Massenutten Mountain South, VA Backpacking Trip

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This was a 17.3 mile S-N moderate to difficult linear backpacking trip that took place the weekend of April 8-9, 2006. The brave souls that participated in this trip were Marty Robb, Jim Casserly, Paul Kaercher, Chris Isham, Bill Isham, Charlie Johnson and myself.

Saturday, April 8, 2006-Marty R and I arrived early at the Massenutten Visitors Center, which was still closed for the season. There was a steady rain coming down. The rain was supposed to change to showers and end by late afternoon. I knew that we would be hiking in rain. I just hoped that it would end by the time that we had to set up our tents. Jim C arrived first, followed by Chris and Bill I along with Charlie C. Paul K pulled in afterwards. We decided to take Jim C's 15 passenger van to the trailhead as then it would only require 1 vehicle. We did and stopped at a nice country restaurant along the way. I'm glad we did as we would need all the energy we could muster on this hike.

We arrived at the trailhead and started the hike around 11AM. We have to work on starting these hikes earlier. Anyway, It was raining and the temps were in the 50's. We started a gradual up along the Massenutten Mountain South Trail and got to the Boone Run Shelter fairly quickly. Things were going OK. Then we continued this up and got to a four way intersection with the Fridley Gap Trail. Now, we had the option of turning left and continuing on the Massenutten South Trail or taking the Fridley Gap Trail ,which would lead us back to the Massenutten South Trail. I chose the Fridley Gap Trail because it would shave close to 3 miles off of the trip. However, the Fridley Gap Trail, while initially an old road, suddenly turned left and was a very steep up for about a half mile, then a steeper down for about a half mile. So I'm not sure if we saved alot of time or not.

The rain was coming down all this time. We rejoined the Massenutten Mountain South Trail and started another long and grueling up. We had not done any level hiking yet on this trip. It was a tough pull but we eventually made it to the top of the mountain along a nice old road and it was now leveling out. We did some ridging but the terrain stayed somewhat level. We did about 4 miles along this stretch and discovered a nice hunting campsite complete with a pond, a picnic table, a gun rack (which we did not use) and nice mossy campsites so we decided to camp there. This was around the 8 mile mark.

It was about 5PM in the afternoon and the rain was just about over. We hastily put up our tents, then started cooking dinner. Then the temperature started dropping rapidly. We wanted to sit around the campsite and shoot the breeze, but it was getting so cold that we decided to just crawl into our tents around 7:30PM in order to stay warm.

Sunday, April 9, 2006- It got down to 24 degrees during the night. Everything that we hung out to dry the previous evening was now frozen. However, I think that most of us stayed warm during the night. We ate, packed up and were on the trail by about 8:30AM. We had a nice down for a few miles, then got to Pitt Spring. There were some good campsites here. But they were littered with beer bottles/cans since the road from Catherine Furnace came through here. That same road, called the TV Tower Road, is what we would be hiking on for the next 4-5 miles.

It was a well graded gravel road but a moderate pull up the side of this mountain. As we ascended, the temperatures, which were climbing into the 40's, again started dropping back into the 30's. We would probably gain close to 1,000 feet of elevation change during this ascent. It wasn't easy. We passed numerous side trails and a vehicle even came up this road, then came back down. What was strange was that the vehicle looked to have 2 occupants going up and only 1 that we could see coming down. Hhhmm.

Anyway, we got to within sight of the TV towers and continued straight as the tower road veered sharply to the right and continued uphill. We were close to 3,000 feet in elevation at this point. The trail again became an old road and went another mile and then became regular, rocky, PA like trail. We passed 2 nice westernly views of the valley below and could recognize I81 and US211, so we knew that we were close to the end of the hike.

We then started a long rocky down on the final miles. It was a tough down through some rocky outcrops. I was very happy that we did not have to hike up this rocky area yesterday in the rain as I was undecided up until hike time as to whether we should hike north to south or south to north (we decided on south to north). It would have been very tough and very slippery had we decided on north to south. Anyway, we all made it back to the vehicles around 1:30PM. Paul K shuttled Jim C back to his vehicle. We said our goodbyes and went home.

My thoughts on this hike... I should have cancelled/postponed this hike. The weather all week was looking bad. Rain and thunderstorms, dropping temperatures, a bad weekend for backpacking. However, I really wanted to get back on the trail. And, since I had gambled and won on past hikes weather wise, I thought that I could win again. But I lost. Big time. The terrain was tough. But I think that if the weather was sunny and 50/60's during the day and 40/50's at night, this would have been a very nice hike.

Mike C

More Pictures


At the beginning of the hike
  At the beginning of the hike.
  By Mike Calabrese
Boardwalk at the 5 mile mark
  Boardwalk at the 5 mile mark.
  By Charlie Johnson
Hikers in the fog
  Hikers in the fog.
  By Mike Calabrese
Our Hunter's Campsite
  Our Hunter's Campsite.
  By Charlie Johnson
Pond at campsite
  Pond at campsite.
  By Charlie Johnson
Just before Pitt Spring
  Just before Pitt Spring.
  By Charlie Johnson

Bridge at mile 10
  Bridge at mile 10.
  By Charlie Johnson




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