Hiking the AT in VA, day 2

May 19, 2007   distance traveled  16 miles
Pine Swamp Branch shelter

Day 2 found the floating family up and at ‘em. No rain now . Warmer. But what a storm we experienced in our tents! One of those thunderclap lightning strikes hit right near here, at about 2:30 AM .   Hugely loud, heart pounding close, and thankfully the the storm moved along the ridge past us. Mame and I called out to V8 to be sure she wasn’t toast. It was heartening to hear her response of “ I’m OK.”   Sheesh!
But up here in this 4,000 foot world, it still wasn’t warm. Since we were up at altitude, our first steps were met by something I have not seen for almost a year, the phenomenon of walking high up on a thick green ridge, stepping on a relatively rock free footpath, one that serpently entwined through the countryside to let the discerning backpacker ooh and aaugh at the large boulders, rock escarpments, and ancient ones that on encounters here in this part of Virginia.

This AT is not listed as a National Scenic Trail for nothing. I called out to the twins, “ Look at how the Trail winds near this tree”, and “Whoo!  We just passed so close to that rock formation.  Nice!”They put up with my babbling Trail commentary .
I find I capitalize the word “Trail “ when I refer to it. It is a different sort of trail that I walk on, one that has earned the status of “ Trail” . I feel that people cheapen it when they refer to it as just another “trail”. Come on people, we have laid so much consciousness and hope on this one footpath that it is one of the only places that has earned the sweat, fears, crushed dreams, and redemption that has marked it as the real “Trail!”
Eventually we passed the Pine Swamp Branch Shelter, now roofless. In 2007 the roof was crushed on April 17 during a thunderstorm, with the tree still laying upon the ravaged cover. Rangoon, Bird Dawg, General Lee, and The Captain joined me last year spending the night inside the shelter. We squeezed into the flattened bunks.   Here’s what it looks like now.
After passing the shelter, the Trail ascended about 1,500 feet in altitude. I decide to start first, and was shocked at how easily I made it up to the top, mainly because the ascent was fabulously switched-backed.   Here is a shot of me waiting for V8 and Mame, at the junction of the Allegheny Trail up on Pine Swamp Ridge.
These manicured switchbacks are limited to the south. Up in New England, you will literally weep, as the elevation goes straight over rocks and roots for over 2,000 feet.  Numerous times . And once you are up to altitude , you have no 14 mile ridge walk, like here . You go up, you go down.   Wait, maybe you have one more place where this happens . In New Hampshire, but that is scary, exposed, fraught with danger, and home to some of the worst weather in the world.

One of my Trail mentors, Crazy Horse, told me to make a laminated paper and hang it off my pack with my vital statistics on it when I approach the Whites.  It can get that bad there.  I’m talking the White Mountains, specifically the Presidential Range. A place where MEGATEX’s own Rangoon, found himself in that mystery world and backpacked over 26 miles in one day. The man will be a legend for the rest of his life.   Many will reminisce about his phenomenal achievement, which will grow huge as the years pass.
Eventually we reached the end of our walking day, with V8 suggesting we move off the ridge , as more lightning and thunderstorms were predicted for the evening. She found two relatively flat spots off to the edge of Symmes Meadow on an old road.

Double Rainbow tent on 4,000 foot ridge
We put up the two tents and ate as quickly as we were could. Water was an issue for me. I had none. I found a wet effluent area nearby that I morphed into a adequate water source by digging away some leaf muck , and then took one large curly dock leaf and jammed it into the mud above to create a spout that I used to collect ground water.

One thought on “Hiking the AT in VA, day 2

  1. Rangoon

    Wow Uncle Tom! Thanks for the compliments. I certainly was in a whole other world at that point. I will certainly remember that day for a very long time. I always thought of the Presidentials as this mammoth obstacle and it was, but not as big as I thought. Of course had it not been a perfect day like I had I doubt I would have hiked the whole darn thing :).


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