Linville Gorge backpacking!
Susan and I have individually spent the night away from the baby, but never together (for nearly 17 months). To her credit, Susan has been adamant that we get away together for two consecutive nights and concocted a plan to hit the trail with help from our mothers. Thanks moms! The plan was simple:
Thursday: drive to Virginia to see Anna and Chad
Friday: drive somewhere else in Virginia via Harper's Ferry (quite lovely)
Saturday: Elly and Sam's wedding!!!
Sunday: pick up my mom in VA and drive to Asheville
Monday AM: tell moms all about the baby. Throw all the gear in the car. Drive to the trailhead.
At this point, so exhausted from a busy weekend of travel, we contemplated driving to a motel and turning our phones off, but where's the discomfort in all of that? Where's the challenge? No, we opted for the more difficult road. Of course, we headed directly to King Daddy's for some chicken and waffles and hit up Second Gear for a bear canister and some food for our trip and THEN drove to the trail.
We found this itinerary highlighting a 22-mile loop that looked fantastic. The excitement was plodding off into the unknown - I'd never been to Linville and Susan had been there for her first backpacking trip ever in highschool, what, 10 years ago, honey? ; ) We were greeted by signs indicating the difficulty of the terrain, that the local helicopter rescue team was excellent, and that groups unfamiliar with gorge should expect to move 1 mile per hour. Yikes! 1 MPH. We are low tech - no GPS and maps only. The signage isn't great in Linville and we did get mixed up a few times, but nothing out of the ordinary for two dithering half-wits such as ourselves.
The photos below are some of the highlights of the trip which included: two river crossings with no bridges, an 1,800 ft. climb out of the gorge on the Pinch In Trail in only 1.3 miles, meeting an impressive athlete doing all 22 miles in one day (Jay Ditty!), and appreciating our ultra-light gear.
Susan takes in the view of Hawskbill (center) and Linville Gorge. This was taken from Shortoff Mountain about 5 PM on day 1 after less than an hour of hiking - not a bad payoff. We hit the trail at 4 PM and the car said it was 90 degrees. The ascent to Shortoff was exposed with less shade than I expected. Parts of Linville were ravaged by fire in 2000, 2007, 2013, and Shortoff in 2017. The tree species composition is different than where we usually hike - southern hardwood cove oak-hickory climax - and included more Piedmont species. We didn't see Paulownia until the end. I was surprised.
Our site for night one was just off the Mountains to Sea Trail. Pictured is our sub 4 pound tent, 1 pound sleeping pads, and Susan's trusty pack. This trip also served as a trial run for boiled water only meals, which save food and fuel weight, using an Esbit pellet stove. The titanium stove is basically a glorified tripod weighing only 13 grams - yes 1/2 an ounce -and we used a little more than one 14 g fuel pellet for each meal. It worked out quite well, but the Backpacker's Pantry and Mountain House brand meal were very expensive. If anyone has ideas for DIY add water only meals, please comment! We saved the packaging from our meals hoping to build our own on our next trip. Thanks for Cabel Tutwiler and Dan Maken for telling me about Z-packs!
This is 9 AM on day two of our trip. We woke up and hiked along the ridge with the gorge on our left waiting to descend.
By about 11:30 AM, we made it to the river crossing descending the Spence Ridge trail. (We did get mixed up at the Table Rock mountain parking area and missed the Little Table Rock trail meaning we hiked on an easier trail for perhaps an extra mile.)
Visible are the footings of the Spence Ridge footbridge that was washed away a few years ago. Fortunately, someone left a taut line with a carabiner and we were able to get the packs across without any problems, but we did need to use our own parachute cord to avoid swimming over an undercut rock. We swam across, snacked, and cooled off knowing that we would later climb steeply out of the gorge. The pack is a Gossamer Gear pack given to me by Mac Johnson weighing in at about 1.5 pounds. I love it! Thanks, Mac! I was able to easily use a bear canister too.
A rather attractive river otter swimming with hiking poles.
Just after we got our packs across, we looked up at this man wearing running shoes and a water belt trying to figure out how to get his peanut butter sandwich and shoes across the river safely. He was doing our two night hike as a 22 mile day trip trail run. Turns out he's a hair boater too and and has run Linville with Drew Austell. Way to make it look easy, J-Ditty!
By the afternoon of day 2, we had reached the Pinch In trail that climbs 1,800 feet in 1.3 miles. I drank 1/2 gallon of water on the climb out. It was hot!
The second river crossing on the AM of day 3 was much easier than the first river crossing the day before. We each had packed sandals, so we just walked across very carefully. I LOVE my sandals for packbacking, which are Birkenstocks made of EVA foam.
Simon meets the AT! Yay! This was a cool office in Harper's Ferry that had photos of all the hikers that came through for over 15 years. Mom made a donation to them for my birthday. Thanks, mom!
Wedding crashers ruining a perfectly good shot of a pick-up truck at sunset.
Of interest to me and hopefully at least one other person