Our last blog mentioned that I dropped my young friend Chrissy off at a trailhead in Central Virginia. The plan was to join her at the southern boundary of Shenandoah National Park and hike to Harpers Ferry. There we’d decide whether to hike on into Pennsylvania.
Few plans survive contact with reality. Chrissy was half way through the park before I could catch up. That left 102 miles to Harpers Ferry, decent but far short of the 160 – 240 for which I’d hoped.
My wife dropped me off at the Big Meadow wayside (restaurant) around noon. We grabbed lunch and hoofed it north to the Rock Spring shelter for the night. At some point a passing weather front generated a pretty good blow. Our tents popped in the wind and it was noticeably cooler in the morning. We didn’t think much of it.
Not long after pushing off for our second day, we started finding trees down across the trail. The count reached more than 60 before we reached Harpers Ferry. In my experience, that’s a significant number for that kind of (relatively mild) windstorm.
Like a rumpled old throw rug, the AT is infamous for its rocky tread. A few blowdowns here and there only add a few wrinkles for the most part. By the time we were done, the blowdowns had become an obsession a trail maintainer could not resist.
Meanwhile, the blow continued during day two as we hiked on to Pass Mountain. There we encountered an insufferable chaos of southbound thru hikers who were loud and obnoxious.
We retired to the tenting area and ate a quiet dinner sitting on logs near our tents. Ironically, we were alone the next night at Gravel Spring. The silence was lovely.
Breakfast at Indian Run hut. At some point I learned Crissy’s 38th birthday was up-coming. My present was two fold. One was a stay at Indian Run where the public is not allowed, Hoodlums keep a supply of split firewood and we could have a nice fire with chairs upon which to set.
The other was arrange the timing so her birthday was spent at Mountain Home B&B owned by my friends Scott and Lisa. The main building is a fully restored anti-bellum mansion.
Along the way we passed the 1,000 mile sign. At this point, northbounders have traveled 1,000 miles and southbounders hit triple digit mileage with under 1,000 miles to go. For them, it’s a big deal.
Chrissy points out the length of her journey on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s relief map of the entire AT.
Phase one was over. Chrissy left for family activities in her native Western Pennsylvania. But what about the blowdowns?
Me? I started obsessing about Shenandoah’s north district where I do the bulk of my volunteering.
As luck would have it, my friend of 25 years, Tina aka “Bulldog,” and fellow Gang of Four member reached out. The weather is improving and it’s time to crank up our monthly hikes.
She posted on Facebook, “We haven’t hung out for awhile, I said. Let’s go to lunch, I said. His retort, let’s go clear blowdowns on the AT. Sure, I said.”
You never miss an opportunity to recruit a swamper, especially one named Bulldog. Never!
I consulted with my district manager. What could we do in a day? Could we tackle a couple of lingering oldies in the process? Boom. We had a plan.
I love making sawdust!