On Saturday Andrew and I ventured into the mountains for a couple of days of backpacking and camping. The original plan was to car camp–set up our tent beside the car, which we could then use as a base to store our stuff while we slept or hiked. At the last minute we decided to make it more of a backpacking trip. We parked our car in a gravel lot about half a mile from the Appalachian Trail and about 1.5 miles from where we camped, with the intention to still use it as a (less convenient) base, resupplying Sunday so we wouldn’t have to carry everything at once.
When we arrived Saturday afternoon we took what we needed for the night and started the ascent–the very steep ascent. Here’s a map for reference (I’ve added red dots for your viewing convenience 😉 :
From the parking area (marked “P”) we hiked to the AT (marked “i”). From this point on, I will refer to that stretch as, “the half mile of doom”. It’s a steep, dreadful dirt road that is tough with nothing on your back; add a 20-something-lb pack, and I started questioning my physical fitness levels. From there we hiked east on the AT to the Priest, which provided little relief in terms of incline, and finally arrived at our campsite (the red dot near the shelter).
We set up camp, met a nice family from very rural Virginia, and made dinner.
If we’d had a few more days to plan for backpacking, we would have been more intentional about bringing a lightweight pot/stove and dried food. We didn’t though, and heavy dinner is the main reason we kept a few things in the car. Before leaving we’d prepped dinner in a large zip-sealed bag and traveled with it in a cooler–soup with canned chicken, green beans, squash, mushrooms, peppers, cooked rice, black beans, and a bunch of spices. We put the combination in the pot with water, heated, and enjoyed. For a somewhat random mixture of canned foods (and a few from our garden), it actually tasted very good! Who says you can’t eat well in the woods?
We slept–not particularly well, but not horribly either–and I woke around 6:00 AM when the smallest amount of light was coming through the tent walls. I decided to pull myself out of the sleeping bag and try to catch the sunrise at the overlook less than half a mile away. (Andrew decided to keep sleeping :)). Oh man, it was worth it:
After enjoying God’s awesome creation and the stillness of the morning for a while, I made my way back to camp and waited patiently for Andrew to wake up. On second thought, “patiently” might not be the right word; as soon as I heard the faintest stirring sound, I unzipped the tent and demanded that he come outside and play :-D. We ate breakfast, packed what we didn’t need for the day, and began the 1.5 mile hike back down to the car.
Coffee and a French press; it’s all about priorities, people
We dropped off a few items at the car, grabbed our day packs and pre-made lunches from the cooler, and reveled in the lightness of our loads compared to the overnight packs. 😀 Looking at the same map above, we tackled the half mile of doom from the parking lot to the AT, then hiked west to Spy Rock (well, we went a little beyond Spy Rock, but that was the highlight.)
We ate lunch, hiked a bit more, then started walking back. When we had roughly two miles left until we’d reach the car, it started raining. Then it started pouring. In case it’s unclear, two miles is a long way to hike in the rain. We finally made it back to the parking lot and sat in the car to wait for the rain to stop. At that point, I was done. If it was necessary, I could tough out camping in the rain, but my dry bed sounded very appealing at that moment. Andrew was not as sure, but eventually conceded that the rain was not likely to stop anytime soon and that would not make a great night of camping.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just start the car and go at that point? It sure would be… but wait! Our tent and much of our gear was still at the top of the dang mountain. So, with 10 miles under our belts and water sloshing in our shoes, we had to make the 1.5 mile hike back up the steep mountain, pack all our gear, and hike back down. Oy.
We survived but were pretty whipped by the time we arrived home. Thankfully we had a pre-made dinner in a bag that we just poured in a pot on the stove and heated. 🙂
Even with the rain, it was an awesome trip, and I don’t regret going. I love those mountain views and the workout they require to view them (our legs were hurting so good the next day!)
How did you spend your long weekend?
Have you hiked Spy Rock or the Priest?