Sunday, March 26, 2017

More thank yous

Monthly Cadillac Crew trail repair weekend just finished up. Exhausting and fun!

Saturday, we hauled implements of construction four miles up a gentle climb (Bob Pickett's scale, where the high end of moderate requires gloves and ropes). We did four hours of trenching, shoveling, rockrolling and raking, and an hour sunning ourselves on a massive boulder while our team leader regaled us with tales of blasting bog rocks with a system that uses a short hole sunk in the rock, filled with water, and topped off with a demolition charge.

Huh. I hadn't known that technique was commonly used outside of the military world.

While we were working and limping back to our base camp at Old Rag Cabin, a number of collegiate age hikers offered thanks to us for our work -- to which I always replied, "Come on out, we've got more work here than we can handle!"

A few promised to do so Real Soon.  Well, I do try.

Sunday morning, I volunteered to scramble up on top of a new tool shed and assist our newest volunteer as she finished tiling the roof. Yes, fear of heights and so forth, but that will not hold me back for a while longer.  I do move carefully, though.

Departure for the next AT section hike is set for April 2, expecting to be on the trail for three weeks wrapped around a week long break in Roanoke for Holy Week and a return to Round Hill, joining the April 22 March for Science. Busy, busy.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Another insanity remanded, and why New York does the best protest marches (final)

Today's march was small, but very energizing!

A New York group brought singers and break dancers ... hereby declaring as alternative fabrications any rumors and/or videos claiming to show me among several other folk old enough to know better trying to imitate a couple of NYC street dancers.

Twenty four protesters were arrested after ritually refusing police officers' orders to leave the area near the White House fence, and hustled into vans for transportation to courtrooms where -- unless the process has changed in the past decade -- they will be arraigned and released on their own recognizances. Almost as unsettling an experience as in 2007 when I watched it carried out under the bright illumination of portable light plant towers after a march down from a prayer service at the Washington Cathedral.

While this was happening, news of the postponement of the healthcare bill vote filtered through the crowd, accompanied by cheers and ritual chants.  The strong Latino contingent from NYC led us through a number of Spanish chants -- "Si! se! puede!" being a favorite and bringing to my mind a Japanese motto "nan demo dekimasu". Both translate roughly as "We can do it!"   

You know, sometimes I believe that -- in the long run -- we can. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Outbound into wintry woods CANCELLED

The mice and their best-laid plans have scurried back to hide in their cozy burrows. Why?

  • Weather forecast, already at my limits, has taken a further downward turn -- the rain is now forecast to be snow.
  • The Rebel Alliance is beating the war drums again, calling us to suit up and sharpen our virtual pens. This is a final push to stop #RyanDoesNotCare before it even gets to the Senate. Given the latest OMG's from the White House regarding powerful German women and out-of=the-closet Austrian Nazis, I feel obliged to some more nonviolent advocacy. Especially since my district reelected a fencesitter Republican to represent us in Congress. 
  • I volunteered to bring a kale salad for the trail repair crew weekend.
  • I have a sinus headache.
  • I don't feel like it. 
Another day.  Next planned trip starts April 3.

A little more challenging solo walk this week than usual ... a considerable number of ridges to climb over (by East Coast standards) and a forecast night of rain followed by a night of subfreezing temperatures.

So here's my itinerary. After the hike, I plan to go straight to the trail repair crew work weekend at Old Rag Cabin, which does not have any cell service. All considering, I may be off the grid for the entire week.

Please do not send the rangers out looking for me. They have more important things to worry about than searching the trails. If I can get a connection from the trail, I will post updates; if not, I will post them after I return to Round Hill on Sunday, March 26.

Not to worry! As my mentor says, it's not wilderness. If I have any trouble, I can walk down to Skyline Drive and hitch my way back to civilization.  Hope you have as much fun this week as I am expecting!

LocationEst arrival dateNotes
Jarman Gap parkingMon, March 20Ion drop off, shuttle
Swift Run GapMon, March 20Hike start
Hightop HutMon, March 20First camp
Powell GapTue, March 21
Simmons Gap Ranger StaTue, March 21
Weaver MountainTue, March 21
Pinefield HutTue, March 21Second camp
Loft Mtn WaysideWed, March 22
Loft Mtn CgdWed, March 22Third camp
Doyles R. Cabin.parking Thu, March 23
Jones Run Falls ThdThu, March 23
Blackrock HutThu, March 23Fourth camp
Riprap Trl parkingFri, March 24
Wildcat Ridge Trl parkingFri, March 24
Turk MtnTrail parkingFri, March 24
Jarman Gap parkingFri, March 24Hike finish
Shuttle serviceMon, March 20
Adam Stanley (aka Stanimal)
Hike will be on main AT (white blaze) except for detour to see Jones Run Falls

Friday, March 17, 2017

Dissidents. Ragtag band  of cuties. League of Nations.

Hanging out on sidewalks with troublemakers again.

Courtesy K. Friedly

Some were wearing knitted pink hats ... a little scary, they keep showing up in places where they can't -- won't? -- be ignored.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A little snow

Hoping that it will melt off and drain away before I head out onto the trail agwin on Monday. In the meantime, snow shovels.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Plans exist to be changed

Revised backpacking plans for the spring, based on trail experience and reports of a giant bubble of AT thru hikers racing north from Georgia.

Summary --
  • Short walk March 20-24 will complete Shenandoah NP
  • Another stroll April 8 -  13 from the James River Bridge to Dalesville VA
  • After a break to observe Holy Week, a three week wander across the ancient sandstone rocks at Tinkers Cliffs, the ritual visits to McAfee Knob and Dragons Tooth, and two weeks pushing south through the mountain fastness to the northwestern foothills of Mount Rogers.
Yes, I am having a great time! 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Done at Jarman Gap.

Leisurely pack up this morning, wishing happy trails to Trail Dog and watching the U.Va seniors stumble about.  We left about 10:30, arrived at the Jarman Gap trailhead by 11:30.  Stanimal picked us up, took less than an hour to return us to the place we left four days ago ... that's okay, we saw a lot more than he sees from the road.

Like butterflies, for example, and a cardinal. And bear tracks.  Spring is here!

We nearly missed the turnoff for the parking lot, which would have been a painful mistake. Happily, ingrained awareness led to a map check -- yes, that small white line there, that's a spur road. Whew.

I will dive into detailed planning for the next venture tomorrow, likely beginning late this month. For tonight, rest.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Exit party and drinking to excess at Cove Mountain Shelter

The worst problem with stopping short of plan and setting up a campsite along the trail isn't animals or lack of privies -- it's lack of water in the morning, and for however much of the next hiking day needed to get to a water source.

Six hours, today, and we were both drained empty (water and energy) before we reached Cove Mountain Shelter.

More beautiful than diamonds
More precious than gold

Water replenished, tent set up, bear bag line hung -- so we went to sit and chat with Trail Dog, a hiker of similar age and attitude.  A father arrived with his ten year old son -- good, enough friendly folk for fire and conversation on our last day out.

Then the students from UVA arrived, and things got crowded and noisy. Oh, well. Tomorrow, the shuttle meets us at Jarman Gap and takes us back to the hikers' parking lot at Humpback Rocks, when the Ion is waiting.

Water, water everywhere -- and popcorn

High winds kept us awake most of last night, though a large crescent of rocks protected the tent from being buffeted. Also, very little rain after nightfall kept us damp, but not waterlogged.

Yesterday's slow start, the pace we set, and an impending rainstorm sent us into a trailside bivouac  as soon as we entered Shenandoah National Park. No water available to prepare our dehydrated food -- so, trail bars and tunafish for dinner, washed down with one swallow from our half-full water bladders.  It's the worst part of having to stop short as far as I am concerned.

We did get the tent set up, the bear bag line hung, and everything under cover before the rain squall came thru.

Another positive note for the day -- a  thru hiker and his companion treated us to some dark chocolate-dipped and caramel-dipped popcorn from the King Brothers store in Staunton!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


Hiking slower than expected -- we are bivouacked without a water source north of Rockfish Gap, in the rain.  Umm ...? Agreed, but we don't have a way to capture it.

A couple greeted us as we stumped out of the woods onto US 250, offered us some excellent caramel and chocolate popcorn. Trail angels, everywhere!

Tomorrow, Calf Mountain, water, and a final night on the trail. Thursday, the shuttle will return us to Humpback Rocka in about an hour.

Off into the wild again!

Lazy start from Round Hill. Kirsten and I filled in some last minute items for Ana. Drive down my favorite Interstate, lunch at Mrs. Rowe's in Staunton. At Humpback Rocks Visitor Center, we learned from helpful passers-by that the AT lot was a half mile farther up the road. Okay, packs off, back in the car ....  1:40, photo by more friendly folk and off, Ana in the lead.

We took the bear clawed saplings along the trail as a reminder to keep a clean campsite. Finding the shelter empty and expecting rain, I set up the tent under the shelter roof. Ana was exhausted went off to snooze on a boulder by creek.

Dinner, conversation, a brief stroll to ease our joints, wrapped up and in bed by 7 pm.

*** Lost some photos to a smartphone hardware failure, sadly. ***

Weather or not

Another weather window this week, and a friend who wants to take her first backpacking trip -- so for the first time, I will not be hiking alone!

Not sure about this. Probably means I need to change underwear more often.

First stop will be the Paul Moore shelter just north of Humpback Rocks. Plans from there on will depend on Ana's comfort level.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Springtime at Great Falls

Just as other species are rushing to keep pace with the changing climate, those of us who might have idled away another month in our burrows have been scrambling. (Pity the folks who organize the annual cherry blossom festival in D.C.) Our trail crew took on a full weekend of digging and dragging last weekend -- unheard of, the Cadillac Crew never works in January or February -- and turned out 25 volunteers.  (Okay, in January there's a ritual trek to Berkeley Springs to stump around in the snow a little and then go in and watch the Super Bowl. Not exactly focused on trail work.)

The Great Falls work was tough, though. C and O Canal National Park, the oft-ignored Maryland twin of Great Falls National Park on the Virginia side, has a trail system leading through and over a number of cliffs and boulders that get a lot of visitors during the summer.  Since trail work isn't practical when the crowds arrive, and since the Park Service hasn't been able to maintain much of a maintenance staff over the decades of budget cuts ... well, that's why about a quarter million volunteers keep the Nation's trails usable.

Potomac River inlet in the spring rain

The weekend weather has been perfect for June, though it has caused some worry about what summer will be like. We armed our three teams of dwarves with implements of construction and went to work.  Rolling gradients and ditches were dug, damaged steps were replaced by new 6x6 timbers, and exposed rebar trip hazards were pulled up to remove the evidence of improperly work doubtless done by other well meaning volunteers in decades past.

The coolest job, though -- and the hardest -- was trimming and dragging a red oak that had blown down into position as a bridge over a runoff stream. Ever wonder how a 14 foot long, 1500 pound log gets moved?  Hint: with steel cables, sledgehammers, and rockbars, very, very slowly.

Checking it twice
Herding logs with rock bars and a sledgehammer
 Reeling in a 1500 pound catch on her second 49th birthday  

The hard hats show a change in the crew's work style, encouraged by a general contractor who has rejoined us after a prolonged absence -- that's him in the photo above, double checking the rigging -- said change is very welcome to this former shipyard denizen, a little less so to crew members with a more casual attitude towards workplace safety.  

Since Eddie has a seven-year-old sized hard hat and proudly wears it all the time, the grumbling hasn't been too loud.

Eddie is our bridge inspector
Two of the Grip Hoist Grrls

The changing weather cycle may have extended our trail work window by a month, but it does not promise good news for summertime backpacking.  I will keep nibbling a couple of days' worth of white blaze bagging as often as weather allows -- next week, for example, I plan to be on the trail from Monday to Thursday, daring March to come in like a lion.