more knowledge, more experience, and I look forward to meeting any/all of them on the trails again in the future.