Sunday, November 8, 2009

did you fall in?

Tom and I spent the weekend backpacking at Ramsey's Draft Wilderness Area in the George Washington National Forest.  We went with our friend Keith from the club whom we have backpack with before and is very experienced.  John from Blue Ridge Mountain Sports gave me inspiration and advice for the trip after others had told me it was too difficult and easy to get lost.

The first day of the trip was much different than your average hike.  We followed the river and crossed it many times.  The area is designated "Wilderness" so no trail blazes are allowed, and no trail maintenance is performed.  That means if a 4-foot-diameter tree falls across the path, you have to climb over/under it, or hike around it, which is not easy on a steep slope with a 30-pound pack.  In a few spots we lost the trail, but quickly found it again.  As long as we took our time we were ok.  We had to trust our instincts-if you feel like you are off the trail, you probably are, so stop and look around. 

From Ramsey's Draft

The river crossings were not too bad in most places, but in one spot the rocks were slippery and I fell in, soaking both boots.  I stopped and rung out my socks and kept going without too much trouble.

The area along the river once had many giant hemlocks, but they were all recently killed by disease.  Hence the reason for many of the roadblocks.  One fell across a particularly deep and fast portion of river and made an excellent bridge.

There were a lot of saplings on the trail whipping in our face as we walked through them.  It made us very appreciative of the regular trail maintenance performed by groups like the PATC.

The final push up Ramsey's Draft to Hiner Spring was difficult and steep. By the end of the first day our feet and backs were very tired but we felt well accomplished.  We hiked only 7 miles in 5 hours, but we did not get lost and no one got hurt.  The camp site was lovely with plenty of flat spots and camp fire wood.  The spring was nearby and we had plenty of time to set up and cook dinner before dark.  Just after dark, several deer came and visited us within 20 feet of the campfire.  We went to sleep around 7:30pm.

My best guess to the overnight low was 40 degrees--not bad for November.  My feet got a little cold (with dry socks) I think because they were on the ground off my sleeping pad (the spot was sloped down slightly and I kept sliding).   Otherwise we were warm in our tents and slept well.   

The second day was much more like a standard Shenandoah mountain hike.  It was longer - 9 miles - but mostly down hill on well marked trails.  The weather was 70 and sunny with a slight breeze.  We saw many old pines and oaks and hiked in leaves knee-deep in places.  Many of the ridge paths were slanted, making us appreciate trail maintenance again.  We averaged 2 mph with stops, a pretty good pace with packs.

From Ramsey's Draft

Overall I had a great time hiking and camping this weekend.  My body hurt less than last time (see Dolly Sods) and I had an easier time keeping up with Tom and Keith.  While hiking I asked myself "why do you like backpack so much when it hurts so much?"  They answer is that I enjoy the adventure getting there, sleeping in the wilderness, and knowing that I have everything I need to survive for two days on my back, and spending quality time with my hubby and friends.  So the goal is to keep getting into shape to make getting there more enjoyable.
From Ramsey's Draft

Birds seen on the trip: downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, junco, nuthatch, titmouse.

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