In about 1.7 miles we reached Maupin Field campground and shelter area. We didn't walk down to the shelter, but kept up our pace and continued on, now climbing Three Ridges Mountain. This loop hike is very special to me. I've hiked it with many friends throughout the years prior to my thru-hike. It's about a 3.5 hour drive from where we live and so worth the drive for the views and incredible workout. You don't soon forget this hike, as your body reminds you of it a couple of days after and the overlooks become ingrained in your mind. It has become a special place for my family as well: my parents are now members of the Tidewater Appalachian Trial Club, the group that maintains the A.T. from Rockfish Gap to the Tye River, including Three Ridges and the Mau-Har Trail.
We decided it would be nice to make our hot meal at the overlook instead of waiting for camp when it would be dark and cold. (Who enjoys doing "the dish" in the dark and cold at camp in winter??) There was a cold wind on Hanging Rock but the sun and view warmed us and we all enjoyed the break. From this spot we climbed another 300 feet in elevation to the tree-covered top of the mountain and then began the 3.5mi descent and lost 2,000ft in elevation to Harper's Creek Shelter. (Knee killer).
This section of the A.T. is a doozy even for thru-hikers. It's one of those rare occasions of 3,000ft of elevation gain and loss within 10 miles. Three Ridges is on one side, the Priest on the other and the Tye River in between. If you have several days for a trip, I recommend hiking Three Ridges, the Priest and Spy Rock and get a shuttle back to your car from the fish hatchery near Spy Rock or go all the way to Hogcamp Gap.
We had some laughs when we got to camp and realized the tent we had carried was not the tent we thought we were carrying! Powder River and I have a nice non-free-standing tent collection from Tarptent, Six Moon Designs and Gossamer Gear. I give all the credit to Powder River for the gear/tent obsession which led us to starting Groundbird Gear for backpacking dogs. Anyway, in our gear storage area at home, all of the tents are lined up on a shelf in similar sized stuff sacks. The Tarptents are made from the same pale green-grey silnylon. Instead of grabbing the tarp and inner of the two-piece Tarptent Stratospire, I had grabbed the single-man Contrail and the inner of the Stratospire. It actually worked out with me, Kathleen and Cooper piled into the one-person tent. We were quite warm and thankfully there was no condensation so our bags which were touching the tent walls did not get soaked. I will be marking the outside of each tent's stuff sack!
Kathleen started speaking poetry as we climbed the Falls of Campbells Creek on the Mau-Har. She said "The Appalachians aren't about the mountains, but about the rivers. The rivers carved the mountains and placed the boulders." I never knew theses mountains are sandstone. You can tell because when the rock breaks it makes "play-dough" shapes instead of right angles. Also, sometimes I've seen sand on top of mountains and this explains why! I always new the Appalachians were ancient but if I knew how they were formed, I had forgotten. Thanks Kathleen!
Yeah, it took us about 3 hours to do the 3.8 miles from Harpers Creek Shelter to Maupin Field. I say that just to show how strenuous the Mau-Har Trail is. Quite worth it and we were looking for a good workout! The temperature dropped as we came back up to the Maupin Field Shelter and I put the camera away. The descent down Bee Mountain back to the car was so icy, I wish we had micro spikes!! No joke! We had to slide down on our butts and then skip the last bit and just walk on the Parkway to get back to the car. We immediately drove into Waynesboro and since Wheezies Diner (terrible name, I know) was closed, we ate at the Mexican restaurant across from the infamous Tastee-Freeze. Yum! I'm not sorry that I was too tired to make it to the Super Bowl party when I got home. We had a great weekend and I'm so glad we were able to break up the dreary urban winter that drags on and on here in Baltimore! It's much nicer to be out in the cold and moving than caged in a grey city. Thank God for healthy bodies and beautifully maintained trails through the most special parts of Creation!