for the Guys!
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.