Sunday, November 22, 2015

McAfee Knob, round two

Another attempt to see the sun rise from the iconic Appalachian Trail perch at McAfee Knob this weekend, much more carefully planned:
  • Nighttime temperature above sleeping bag rating of 20 F, barely
  • Forecast morning dew point below air temperature, no fog
  • Forecast sky conditions "partly cloudy"-- a reasonable gamble, since the previous and following day's forecasts are clear 
  • Experienced hiker support of my mentor and good friend Kirsten Elowsky enlisted to provide expert common sense advice and safety alerts.
Ready!  After a reasonably unimpededdrive down Interstate 81 and a stiff climb up to camping area, we were able to set up camp and cook hot meals shortly after the sun disappeared over the western horizon (14 hours to go, brrr ...) 

Kirsten even built a campfire and provided chocolates to finish off the evening.

Only half an hour after the 3:00 a.m., our packs were stripped down to minimum essential for the hour-long climb to the summit. On arrival at McAfee Knob, we found ourselves alone on a chilly (20's) windswept (also 20's) fog-free granite ledge, looking at a starlight sky about 20 percent occluded by clouds

almost all on the eastern horizon.

We made hot chocolate and wrapped ourselves up to wait for two hours, hoping the sun would break through. Then, back down the hill to strike camp, hike back to the parking lot in the tardy sunshine, and drive off to meet, eat, commiserate, and affirm plans to climb the ridge once again.

Not likely before spring, though.

Photos follow.

Monday, November 16, 2015

November winds

Some small adventures here in Virginia worth noting, before I launch off on another adventure:

Valhalla Ranch redo. A lot of maintenance is going on as the ranch cuts back on four-legged production animals and advertises for more of the two-legged (rent paying) kind. Thor, Valkyrie, the horses, and the cats are gone; the chickens remain, and Theodore Geisel is trying to cover for the canine department.

Crew work at Eaton Hollow, at the southern end of the Shenandoah National Park west of Charlottesville. The park gates were closed at 5:00 PM every day, and many of us wore bright orange clothing -- it's hunting season.
View from Argow Cabin

  • Relocation at Valhalla Ranch to a less exposed room. A number of my close friends approve!

  • Friday, November 13, 2015

    Hi ho! (hi ho) Hi ho,hi ho, it's off to work we go ...

    Trail repair crew again this weekend; original plan was for a relocation in the Eaton Hollow area of Shenandoah National Park.

    Email from the crew coordinator yesterday, however, says that Higher Authorities have urgently asked for our help at the new Old Rag cabin, about 30 miles north. That's what we make plans for, so we know when we're not following them.

    Friday, November 6, 2015

    Sunrises, meteors -- boring, try fog instead!

    As I skipped merrily (some might have said staggered and wheezed, but what do they know) up from the campsite area to the McAfee Knob overlook in the predawn dark through heavy brush and along stone precipices, it occurred to me that I was doing just as my father did: preaching the importance of never going out into the woods without a hiking partner, and then doing just that.

    Not especially smart, since the summit was enveloped in a thick fog that limited viewing of cliff edges as well as celestial events. Looked cool around the trees, though; I will go back, preferably with companions.

    Here's a photo from the previous evening, taken for my children and my grandchildren by a cheerful young Hokie. Staying alive!

    The rangers have a bear alert posted for the area, too ....

    Thursday, November 5, 2015

    Overnight for a sunrise at McAfee Knob

    Since I did not make Mount Fuji this year, I am going to try and claim a more  accessible summit with iconic status -- McAfee Knob, west of Salem, Virginia. Back by Saturday.