|Shenandoah River and Valley From Buzzard Rocks|
After a month off for Annie's knee, we are back on the trail and while we had hoped that this weekend would see hike number 24 for the year, it is only number 21 and we find ourselves behind again in our quest to get in 52 hikes this calendar year. After her MRI, Ann found out that she tore both the meniscus and the MCL in her right knee. But luckily, the surgeon decided not to operate and sent her for PT instead.
And so Sunday we took a short hike near the house to get back in the swing of things and to start shaking down our gear for next weekend's excursion to Dolly Sods. We spent the early part of Sunday morning after coffee packing up our gear. The vast majority of our gear is new to us (some of it is used), Annie never having backpacked before and me having lost all my (then ancient) gear in my divorce almost ten years ago. Realistically, my 6-lb Jansport D3 pack, while a classic, weighed more than my current tent and sleeping quilt. I really did need new gear.
It took about an hour for us to go through all the gear that we have assembled since last fall and get it packed into our new-to-us gently used packs. I have a 58-liter Osprey Exos and Annie has the 48-liter version. Even with a three-day supply of food, we both have a lot of room left in our packs, which tells me they are going to be just fine when we have to gear up for cold weather and/or haul a 6- or 7-day food supply.
Under beautiful blue skies, we made the quick drive to Keys Gap on the border between Jefferson County WV and Loudoun County VA, about 20 minutes from the house. We came in from the WV side having just crossed the Shenandoah River and parked at the lot on the north side of the gap, where at 11am, we got the very last parking spot.
Set up just outside the parking lot trailside was a woman doing trail magic, bananas, drinks, and I'm not sure what all else as we had both just eaten and cameled up on water, so we refused her kind offer. We chatted for a second and when she found out we were heading south, she asked us to keep an eye out for her daughter Pigpen who is through hiking. Mom was slackpacking Pigpen from Snickers Gap to Keys Gap and was waiting with her gear and grub. I think mom was getting a little anxious because her daughter had estimated a 4-hour hike between the two gaps. Four hours would be hauling on this section which is 13.6 miles. It would take me about 5 hours and Annie and I together would make it in about 5-1/2. We ran into Pigpen about an hour south among a constant stream of NOBO through hikers.
|Keys Gap, A Tough Road Crossing|
|Blackberries Starting to Ripen|
Most of the way south down the trail to the Buzzard Rocks overview, a trail cuts out to the left (east) and quickly arrives at the David Lesser shelter. The signage up on the AT points merely to the spring and the shelter is not visible from the AT. At the shelter, which is one of the very nicest that I have seen on the AT, Annie left me for the spring which is a long quarter mile down the hill and another hard quarter mile up the hill.
|David Lesser Shelter, a Hilton Among Shelters|
|Another Shelter View|
|How Many Shelters Have Decks?|
|Black Cohosh, Actaea racemosa|
|Looking South from Buzzard Rocks|
|Checking out the View|
|Surprise! American Chestnut, Castanea dentata, Catkins|
|Negotiating the Stairs|