What better way to celebrate the end of a great year with a short overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail! Thank you to our dear trail friend Bigglesworth (AT '08, JMT '14, NPT '14) for making this trip happen! We have a tradition of freezing our butts off with Biggles each winter, and glad we could do so this year in our home state, Maryland! We didn't manage to beat the low temps from our trip last winter in the ADK but I think we did get down to 10 degrees! Yay for feathers! Birds rule ;)
Camera: on this trip we decided to leave our big three pound DSLR (Canon 6D) at home and instead took the small Panasonic LUMIX GX1. Very happy with how these photos turned out!
We parked in the gravel lot on Wolfsville Rd. and hiked 5 miles to Raven Rocks Shelter. The shelter is a new one, very nice and we decided not to pitch tents afterall. (Although tents would be warmer. We decided we didn't want to pack up a wet-from-condensation, frozen tent in the morning though.) We were the only hikers at the shelter that night. We did see about 3 groups of hikers and 2 solo hikers on our short trip! More hikers than we typically see! I think many people enjoy getting out for the New Year. Last year on New Years we were also out on trail. We hung out around the fire for an hour or so and grilled some kielbasa. Pretty sure we went to sleep around 8pm. So goes "hiker midnight." And we slept for 12 straight hours. Cooper is always ok with this, especially since he was sharing my sleeping bag and air mat.
The walk itself was really nice. A few good climbs but nothing over 500 ft. We certainly didn't mind the workout, post Christmas and all. Most of this short section is what we consider "very flat." And the rocks on trail were dense but not irksome for us. There are several road crossings, stream crossings, a farm field crossing and several powerline/pipeline crossings. We saw no animals although we did have an animal visitor in camp at night and our efforts shining the headlamp did not reveal what creature it was.
Fun Trip! Below is a breakdown of my (Bobwhite's) winter sleep system and winter clothing. On this trip Cooper carried: 2 TurboPUP bars, 2 cups of kibble (in ziplocks), 0ne spare Muttluks boot (in the off chance of foot injury), one roll of vet wrap, a can of paw wax (although we didn't actually wax his paws this trip...), a plastic container as a bowl, and his homemade jacket. We carried for him the 40 degree Western Mountaineering summer weight sleeping bag and he slept on my winter air mat.
Bobwhite's winter sleep system and clothing pack list:
FF: Feathered Friends, UL: ultralight, BA: Big Agnes, MH: Mountain Hardware, HLMG: Hyper Light Mountain Gear.
My Mom and I went out for a second time, this time her neighbor Mic joined us, and it was Mic's first backpacking trip! My Mom so wanted Mic to have a good time, enough so, so that she might consider becoming my Mom's hiking partner. We had such a good time that we actually added a 1000' foot drop (and climb back up) down the blue blaze Jones Waterfall/Doyles River trail. At around 2:30 when we came to this side trail, we realized we'd be very early into camp (Black Rock Hut) and we might as well get some more hiking in. Adding this blue section was a good experience for everyone to see what climbing mountains is all about, because the A.T. through this section (Loft Mountain Campground to Black Rock Gap) is very very flat. And highly recommended to beginner backpackers. This section also has a great reward at the end, if you hike South from Loft Mountain, Black Rock is one of the best views in the Shenandoahs, next to Mary's Rock! ***Dogs must be on leash in the Park, and this is no joke. There are seriously bears everywhere and Mamma Bear will easily be able to kill a dog to protect her cubs. Cooper would surely die if he was off leash in the Park.
Night One: Car camped at Loft Mountain Campground (the campground was fully reserved, but we took one of the walk-in sites)
The Next Morning: We set up our car shuttle, with one vehicle at Loft Wayside and the other in Black Rock Gap (0.7mi hike South from Black Rock Hut). Mic's husband kindly dropped us off in Loft Mtn campground so we didn't have to hike up to the Trail from the Wayside. From here to Black Rock Hut is about 7 mi. Our blue blaze added about 3.5mi.
Night Two: pitched tents at Black Rock Hut. A few good tents sites here, great piped spring and decent shelter.
The Next Morning: very short walk out to the car in Black Rock Gap
We hiked through the boulder field at Black Rock from the back side of the overlook. Mom and Mic were not too happy with me for making them go the "long way." Oops. Made for a nice little workout before the view though! Cooper loves navigating the rocks and does a pretty good job. If he comes to a part and needs some help, the Groundbird Gear harness double handles make it easy to pick him up.
Since my 2011 AT sobo thru-hike, my mom has been inspired to get involved in Trail life. She started with trail magic to me and my friends during my hike and since has joined her local chapter AT club, the Tidewater Appalachian Trail Club, which maintains one of my favorite sections on the entire trail, Reids (Reeds) Gap to the Tye River, including Three Ridges Mountain and the Mau Har Trail. I chose this hike for her first backpacking trip in the mountains for it's minimal elevation gain and fantastic final overlook at Spy Rock. Cooper fully enjoyed himself, as always!
We did not camp here, but this is a very nice campsite North of Seely Woodsworth, called Porters Gap.
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