So we ended up switching the hike this weekend with Jiffy Pop and our hike over Shenandoah Mountain which we had scheduled for next weekend. His aunt was celebrating her 40th birthday so his presence was requested and we were able to fit in the next section by heading up to Fahnstock right after work Friday to drop off the second car and then over to RPH cabin for the night. We ended up at the cabin in late June after finishing section 5 and wandering a bit into section 6 to check it out. You can read that entry here. That day we enjoyed a little trail magic beer before heading home, and were looking forward to coming back here for a night soon and returning the trail magic.
As its right next to the road there were several benefits. First, we were able to walk in an 18-pack of beer to share with the thru-hikers we would surely meet that night and did. Also, as our hike all took place the next day, we were able to leave any gear we didn’t want to carry 7+ miles to the other end in the car here.
We got a good deal of rain friday night and a quick downpour Saturday morning before we could put away the tent. The rain waits for us, no doubt. Luckily this rain came when were over having coffee under the roof of the cabin. But this left a very wet tent. So we were able to put the wet tent, our sleeping gear, and a few other unneeded items in the car to deal with later and lighten our load.
We did bring an emergency tarp, the tent stakes, and some paracord for an emergency shelter as well as the cook kit in case we needed a hot meal later in the day. Always be prepared! You never know when you will get lost, stuck or injured and having the ten essentials is always important. One hot drink, minimal protection from the elements, and some food could mean the difference between life and death.
Another benefit of it being right by the road is its one of the few on the trail where you can get a pizza or Chinese food delivered. We were perfectly prepared to eat our mountain house, but all the arriving thru-hikers were excited to order take out, and we wanted to also enjoy this unique experience on the trail with them. One pair of hikers had already ordered their pizza from a half mile up the trail so it was there when they arrived. Good thinking! We all chipped in for one extra combo meal too so any other hungry thrus could have some. We did end up giving that to a later-arriving hiker and everyone appreciated the beer. The field behind the shelter had plenty of room for everyone to tent and several hikers stayed in the bunks so they didn’t have to pack up wet tents…
We enjoyed the usual stories with the different groups of hikers as they all started filing in for the night. Trail names I recall are Hot Wheels, Taco, Five, and Ahab. But overall about ten of them stayed there that night with us. It was neat how they all knew who would be arriving at the shelter for the night because they’d been hiking on generally the same schedule so they knew each other or had at least seen each other many times.
I got to see a couple of the latest popular tents in action that I’d read about, and still feel good about our recent large tent purchase. One thru told us his ultralight tent was not very good in the type of weather you experience on the A.T. I can appreciate the weight benefits of a non-freestanding tent that uses trekking sticks for poles, but at the end of the day I will gladly carry the small amount of extra weight for the conveniences that come with it. This was my first night in the new tent as the girls used it on the family camping trip. And on my new sleeping pad I bought about a week ago.
I was comfy and dry! I didn’t even need my liner as it was plenty warm enough just in my new Snugpak jungle bag. It will be a little tight even in this larger tent with Jiffy Pop next weekend but we will fit I’m sure. I’ll report back after that trip in about a week. The materials on this tent are definitely lighter and more delicate than on the Passage 2, but that’s how they cut down weight.
The maintainer Tim was also hanging out at the cabin for a few hours with us. He is a former thru-hiker from the 80’s who has done a great job with the place and clearly enjoys talking with those currently doing their long journeys. They had just had a large annual trail work party there the previous weekend with over 100 volunteers, so we noticed a bunch of new boards on the walkways and some other landscape improvements nearby on the trail. It was nice to be able to see the before and after. Trail maintenance is often under-appreciated. It also seemed perfectly timed that we were staying there as there was an issue of Field & Stream and a Laura Lippman paperback on the desk!
The rain ended up burning off a bit later when were heading off of the summit Shenandoah mountain, so the views up there were still fairly socked in for most of our photos. It was a long sustained climb up there from RPH, as it was about a 900 ft difference in elevation over 3 miles. And there were one or two steep spots, but no real scrambles. We found a lot of blueberries and blackberries growing on a shoulder of the mountain and snacked on those that were ripe. The coming weeks should be delicious!
Then we crossed through a powerline clearing, but it was filled with numerous beautiful wildflowers from Black-eyed Susans to Queen Anne’s lace and many in between. For a powerline, it was actually quite nice. These powerlines were also seen from the summit of Shenandoah, where it wasn’t quite as lovely a feature in an otherwise rolling landscape of mountains. Coming off the summit after a nice snack, we headed through a lightly forested meadow and the sun started to poke through. It became clear and hot by the time we got to the Canopus Lake overview in Fahnstock state park.
This view looks down at the beach and across the length of the lake and more of the park beyond. There was a hawk soaring overhead as if to show off to us, and the following route along the northern side of the lake to our car included a lot more steep climbs than expected. We were completely beat and overheated by the time we got to the car, though the last portion by the road was a spectacle of more incredible trail work by that section’s maintainers. Many stone staircases with elaborate stonework had been done here recently and it was a bright spot in the home stretch as we ached.
We then drove to the park entrance and went for a refreshing swim in the lake and had an ice cream before heading back. The tent and rainfly are currently airing out and drying — not making that mistake twice! We are really looking forward to taking Jiffy Pop on his first overnighter on the trail next weekend. I hope the weather cooperates for his sake, so we can make a fire and he can have a positive and inspiring first experience. I definitely hope he meets a few thru-hikers, who I think will feel its just as awesome to meet him out here.
One thing I find interesting is I haven’t heard any owls on the trail yet at all this year. Last year the Barred Owls were hootin’ away every night. All I’ve heard so far are some owls at my condo, but not Barred Owls. Still trying to ID them by their hoot. But I’m thinking most of those sections we heard them on last year were in late July through September. So maybe its just that they’re not around yet. Is it a migratory pattern and they will be back in the next few months? Any owl experts?