Sunday, April 3, 2016

This is a backpackers' shelter?

The shelter at Compton's Gap did not have to save me from falling trees -- there weren't any -- and unlike the next stop, the spring was close by. So I loaded up with four liters of water and pulled my way back up to the ridgeline. (How much does a liter of water weigh?) Good place for an overnight stay, best of the trip so far. On to Ed Garvey Shelter!

Compton's Gap has a curious place in Civil War history, detailed by a number of roadside memorials. As General Lee marched the Army of the Confederacy into its first invasion of the North, General McClellan sent the Army of the Potomac through three passes near South Mountain, one of which was Crampton's Gap.

The 500 Confederate defenders were overwhelmed by a carefully and methodically led Union force several times their size, leaving half of Lee's army vulnerable -- but McClellan did not pursue the victory at South Mountain aggressively. The larger part of Lee's army regrouped and marched on to Bloody Antietam while the demoralized Union forces left to fight on their own at Harpers Ferry surrendered to Stonewall Jackson's corps. McClellan was relieved, and Lincoln used the popularity wave after the victory at South Mountain to announce the Emancipation Proclamation.

Might have beens ... might have been, but were not. On, on, on!

Today's walk was intentionally planned to stop short of descending the steep trail down Weverton Cliff at the end of a tiring day. I found the Ed Garvey shelter, usually bustling with hikers, emptied out -- why? The signs of active work to cut down trees vulnerable to wind damage reminded me; this was the location where a hiker died last year when, in a fit of random bad luck, a tree fell square on his tent.

Chastened by the risk of lawsuits and bad press, the trail authorities surveyed Ed Garvey and several other shelter areas to remove the weakest trees, leaving many of the trunks lying near the tent sites. Which apparently spooked people who might have enjoyed the day here in tents (because the threatening trees had been removed) or at least enjoyed the outdoors from the safety of the two story backpackers shelter built of ten inch logs.

This is a backpackers shelter?

Carefree risktaker types would think "good, problem solved", set up tent in the middle of the woods next to a couple of trees that had been cut down, and spend the night among the soft sounds of wind blowing through the trees.  The only difficulty I had was finding a good branch to hang my bear bag.  

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