We roused for our fifth hike of 2017, the year in which we have committed to 52 hikes, at 8am on Sunday morning, very early considering that we got crushed at the restaurant the night before and that I didn't sleep well on account of this damned cold that started coming on about Wednesday. 8 am was not a friendly hour to get up considering all that, but up we got with some insistent urging from the aforementioned hounds, mainly because we had a long day ahead of us in climbing Strickler Knob, reputedly one of the toughest hikes in this area. By now, my screaming quads have already let you know that it lived up to its reputation.
|Atop Strickler Knob|
We are spoiled by great coffee. We need to give a shout out to Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters in Cannon Beach OR from whom we get our coffee for home. It is truly delicious. And our coffee at the restaurant isn't half bad either. Once I got onto I-81 heading south for New Market and got settled in to traffic, I finally got a second to take a sip of the Sheetz dark roast. Wow! Just Wow! It really sucks for coffee is the best that I can say. To compound things, breakfast was totally unsatisfying: the sausage in particular tasted like equal parts sawdust and cayenne. Delicious! NOT! At least it got us moving more quickly than wrangling coffee and grub at home.
|Not a Great Start to the Day|
At 9:45am, we were the third vehicle in the lot that can hold about six vehicles. The drivers of the other two were waiting on members of their hiking club to arrive before heading out to Strickler Knob. Ann and I decided to hoof it up the road to the trailhead and get some space between us and the group, reportedly 10 to 15 people, so we left at a rapid clip. What we didn't know is that the hiking group had a plan B that we would find out about later when they came blowing by us just about where we met the Scothorn Gap Trail.
Seven tenths up the road, we turned east into the warm morning sun on the Massanutten Trail which gently meandered along and over the ridgeline, before plunging straight down the hillside and by straight down I mean straight down, 800 feet of descent in a half a mile, where 500 feet in a half a mile is considered steep. This was no joke of a hill. It was so steep that I felt like I was skiing a triple black diamond slope. We had to take a "quad break" about 600 feet down to rest our burning legs.
|Crossing Big Run on the Massanutten Trail|
|Ann: "We Have to Climb THAT?!?"|
At the ridgeline, the orange-blazed Massanutten continues down over the mountain and eventually heads north again towards Camp Roosevelt, where we hiked back in the fall. But we were interested in an unofficial 3/4-mile pink-blazed trail south along the ridge to Strickler Knob. It was obvious where the trail should be but not obvious where it was for the trail was nothing but hopping from rock to rock and I hadn't yet figured out that the pink blazes were on rocks on the ground, as I was so used to looking for them in trees.
It was actually kind of fun sleuthing out where I thought the trail should be, sometimes finding a blaze and sometimes not, winding in and out of rock formations and hopping from rock to rock. Towards the end of the walk, the rocks started getting a bit more serious, including one about 9 feet high that we had to scale, which you see Annie doing below. It became obvious that our trekking poles were starting to be a hindrance, so we left them leaning against a big rock. On our return to this point, we had obviously started a trend because there were a dozen sets of poles where we left ours.
|Some Climbing Required|
|Almost to the End|
|A Large Rock Stack at Strickler Knob|
|Annie Just Making it to the Top|
|Turkey Vulture Over Luray|
|Lunch was Grilled Chicken BLTs|
|Selfie Queen in Action|
|The Resulting Selfie|
|Panorama from Very Highest Point|
|New Market Gap and Beyond|
We bailed out on the Scothorn Gap trail back to Crisman Hollow Road, trading the 800-foot climb in half a mile for the same climb in two miles, a much more gentle and doable climb. It left us with a 2.7-mile road walk, but it would have been stupid to go the other way in our condition. I like to think that I have gained some wisdom from age. The 18-year old Ed would not have done this.
Just beyond the crossroads where we picked up the yellow-blazed Scothorn Gap trail, we started hearing an insistent noise coming from the woods just ahead. It was clear that Annie was hearing it too. I asked out loud, "Could that be geese?" Then I mused blackbirds. But then it became obvious that it was frogs. I don't know what kind of frogs though. Certainly not spring peepers, which I could also hear calling back in the woods and certainly not bullfrogs, whose calls I well know. We bushwhacked through some really soggy ground to come out on the little pond below.
|Turtles Sunning. In February?!?|
We were totally unprepared for about 50 cars where we left ours. They were lined head-to-tail down the left margin of the road, converting the already narrow road into singletrack. Thirty minutes after we thankfully unlaced our boots and sat down in the Jeep, we were sitting in the Woodstock Brewhouse just a few miles up route 11 towards Winchester.
|Annie Tackles a Big-Girl Beer|