View Full Version : Shelter Space in late October

09-30-2003, 07:39
I'll be hiking from Buena Vista SOBO past Catawba starting October 18, 2003 for 118 miles and 8 nights. We are planning to use shelters that are nicely spaced along this section and are debating whether we need anything more than an emergency mylar tube tent.

I have never encountered a full shelter during my last 3 autumn hikes in eastern Vermont, northern Virginia, and just south of the Shenendoahs. However, this section is very close to Roanoke, and I know that McAfee Knob gets a lot of hikers on nice weekends.

We plan to stay at Punchbowl Shelter our first night out which will be a Saturday. Punchbowl is a small, 6-person shelter close to a road and it is supposed to be pretty popular. To top it off, we probably won't roll in until 5 PM.

We're also looking to stay at the Matts Creek, Thunder Hill, Wilson Creek, Campbell and Pickle Branch shelters if we keep to our itinerary.

I'd love to get your opinion of the likelihood that we would encounter full shelters during this time of year. Thanks.

Spirit Walker
09-30-2003, 10:46
You could run into scouts, especially on the weekend. Just to be safe, I would bring a tent. Besides, a tent is usually warmer, and quieter.

09-30-2003, 18:17
I was at McAfee Knob on the Labor Day weekend. No one at Boy Scout Shelter (brand new, btw), Catawba Mt, or Pig Farm, and only one at Lambert Meadows where I stayed.

It's always a crap shoot, but I think you'll be OK -- Scouts are always the "wild cards".

09-30-2003, 21:03
You should always have some kind of shelter along, just in case. Take a tarp. It's as good as a tent, lighter, and can be used to close off the front of a shelter to block wind, rain, etc.

09-30-2003, 22:41
We'll be there, somewhere , or thereabout with our tent if the need arises.

09-30-2003, 23:05
Repeat after me: even on a day hike I will take shelter
Repeat after me: even on a day hike I will carry at least a soda can stove
Repeat after me: even on a day hike I will carry two torches
Repeat after me: even on a day hike I will carry either super energy food like peanut butter,olive oil, or power bars

I know I'm preaching to the choir but does it hurt to remind ourselves that we should always be prepared.

On our Roan Mountain hike a couple of months ago a scout troop showed up at the shelter-23 of them! They all tented and we hammocked so the shelter was used by all as only a place to cook and eat-may you have good fortune.

09-30-2003, 23:42
Walessp..were you there with the Multi Club bunch? I was, we hiked across McAfee and Tinker Cliffs. Saw a bunch of day hikers on McAfee and 1 section hiker (Bean Counter) at the Cambell Shelter. I gave him some doughnuts. 1 week prior I ran into him at the Thunder Ridge shelter were I gave him some of my Subway sandwich. He thought I was Meals On Wheels...or I should say trails.

10-01-2003, 08:05
Okay, guys, I know the drill. As I noted, we'll have an emergency shelter, although I wouldn't want to depend on it except in an emergency. I do agree with Simva's day hike points, with the exception of a stove, and I'd add a map and compass which are generally most useful in emergency situations.

I had forgotten about the scout troops though. That is certainly a wild card.

Let me know whereabouts you think you'll be that week/weekend Rainmaker!

10-01-2003, 08:38
Repeat after me: even on a day hike I will take a cell phone in case I get into trouble.

Repeat after me: even on a day hike I will carry a portable generator and sweat lodge in case it gets cold.

Repeat after me: even on a day hike I will carry either a .44 Magnum handgun or a .308 rifle in case I run into wild boars.

Repeat after me: even on a day hike I will carry a few grams of crack in case I need a little extra energy.

11-06-2003, 14:47
Just a follow-up that I successfully completed the 120 miles from Buena Vista around Roanoke and south past Dragon's Tooth in 8 nights during the third week of October. I decided not to bring my hammock or tent, depending on shelters along the Trail.

As I had expected, Trail usage was very light throughout the week until I reached McAfee Knob on Friday afternoon. I had been concerned about some shelters that were close to a road, but generally this was not a problem.

Saturday, 10/18: Punchbowl Shelter - 3 occupants
Sunday: Matts Creek Shelter - solo
Monday: Cornelius Creek Shelter - 4 occupants plus a group of kids who rolled in after dark and tented
Tuesday: Cove Mtn. Shelter - 4 occupants plus another group of kids from the same school who tented!
Wednesday: Wilson Creek Shelter - 2 occupants
Thursday: Daleville Best Western
Friday: Catawba Shelter - solo
Saturday: Pickle Branch Shelter - rolled in at 4 PM to find a Virginia Tech fraternity conducting a pledge initiation. While they offered to squeeze me in, they definitely didn't want me there. I ended up under a tarp up the hill with my earplugs in to drown out the noise.

So, would I do it again? Probably not, since I ran into three large groups that were not always aware that the shelters are intended for individual hikers, not larger organized groups. I'm sure that the shelters would have been much more crowded if it had been raining. Besides the groups, I ran into, or closely followed, only a dozen multi-night backpackers the entire week, despite a week of gorgeous fall weather (although it was a week after peak colors).

This section of Trail was so close to civilization that I could've bailed out and walked to a town if need be. For future fall hikes I'm looking at a tarp or very light single-wall tent such as the Mountain Hardware WayPoint 1, at least until there is a proven cold-weather hammock solution on the market so I don't have to try to sew anything.