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Prince William Forest, VA Backpacking Trip

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The Prince William Forest Backpacking Trip took place the weekend of April 19 & 20, 1997. Participants were Charlie Johnson, Bill Isham, his wife Chris, Mike Calabrese, my wife Nancy, Rasool Nafisi and our dog Josh.
Prince William Forest Sign

At left is the entrance sign for Prince William Forest. By Mike Calabrese

As usual, I got to the Pine Grove picnic area parking lot too early and had to wait about an hour and a half for everyone. Rasool N got there around 9:30, so we shuttled his car to the Oak Ridge Campground, where the majority of us were going to spend the night. As we got back to the Pine Grove picnic area parking lot Charlie J, Bill I & Chris showed up. Good timing!

We finally got started around 10:30am. The weather was in the 50s/60s, a little breezy but bright and sunny. A perfect day for a hike! We took the Laurel Loop Trail down to Quanico Creek for about .75 mile and turned left onto the South Valley Trail, which we would then be following for the next 9.5 miles.

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I only backpacked one more time 11 years later within PWFP. Read about my backpacking trip within the Chopawamsic Backcountry within PWFP.

The elevation changes were minimal, the scenery was beautiful and we talked alot about whatever. We ate lunch promptly at 12 at the side of the scenic drive. We saw alot of kids in groups having fun hiking or, picking up trash or playing games along the creek. At one point, the creek was dammed up and became a wide lake. I will have to go back there and see how the fishing is.

At about 4pm we got to camp. Rasool N left as he had other plans for Saturday evening.
Rasool N at the end of the 1st day.
The rest of us set up camp, started conversing, started a fire and preparing dinner.

At right is Rasool N. at the end of the 1st day. By Mike Calabrese

One problem that we encountered was that there was no water at the campground. A painting contractor contaminated the water supply. We had to carry all of our water in, and were low on our reserves. We were worried that there could be a problem waterwise the next morning. Well, the rangers made rounds regularly. And Bill I, the friendly person that he is, told the ranger of our plight. Within a half hour another ranger brought us 4 gallons of water, which saved the day. I am writing a letter of recognition to say thanks to Rangers Webster and Taylor, who went above and beyond the call of duty to help us out in our time of need. They are honorary Rag Tag Rangers!

Ranger Taylor put on avery good presentation at the campground amphetheater on colors in the park, which we attended. We then returned to the campsite, swapped some more stories and then retired.

The temperature dipped down to the low thirties that night, but stayed above freezing. I got a little cold around 4am, but just threw some iron oxide hand warmers into my sleeping bag, which warmed me right up and got me back to sleep.

The Rangers enjoying a hearty dinner.
Sunday morning, we got up at 7am, ate and started off by 9am. Only about 8 miles to do today.

At left, The Rangers enjoy a hearty dinner
By Mike Calabrese

At 10:30 we met my wife Nancy and my dog Josh at the Turkey Run Environmental Center, which was at the halfway point back. Josh was a 15 year old golden retriever so we didn't want to push him too much. Nancy & Josh hiked the final 4 miles back with us. Josh went swimming in Quantico Creek at one point. None of us followed him, though.

The hike ended around 12:30 in the afternoon. We took pictures, said our goodbyes, and went home.

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This is a great backpacking trip for the beginner. It is fairly level, there are numerous "bailout points" along the way, and the scenic drive closeby is always patrolled by the rangers. We rated this hike a 7.5 on a scale of 10. The 2 things that we didn't like were the noise at the campground (some clown was waking around at 11:30 at night talking to his girlfriend on a cell phone in a very loud voice. I guess he wanted everyone to know that he had one of those "celluloid phones") and the no water problem, which should be fixed soon. Other than that, Prince William Forest is a great place to hike, bike, picnic, camp or backpack.

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Mike C

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