AT from US 60 to Rockfish Gap,
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VA Backpacking Trip
4/1/2001- I met Charlie Johnson, Bill and Chris Isham at the Rockfish Gap, VA
Visitor's Center at around 11AM. The weather was in the upper 40's with
occasional rain. I was concerned that the weather would be a factor for this
5-day 54-mile (which turned out to be 55.6 miles in the 2001 AT Data Book!)
backpacking trip along the AT from US60 to Rockfish Gap, VA that we were
about to undertake. It would be. We left my car at the Visitor's Center and
took Bill's down to the US60 wayside, where we would begin the hike. On the
way down the rain would mix with snow as we would increase our elevation
along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
At left, group picture at beginning of hike.
By Mike Calabrese
We were surprised that the Parkway was not closed due to inclement weather.
We didn't start the hike until around 1:00PM. It was to be a 4.5 mile 2,000
foot climb over Bald Knob and then stay at the Cow Camp Gap Shelter. As we
neared the summit of Bald Knob the rain again would change to snow. Then, as
we descended it would change back to rain. As I turned from the AT onto the
shelter side trail the rain suddenly turned to sleet. It was sleeting hard
for the .6 miles that I had to trudge to the shelter. I was wet and cold when
I got there (last as usual). Just as I got to the shelter, the sleet turned to
snow! It would continue snowing most of the night, blowing into the shelter
and making for a miserable night. Yuk!
4/2/2001- We awoke to a cold and snowy morning. It snowed about an inch at
the shelter and about 4 inches on top of Cold Mountain, the first big up that
we had right out of the shelter. This would prove to be a grueling day for
me. We had to do 10 miles and get to the Seeley-Woodworth Shelter. The views
on top of Cold Mountain were fantastic, but snow and wind made you want to
get off of there as fast as you could. The sun did come out but it was
cold. The day was a series of ups and downs. A low flying fighter jet
buzzed us during the day. The noise on the mountain from the jet was
deafening due to the colliding sound waves. I was hurting when I got to the
shelter that night.
4/3/2001- Another cold night. Today was supposed to be an easy day. Only
about 7 miles and The Priest Shelter was the goal. That was good but we had
two 4,000-foot ascents today. So it turned out to be another tough day. The
skies were cloudy all day and would occasionally give a little moisture but
no real rain. We climbed over Spy Rock, which gave a great view, then
4,000-foot Maintop Mountain, which had no view. Then we started a wicked
ascent of The Priest Mountain, which again was over 4,000 feet. We got to
the Shelter around 4:00, which gave us a chance to leisurely prepare dinner
and set up our sleeping gear. However, we could not enjoy the leisure time
too much because it was again getting cold.
At right, Chrissy at the Priest Shelter. By Mike Calabrese
4/4/2001- During the night 2 jets buzzed the shelter. Bill said that he saw
the afterburners from 2 jets go right over the shelter. I was buried in my
sleeping bag and didn't bother to look. The next morning it was again foggy
and threatened rain. We went over The Priest and started a grueling 4-mile
down to the Tye River at 970 feet where we ate lunch. We then started a
grueling 2-mile up. It was here that I met Comer and Jane, a nice couple from
GA who had been thru-hiking since January! We decided on taking the shortcut
Mau-Har Trail. It saved us 2 miles, showed us some breath-taking waterfalls
but was a very tough trail to navigate. It was all up over a rocky
streambed. Again, when I got to the shelter I was bushed. We again ate and
retired early due to the cold. This time we had some strange birds keeping us
awake right near our tents. One sounded like he was saying 'Beep' while the
other sounded like he was saying 'What the h$#@'. Anyway, Charlie chased them
away by beating the bushes around his tent with his walking stick!
4/6/2001- This day started out good. The sun came out for a change. The
first 3 miles were a swift up and a down to Reed's Gap. Not bad. The next
3 miles were along crappy, rocky trail along the western slope of the
Parkway. It took us a long time to navigate this stretch. We were aching
after it. Then we had to ascend Humpback Mountain. This was tough. We had
to navigate ups and big piles of boulders. I was waiting for a snake to pop
out from between the boulders like a scary amusement ride. We made it to the
top of Humpback for some great views. Then started the long descent down.
We camped half way down the mountain between 2 springs along an old logging
4/7/2001- This was the first night that I was not cold in my light weight
sleeping bag. We had a warm wind during the night. We started out at the
usual 9am and did an amazing 4 miles to the Paul Wolfe Shelter by 11am.
Nice shelter. We saw in the log book there that Warren
At left, Maupin Field Shelter, VA. By Mike Calabrese
Doyle was attempting his 5th or 6th thru-hike. He signed in the log book
in March. We then did 5 miles of ups and downs through some old ruins and
pristine forest and FINALLY ended up at Rockfish Gap and back in our car.
This was a tough trip. The fact that I was out of shape and that we had 4
(though we only did 3) 4,000-foot mountains to go over did not help. This was
a beautiful section of trail and probably is easy for the thru-hiker.
However, the out of shape section hiker (like me) better be prepared for a
challenging stretch of trail on the AT along the Blue Ridge Parkway between
US60 and Rockfish Gap, VA.
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