A Hike for the Guys!

Shenandoah National Park

November, 2004

Journal 21 November 2004

This is the first day of a three day, two night trip on the Appalachian Trail with my sons Daniel and William. We left Dayton about 0530 this morning and drove to Rockfish Gap in Virginia. This is where I-64 crosses the AT near Waynesboro.

Parking at the Over Afton motel, we gave all the necessary information to the hotel clerk. This process was much easier than when I parked here 15 months ago, in June of 2003. The motel now has a form asking all the right questions about telephone numbers, name and address. It is nice to park here - and to do so at no charge is even better.
My sons wore standard fall hiking clothing, while I tested a winter kilt and an Ibex Sweater.

We had contacted Bev L. before the trip, and she was exactly on time. I felt like I was in the lap of luxury, getting into their new Honda Odesey. It took a couple minutes to reach the entrance station at Shenandoah National Park, where we registered (free) for our two night hike.

Bev's yearly pass got us through the gate and a half hour later, we were dropped off about mile marker 83 on Skyline Drive.

The first day's hike was a short half hour walk past the rocky summit of Blackrock Mountain. We stopped on the rocks to take a group photo.

Just down the hill from the mountain, we came across the trail intersection for the shelter path.

Blackrock shelter is in great shape. It has rock walls and the roof has recently been covered with a new layer of corrugated metal. A boy scout troop had spent the night just before we got there, and the shelter was very, very clean. Good work guys!

We hung our hammocks at the tent sites just in-front and downhill from the hut. We sat at the picnic table, fixing our suppers and filled our water from the pipe spring 20 yards upstream of the hut.

I filled my water bladder directly from the stream. Daniel filtered his. William listened to our explanations about our different approaches and made up his mind to not filter the water.

Before dark, we found enough small firewood to make a fire for later in the evening.

As I kicked back to rest, I discovered that my PocketMail device would not turn on. The software was corrupted and I was not able to write from the device during the hike.

As it got dark, we had a drum circle for a while. I stomped on the floor of the shelter as a bass drum, chanting at the same time. William played a bunch of complicated stick rhythms on the stone walls and the metal gutter. Daniel played some tenor parts on the bunks and added some vocal parts at the same time. Some of the vocal embellishments were bird like, while others were more like war cries.

After having a ball with the drum circle I played my NA flute. Daniel took some short video while William sang a melody that came to his mind.

After playing around like this for a few hours, we all headed for the hammocks at about 830 PM.

Journal 22 November 2004

Waking at 0630, after a nice night's sleep, I had a cup of coffee and ate my Pop Tart breakfast. After reading for a half hour, I woke my sons and we all began packing up for the day's hike.

The shelter journal contained a note from the day before our stay, describing a visit to the shelter by a bear. We heard nothing but mice around the shelter all night. The bear hanging poles worked pretty well, though it was a lot harder to use these poles than the cable systems of the Smoky Mountains or the Georgia trail.

The plan called for a 13 mile hike without any major climbs or descents. The guide book did not list any water until the last mile of the hike, so I filled my liter sized Platypus to its fullest capacity. This added a couple pounds to my pack, but the weight was a lot better than worrying about water later.

During the hike, we had some great conversations about everything from Star Wars to reality shows. It was good to be able to share fun, but to disagree about somethings too.  We saw a couple interesting natural formations during our hike. 

There was a tree which caused my sons to do a double take when they saw its formation. 

There were also interesting bunches of leaves on some of the trees which I could not identify.

6.6 miles into the hike, we stopped for lunch along Skyline Drive. The fog moved in as we were eating. A forest ranger stopped and said hello. He wanted to know where we had started, where we were going, and where we had parked. He asked if we had our permits, and then told us that we did not all need a permit. "It was quite clear" on the sign-up board he said.

We headed back into the woods, emerging at the Turk Gap parking lot. Daniel's shoulders were beginning to bother him. I began to do my daily push-ups when our ranger stopped again. Hadn't we said that we were parked outside the park? He asked...

He said, "There is a vehicle parked at one of gaps ahead with a bumper sticker that said 'clan 51' and you are in the garb."

We reassured him that we were really parked outside the park and did not know anything about that car.

12.4 miles into our hike, we left the park at Jarman Gap and also ran into our first water of the day. Fortunately, it was a cool day and we did not need much water. We had each carried enough water. 

Shenandoah is marked with concrete sign posts. On the metal bands, the important way points and mileage was stamped with tools.

The AT never gets far from the highway in the park. Especially with the leaves off the trees, views of the highway are common.

Finally, we began a 750 foot climb to the trail for the Calf Mountain Shelter.

The trail was noticeably less improved than the trails we had been walking on all day. There were more rocks in the trail and the climb was steeper.   

On the trail to the shelter, there was a nice piped spring. We filled our water containers and headed for some rest at the shelter.

We arrived about 3 PM. So we had plenty of time to find some firewood, set up our hammocks, and play around.

As we were cooking our supper, I set out a mouse trap baited with some peanut butter. It was only a few minutes until one of the shelter mice was playing with the trap. He set it off without getting trapped, though he jumped around a lot afterward trying to find a mouse hole to escape to.  I set the trap again, and the fearless mouse was not as lucky the second time. After that, there was less rodent rustling in the hut.

Also while eating dinner, the fog (clouds) rolled in and the trees began dripping. This was a pattern that would last all night.

The three of us were alone again at the shelter this evening. We sang, worked with the fire, and did some whittling with our knives. It was just like sitting on the porch of the general store.

We got sleepy about 930 and went to sleep in the hammocks with the fog dripping on our tarps and on the leaves around us. I was up twice in the fog, banking the fire and enjoying its glow. The second time, about 430, Daniel also got up and we talked for a half hour before going to the hammocks again.

Journal 23 November 2004

Up with first light at 0630, we wandered around in the continuing fog. The night had not been as cold as predicted. No ice had formed. But the constant moisture made the morning chores chilly.

We were through packing up and eating by 730 - and we hit the trail. The day's 7 miles passed quickly, and by 1100 we reached the part of the trail I had explored in June of 2003.

There was a funny (but useful for north bounders) sign along the trail pointing out a missed turn!

Another half hour and we reached Rockfish Gap. If I had not been there several times, I might have had considerable trouble finding my way to the hotel in the fog. It was dense, and visibility was less than 20 feet.

We got in the car, ate in town, and hit the road. It was a seemingly quick ride back to Dayton, where we arrived at about 715 PM. 

Risk's Ultralight Hiking Page

Flyfisher Home