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[at-l] Trip last weekend (HATT)

Thought I'd post my HATT report here also; it was fun!
Report Section 5A hike, HATT 2000.
Friday Sept 1, 2000.  Drove with my wife to Shenandoah National Park. 
The day was very rainy so off to an inauspicious start.  We checked in
at the Swift Run Gap entrance, getting the camping permit.  From there
drove down Skyline Drive (south) to Loft Mtn Campground.  LMC is a
large (200+ sites), family campground, mostly oriented toward trailers
and RVs.  It
wasn't very crowded (due to the rain probably!), so I was able to get a
tent site pretty easily.  By then the rain was coming down in buckets! 
We drove to the tent site parking spot; the actual site was down a
little hill about 30 yards or so.  I had decided to slack pack the first
day, so I wanted to go ahead and set up the tent.  I got out with my
pack and went to the site.  Good experience in putting up a tent in the
pouring rain!  I've got a Sierra Designs Light Year CD with the
footprint, but this was my first experience with heavy rain! however, it
went up pretty well; no catastrophic problems.  I then tossed my pack
into the tent, and scampered back to the car (drenched!).  We then drove
back north
to Simmons Gap, arriving right about 12 noon (talk about timing!). 
Photon hadn't appeared so my wife took a picture of me and left for
home!  Magically enough, the rain was easing so that was a good sign. 
In a few minutes the rain stopped and Photon and View Finder (Don and
Dave Johnson) appeared.  We shook hands and took another picture or
two.  I started south and the two of them headed north.  I was
slackpacking with just a fanny pack, so was able to make pretty good
time.  The days hike was 9.0 miles and I reached LMC at about 4:15.  I
got a beer and some
peanuts at the camp store on the way to the tent (one of the few
advantages of a campground!).
    The trail was in pretty good shape except for one blown down tree
that required some crawling through the limbs.  This was on Weaver Mtn. 
It was sort of amazing that the rain held off all day, but it was
overcast and threatening.  The only hut on this
section is Pinefields, just a bit off the trail.  I went down and
checked it out.  Its at the confluence of two streams, very nice
setting.  Seemed to be very clean and well suited to the site.  There
were a few tent sites around it.  Didn't see a spring flowing directly
from the ground, so the water supply must be the streams.  The rest of
the day was uneventful.  I was surprised that I didn't see a single
person on the trail; the rain must have kept everyone in.  Reached LMC
at around 5:00.  It did finally begin to rain again, so I dove in the
tent (after hanging up my food bag) and turned in with a light dinner. 
The tent seemed to be very water tight, with just a couple of very small
seeps where the stake ties were sewn in.  A little seam grip should take
care of that (My outfitter gave it to me for free; SD didn't provide
it).  (The next morning everything was dry except for just a little
dampness between my Thermarest and the tent floor.)  I soon was out like
a light, but awoken by a loud (and vulgar!) party that came into the
site next to me about 9PM.  Around 10PM, though they thankfully
quieted down.  The rain started coming down in buckets, and around 2AM a
spectacular thunder and lightening display started.  That went on for a
couple of hours.  I did get a good nights sleep for which I was
Saturday, Sept 2.  I woke up around 7 (and got up around 8!).  It was
still lightly raining, so I just grabbed a quick breakfast and packed up
and started off.  I was on the trail at 9:00.  This was going to be a
fairly short day, so I didn't push it.  The day did go pretty quickly. 
I got to Black Rock Hut at 11:40, six miles for the morning.  By then
the sky had cleared even though the sun never did come out.  I was able
to take my wet gear out and hand it out to dry.  BRH is real nice, with
a good spring.  A couple of
southbound hikers came by during the afternoon to fill their water
bottles.  Jake 
and Nick from Ohio.  I enjoyed chatting with them for a few minutes. 
Later I
packed my now-dry tent back up and cooked an early dinner.  Toward
evening, two 
guys out for a long weekend (northbound) came in from Calf Mtn Hut; Russ
and Doug 
(major coincidence, they had both graduated from my high school but a
different class (W-L, Arlington, Va)).  They had two great dogs, Molly
and Mosby, very well behaved.  I'm not a fan of dogs in shelters, but
these were fine, very docile and very obedient 
to their owner.  So that was ok.  
   Later on, two other hikers came in, Bill ("GMB" or Gumby) going from
Georgia to Harpers Ferry, and Scott, from the nearby town of
Harrisonburg, Va., who was hiking with him for a week.  They also had a
dog, Ruby, who was equally well behaved and the
three dogs seemed to get along fine with each other and with us.  I
enjoyed chatting with the other hikers; it was nice to have some
company.  We turned in around 9:00, after the other hikers had cooked
dinner and we played some games (cribbage and the AT Game).  It had
started to rain earlier and continued through most of the night.  Very
pleasant lying in a shelter and listening to the rain!  Thanks to the
hut overseer, Lynn Sotszinger ("Blister Sister").
Sunday, Sept 3.  We woke up at 8:00.  I got a quick breakfast, oatmeal
and grapenuts, and then packed up and took off before everyone else,
around 9:00.  I
was a little nervous about the (for me) long day ahead: 13 miles, so I
wanted to get an early start.  Unfortunately, it was pouring by then,
buckets again!!  It wasn't cold, so I just wore what I had been wearing:
my T-shirt, shorts (athletic with brief) socks and boots.  Also a
wide-brimmed hat.  That seemed to work out fine and I was really fairly
comfortable.  The pack cover worked
fine except that a little water would accumulate in the bottom, but I
was able easily to reach back and tip it out every half hour or so.  Ran
into several hikers during the day, plus a ranger doing a nature program
near the site of a controlled burn that got out of control in the last
year or so.  Saw a few other hikers, several coming from Calf Mtn
heading north, and one solo just out for a couple of days.  The hike to
Calf Mountain was very challenging
for me.  I was pretty well bushed by the time I got there.  The terrain
of the trail seems to get more rocky and difficult the closer you get to
Rockfish Gap.  It was on this leg that my new Tracks hiking staff ("Lite
Staff") began to disintegrate.  The foam grip slipped, and the top knob
came off!  I'll have a few words with my supplier about that!  I arrived
at the shelter at 3:45.  The Calf Mountain Shelter is fairly standard. 
Open front, wooden sleeping platform raised about a foot above a wooden
floor.  The floor extended out to the edge of the roof, so the picnic
table was not under the roof at all.  There was a horseshoe shaped
sleeping loft.  There was evidence of rats or mice (I only saw one mouse
but heard several others during the night).  The shelter was fairly
clean, but there were mouse droppings around.  The bear pole is *very*
high!  It started raining about 5:00 and rained most of the night; the
trees were over the roof, so the sounds were that of big drops rolling
off the leaves.  I had turned in
when a group of three, two brothers and one of their sons, Carters from
Tennessee rolled in at 8:30 about an hour after dark.  They had come up
from Rockfish Gap.  I was very impressed that they had made it that far
that fast, especially with the last hour in the dark (I was even more
impressed when I went back the same way they had come in).  In the
morning, I was able to share my water with them; I had filled my
one-gallon water bag on the way in the previous evening.  Thanks to the
shelter overseers John and Lee Marston for a great and restful night!
Monday, Sept 4.  Woke up at 7AM.  Cooked breakfast quickly since I
wanted to get on the trail.  I figured that four hours would be enough
time.  It got on the trail at about 8AM while the Carter family was
getting breakfast going.  (Two mornings in a row that I was the first
one out of the shelter!).  I expected a fairly easy day, just a little
jaunt up the rest of Calf Mtn (the shelter is only part way up), then
Bear Den, which didn't look bad and Scott Mountain which
looked even tamer, and then a nice, gentle descent into Rockfish Gap. 
Piece of cake!!  Boy was I mistaken!  The trail, while maintained well
enough, was a real challenge, especially to these old legs after the
previous three days.  Scott Mountain especially seemed to be a near
continuous rock scramble.  After coming across Calf Mountain, I met a
father-son group (Eric and Steve) at Beagle Gap.  They were heading
south also.  I started up Bear Den.  They passed me while I was enjoying
a rest (9:30) on the famous
tractor seats on top near the communication towers; very pleasant even
though we were in a low cloud at that point, but it was cool with a nice
breeze.  Later on I caught up with them at McCormick Gap.  They took off
ahead over Scott Mountain.  It took me a little over two hours to go the
next 3 1/2 miles.  Somewhere on top, I filtered another liter of water
from a trailside seep, no doubt from the heavy rain that we had been
experiencing.  I caught up with them at Rockfish Gap at 12:25.  They
were getting water and tending to blisters.
   I was glad I was done and enjoyed chatting with them for awhile until
took off for Paul Wolfe shelter further south.  So finished the fourth
and last day, 7 miles.  I was sorry that my north bound hand-shake
didn't make it, but was glad later on to get his email and find that he
was ok.
   All in all, I enjoyed the experience.  It was rainy and wet, but very
typical for the Appalachians.  I enjoyed the trail, all 35.3 miles of it
(some more than others).  I've hiked a lot in the park, but not this
particular section, so it was a new experience.  Meeting new folks was
fun.  So it was a good weekend! 
   All of my gear seemed to work ok.  My sleeping bag (actually an
overbag for winter use with a 3-season bag) was really too warm.  I used
one pot (1 liter) for cooking and that was fine, but I could have used a
second eating/drinking cup.  My pack (Camp Trails "Adjustable" external
frame) was comfortable with the total weight of 32 pounds.  I could have
gotten maybe another 10-15 pounds of gear on the pack, but *real* glad I
didn't!!  Still looking for ways to shave an ounce here and there.
   Thanks to the HATT organizers!  It was a great weekend!

Overall specific notes:
1.  Isotoner slippers don't work; they get wet and stay wet.  Soles
don't protect your feet.
2.  Instant Gatorade is a must.
3.  Need waterproof 'stuff sack' for Thermarest if I'm going to carry it
externally.  (Pack cover doesn't fully protect it).
4.  Another small cup, total of two, would be nice.  The one I took, 1
1/2 cup Lexan, was great.
5.  Small cell phone?!!!
6.  Chaffing powder or cream.  Wet weather hiking.
7.  Reliable 'match' (book matches get damp).
8.  Reading material, light weight.
9.  More of a flashlight.  The Princeton Tec seemed to burn out quickly
(2 AAA).
10.  Extra glasses (stronger, more damage proof).

James P. "Jim" Lynch, jplynch@crosslink.net
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