Atop Spy Rock
Section - June 2003
Southbound from Waynesville to Montebello
The section hike started off with a new TrailName. The reason behind the name is from two thought streams. First, and most direct, was a posting on a newsgroup in which I miss-typed my name (Rick) as Risk. However, the more I thought about it, the idea of using Risk as a trail name grew. I have been pondering what has been called "The UltraLite Theorem". Exactly what it means to reduce pack weight and how to do it successfully. The more I think about this, the more I believe it is Risk Control that is the key and central theme to successfully decreasing the weight of the kit carried. So Risk became my name.
What I carried on this trip is already listed on a separate page. The base pack weight was
Total 20.29 lbs
Pack Total 17.4
Pack total minus food and water 10.8
The adventure plan was sandwiched into a requirement to drive to Virginia to renew my out-of-state driver's license. I drove to VA on a Wednesday, but because the DMV is closed on Wednesdays, I needed to wait for the 0900 opening of the office on Thursday. I spent the night right on the Blue Ridge Parkway at a great (and not very expensive) hotel know as "The Inn at Afton", just up the hill from Waynesboro. Wednesday night there was a gully washing thunderstorm beginning about 7 PM. By the next morning, the view from the motel was very pretty and the day was off to a great start.
View from the Inn at Afton, 0530, 12 June 2003
I was able to get out of the DMV office by 0930 and on the trail by 0945. Unfortunately, this was a half hour too late to meet a fellow I have been reading trail reports from over the last months. Ryan (GreenTurtle) walked out into Rock Fish Pass just after 0900, I later found out. But for the first hours of the trip I asked every hiker I met if they knew anything about the GreenTurtle. None knew him.
The southbound trail begins as a level walk through the woods for nearly 4 miles. The morning was fresh, the path well maintained, and singing came easily as I adjusted to the AT stride once again.
The first shelter I came to, just down a steep set of switchbacks, was the Paul C. Wolfe Shelter. What a nice design this is. Section hiker Ray and thru hiker Glacier were eating lunch at the shelter when I arrived at noon. Shortly afterward, a goat arrived at the shelter and took a run at Ray while he gamely defended his noodle lunch. There were a lot of honey bees buzzing around the shelter and with the goat there, I was glad that I was not going to be spending the night at this shelter.
The next picture is of some interest. It is not a UFO. In fact, it is not much of a picture at all, but it may be the only picture I get to take of a timber rattle snake on the AT. After climbing out of the valley in which the Wolfe shelter nestles, I was sauntering along when my peripheral vision sent a klaxon off in the old brain. Stretched across the path was a...
snake..... hmmm Brown, Lots of Band Markings, Oh, it is beginning to wake up...
snake lifts it tail and the bead like rattles begin a very distinctive sound which I will remember for some time to come...
Oh, lovely, a timber rattle snake. ....
Throw a little stick between me and the snake to get it to leave...
snake coils up and prepares to strike...
Throw another little stick, and the rattle gets louder...
Take picture... from 8 feet away... I wonder if snake will be visible on the photo (not very)
Turn around and find a 6 foot long stick to sort of push the snake to get it moving...
Snake strikes stick, then coils back up to strike again...
Finally, use stick to bodily lift the snake up and off the path, depositing him, still rattling, about 5 feet downhill from the path.
Then walk around spot on the far side of path.
All this from a fellow who is not really very afraid of snakes, but not used to them holding their ground instead of slithering away when given the chance!
UFO or Timber Rattle Snake? Tail to right in photo
Head in center of photo aimed at camera
Every once in a while, the long green tunnel opens into a nice vista. This not only lifts one's spirits, but allows the occasional peek at the sky to do some short range weather forecasting.
I had to walk several hundred yards down a side path to reach the overlook at Looking Glass Hollow. It was the first nice rock overlook along the section.
Unfortunately, my new nylon shorts/swim trunks, were rubbing the skin between my legs a little raw about mid afternoon when I reached the overlook. It is surprising how even a little pain puts a crimp on enjoyment. I put a little Desitin cream on the skin, took a few minutes to rest, and moved on.
I decided to take a half mile side trip to the visitor center near the Humpback Rocks turn off. I walked the unmarked, but easy to follow Howardsville Turnpike from the AT to the Humpback Rocks parking area. Just as I emerged on the asphalt, a car drove up. The passenger got out and asked me if the AT was down that path. I explained that it was merely a quarter of a mile away and that the turn was marked with a large pile of rocks. He said he was a thruhiker and that his mother was spending the day with him. She was the driver of the car. He offered me a bit of TrailMagic, a cold Gatoraide, and said he was planning to slack pack from Dripping Rock Spring, just 6 miles up the trail back to this point. I love TrailMagic. At the parking lot there was a nice poster board to let people know how close they were to the AT and how they could do a little day hike loop of several miles.
From that poster, it was about 0.8 miles along a blue blazed trail to High Rocks and the AT. But no blue blazing for me! It was 3 PM. I went back down to the white blazed AT and spent the next 3 hours climbing down and then back up to that point which was only 0.8 miles away. The final climb was up the "Stairway to Heaven" rock steps.
I was bushed at the end of the first day. Even though it had only been 10 miles, the skin between my legs hurt, I was out of energy, and it was looking more and more like rain. I climbed up on High Rocks, or Humpback Rocks, it goes by both names. A nicer place to write the day's journal has never been found. The rocks were enormous, and their only disadvantage was that there were no level rocks to sit on. All the rocks were tilted at about 45 degrees from the vertical.
The camp was near the wooden signpost at the junction of that 0.8 mile trail and the AT. I stealth camped about 100 feet off the path. I laid down at 7 PM and slept like a baby until 6AM the next morning. I was aware of several hours of rain in the middle of the night, but didn't care. The camp was a dry one. The last water source had been nearly a mile down the trail, and no water was expected until I reached Dripping Rock Spring. I had enough, but no more than enough water to carry me through. It depended on how hot the morning would be as to whether I would get thirsty. Fortunately, I found several rock outcrops that had very pretty and clear water pools on them from the night's rain.
The views from Humpback mountain were incredible. Near this south facing cliff, I met another hammock camper, Dutch. He and I talked a bit about the hammocks, and then were joined by a couple of self proclaimed "gear heads", Orbit and Retro. (girls names are underlined) It was fun showing them the modifications to the G4 pack I had made.
At the overlook toward Wintergreen Ski area, I also met Clay, LeapYear and Spunky
At this point I began keeping a list of Northbound thruhikers I came across for the remainder of the morning. The list includes:
Phoenix and Schwag
CC and Chickenlegs
SvenSaw and Luni
Lightwalker (a Ray Jardine Fan
The trail on the west side of the Blue Ridge Parkway was a mess of stones. Many of the rocks were quite slippery and difficult to get footing on. More than once, I slipped and nearly fell. But finally I reached the BRP at Reed's Gap. A wonderful Trail Angel named Brian Heffner was there cooking some of the best hamburgers and foot long hot dogs I have ever tasted. His skill in cooking was professional, as he is in charge of the kitchens and food at Wintergreen Resort. What a privilege to fill my belly with finely grilled burger topped with fresh veggies!
On top of Hump Mountain, it was nice to find a sign telling me where I needed to go from there.
The view as I came down off the Hump was magnificent
This was the bridge at the foot of the Priest and just before climbing 3000 feet in 4 miles.
This was a great resting spot about 2000 feet up the Priest on the North slope.
Another hiker took my picture on top of the Priest. I was bushed!
That night I spent at Spy Rock. Here is my hammock set-up.
It is always nice to come out of the green tunnel and see the hills one has just climbed. Spending time with a map on a spot like Spy rock is a great way to spend the evening.
The photos in this collection were taken with a disposable underwater camera. They are not of the same quality as the regular disposable camera I used for the section hike in May. I will think twice about using this service in the future.
Risk's Ultralite Hiking Page