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[at-l] weekend hike



050409 Saturday -- Massanutten
     I parked at Veach Gap in Fort Valley late morning.  The trail to
the ridge begins on an old road from this little (maybe 6 car) parking
lot up to Little Crease Shelter.  At first the trail is along a stream,
rushing with spring runoff.  Then the trail is in the stream.  Here, the
trail is stream, the stream is the trail.  My latest hiking boots pass
the slosh test.
     Little Crease Shelter is on a section of trail shared by both the
Tuscarora and Massanutten trails.  The common trail climbs to the top of
the gap, and Tuscarora continues over into the Shenandoah valley, while
the Massanutten branches off up to the ridge.  The last time I was
hiking here I came to Little Crease Shelter from the North, and spent
the night.  Today, I pass by and head South to the ridge line along
Massanutten Trail.
     The sun was hot in a clear sky, but the wind was cool: a
comfortable balance.  I got a nice picture of a lizard out sunning
himself.  I took four shots, each progressively closer.  I think he was
thinking that as long as he stayed still I couldn't see him.  I got up
to a foot away, but the instant I backed off a bit, he shot off into the
leaves like a rubber band.
     The views of the (South Fork) Shenandoah River are best along this
stretch of ridge.  And, with the leaves not yet on the trees, the view
is less obstructed.  Still, the mountain side drops off so fast that
many spots offer an unobstructed view, even in the summer.
     I camped at Habron Gap.  Set up the tent on a flat spot that had
been used many times before.  Annoyingly, dry leaf bits would cling fast
with static electricity to the tent wherever it touched ground.  For
dinner I had a Mary Jane's "Eat Your Veggies Pasta" dehydrated meal.
Called my folks on the cell phone they sent me.

050410 Sunday
      I exhausted the water supply making morning oatmeal.  The map
suggested that there was water about one mile down the Fort Valley side
of Habron Gap.  So, getting water was the first order of business for
the day.  It was 10:00 by the time I got back to ridge line.
     As I continued south along the ridge line, I began noticing hoof
prints.  It is hard to imagine horses going over some of these steep and
rocky places -- well, at least not mounted.  For the most part, the
trail is along the ridge, but along one stretch the trail builders
diverted the blazed trail off the ridge line for a couple miles and
snaked it along the 30 degree mountain side facing the Shenandoah
River.  This would be a particularly hard course for a horse (I would
think).  I noticed on my way back out, that there was a hint of a path
staying closer to the ridge line.  That, I imagine, would be a rider's
less scenic, but more maneuverable way.
     I hiked to Kennedy Peak.  An observation tower is built there, with
a sheltered area below the deck to sleep 4 (if they are very good
friends).  The wood is weathered, and someone has started hauling up
lumber, I would presume for eventual repairs.  A strategically placed
rock braces one side of the stair accessing the observation deck.  But,
the stair feels structurally sound.  Two mountain bikers showed up.
They were doing a loop up Massanutten trail down Steven's Trail.  Other
than the day hiker yesterday, these were the only people I saw over the
weekend.
     I noticed an occasional black and white butterfly.  One instance
included a mating pair.  Even in their awkward embrace, they managed to
evade my attempt at a close up.
     I left Kennedy Peak at 15:30.  I knew at the time that I would be
finishing in the dark, so I stopped taking pictures, and walked an
earnest pace.  The sun was hot, and with the trees still bare, there was
a lot of sweating going on.  A couple times I stopped to consider a
diversion for water.  But when I looked down the grade that lead to it,
I decided I would go a bit thirsty, and save the time.  When I drank the
last of the water, the map suggested there were about 5 miles of ridge
line left, and maybe another 2 to the car.  At 20:30 it had become dark
enough to get out the headlamp.  By that time, the sliver of a moon had
become evident.  The rest of the moon was dimly visible and set striking
image hovering above the after glow of sunset.
     I didn't find walking in the dark a bit of trouble.  The 4-LED
Petzl Tikka has the right stuff.  I was glad to get to running water,
and fill up my quart bottles.  (You could say I was a quart low.)  I did
get spooked where the trail crosses the stream near Little Crease
Shelter.  I heard a scurry of leaves, then saw a pair of eyes gleaming
out of a head peering from around a tree.  I figured it was a raccoon,
but my less reasonable brain half was rifling through a mug book.  I
never did get a good look at it.  I managed the trail-stream in the dark
too.  Really, no sweat.  But, I was glad to have maneuvered the sheer
mountain-side part of the trail before dark.
     When I got home, I figured from the map, I hiked a stretch better
than 20 miles.  That is the magic number I need to sustain to get all
the way to Springer in the vacation time I have this summer.  And,
though my feet do feel a bit bruised, and my legs feel a bit stiff, and
my neck and hands are a bit scorched, I am none the worse for wear.