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  1. #1
    Registered User
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    Mount Dora, FL
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    Default Finally finished Virginia!

    I just got back from my annual section hike. Last year I did the Shenandoah park, this year, I continued from the 4H center south of Front Royal and hiked north to the PenMar park; just shy of 100 miles.
    Saturday morning, the shuttle driver (Strings) picked us up on a crisp mid-twenties degree morning and drove us back to the 4H center where we started our first day of about 8 miles to the Jim and Molly Denton Shelter. My new hiking partner had never been on the AT before, and was quickly shocked by the climbs. There were 9 other people at the shelter that Saturday evening, though we were the only two IN the shelter. A local couple, Mike and Anne, were friendly and chatty with Kevin (my hiking partner) while I was trying to get warm in my 10 degree EE quilt that was left compressed too long after last year's section. It was in the high 'teens that night, and I considered bailing on the trip, regretting not bringing my 0 degree mummy.

    * I brought my Nemo switchback to use under my NeoAir Xlite. I remembered reading (here) that they provide more insulation/ warmth when used on TOP of the air mattress, so I did that Sunday night and was much more comfortable. The Nemo Switchback is supple enough to still allow plenty of articulation, not at all making the air mattress too firm or uncomfortable, which is what I thought would happen when used that way. Good to know; glad to let y'all know.

    Sunday was pretty uneventful, we hiked 10 miles to the Dicks Dome Shelter, eventually regaining feeling in my fingers and toes along the way. We did both slide on the built-up leaves while descending a rocky area, but both of us were uninjured, landing pretty easy on our backsides. We had the shelter to ourselves, except for a mouse that was interested in my coffee mug temporarily.

    Monday, we did 11.7 miles to mile 998.9, which last year's AWOL guide said was a water source and a campsite. Once again, an outdated AWOL guide that I used for planning led me wrong when I actually got on the trail. My new hiking partner was still figuring out how to get moving in a timely manner, and isn't able to attack the hills, so by the time we got to this spot, the shadows were already gone and the day was getting dark. We didn't see any level spots to pitch, so I gave him the options and he opted to go another 3.8 miles to the Sam Moore Shelter. I was amazed at his ability to see the trail when it was almost completely dark. I had to put my headlight on low just to follow him. He also discovered a burst of speed, and we got to the shelter well after dark, but without mishaps.

    Tuesday, we were set to stop into the Bears Den Hostel around lunchtime to pick up our food box that I had mailed ahead. But it wasn't there. Uh-oh. I emailed the caretaker... then I tried to call, though I was warned he won't answer between 9 am and 5 pm - and he didn't answer. Then I got his email response. He was about 30 minutes out and had my package in the back of his car. It turned out to be just over an hour, but we were happy to get our food, and happily thanked him for doing us the favor... then we went on to the Blackburn AT Center where we intended to camp. We got there after dark, and there was a family preparing for dinner inside the main cabin. Fortunately, one of them came out and helped us by pointing out that we could use a couple of the tent pads on the other side of the house (rather than going back up like 70 stone steps to the campground). I believe one of the shed/cabin rooms was open and available, and that we could have used that rather than try to find a way to hang the food bag and pitch tents in the wind (...but we didn't realize this until we were leaving the next morning). Then we heard the bears running around downhill from us crashing through the leaves... but managed to ignore them and fall asleep and have a safe, uneventful sleep.
    *he wasn't a fan of the roller coaster, but later he found out how steep and long some of the typical climbs on the AT tend to be. It really is a mild section.

    Wednesday morning, we walked up the ~200 stone steps from Blackburn, and eventually into Harpers Ferry, arriving a couple of hours before closing time of the ATC. I've been looking forward to stopping in all year. Their phone message said that they are open 7 days a week, except for holidays... but they decided to close Weds, Thurs, and Friday for Thanksgiving. So, I didn't get to go inside and register for my 2000 miler progress status (or whatever they may offer for those of us who are half-way through). The B&B in town wasn't available, but the Clarion in town was. While trying to get a $15 shuttle, the call was dropped (through a foreign call center). A couple of locals walked by and offered us a ride to the hotel, and even offered to run us by the outfitter in town to pick up a new can of gas. Really nice guy and his HS aged daughter. I forget his name, but he owns a shop that sells Altra shoes. In fact seeing that I was wearing the Lone Peak Mid All Weather shoes was actually what started our conversation.
    The Clarion was nice. Around $100, hot breakfast provided, fridge in the room, restaurant in the lobby (good burgers). No complaints. They gave us a couple names for drivers to take us back to the trail in the morning, and Walter, a private taxi, was prompt, helpful, friendly, and reasonable. 703-839-0123.


    Thursday water was scarce on the guide, so we carried 3 liters from the hotel. Lots of cool historical stuff to slow the day's progress, but worth the time to check it out. On the gravel track leading away from Harpers, I made a rookie mistake; I was wiping my nose and didn't let go of the trekking pole - and it hit a tree. I pretty much punched myself in the mouth. lol. No damage. We made it to the Rocky Run Shelters without issue and stayed in the new one.

    Friday, on our way to the Ensign Cowell shelter, we bumped into a couple of former through hikers as we were eating lunch at the Pine Knob shelter. Very nice couple, we even exchanged numbers so that perhaps they can help me on future section hikes. I love hiker culture.
    The Ensign Cowell shelter is pretty close to civilization and a road, but it quieted down after dark and didn't affect our sleep or our stay.

    We got up at 3:30 Saturday morning to get an early start, because we had 10 miles to hike and 15 or so hours to drive. I got to bed back in Florida exactly 24 hours after I woke up.

    Random thoughts:

    Holiday traffic isn't fun; pretty sure I'll be flying from here on out.

    I love my Olicamp xts pot. The size is good, the weight is decent, and the fuel efficiency is great; almost as good as a jetboil. I just need to get a better stove; one that has better pot supports than the cheap walmart stove I used.

    The Altra Lone Peak Mid All Weather shoe/boots are WAY better (for my feet) than the Superior 4.5's were last year. Even with my flat feet, there was still plenty of room to tighten down the part over the top of my feet; a problem with some shoes. No blisters. I still have sore balls of my feet, but with the weight difference, faster drying, and the general comfort, I don't think I'll go back to the Keen Targhee 2's I used to use.

    Since I'll be flying next time, I may do two-week sections, in which case I may get all of Rocksylvania done in one trip.
    Last edited by MtDoraDave; 11-27-2022 at 17:01.

  2. #2
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Very cool thanks for sharing indeed! And congrats on VA afterall that's more than a quarter of the trail! Did they ever build a new dicks dome ? If not it's a good thing y'all had it to yourselves because that's a pretty small shelter.
    Them leaves hide all the dangers underneath for sure and even more dangerous when wet of course. The Blackburn trail center is the only place a bear got our food which was hung probably I still don't know how it got it.
    Did you stop in to see the David lessoner shelter or the Ed Garvey shelter? It's a great hike with alot of accents but they're not long . After you left the bears den and crossed rt 7 and climbed up to ravens rocks that overlook there is one of my favorites.

  3. #3
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    I don't remember all their names, but I looked in on a few of the shelters we didn't stay at. One new one blew me away. Two story log cabin.. not a half loft accessed by a ladder, but a rear stairwell to get upstairs!
    Apparently it was full the previous night, and someone was hogging the main part with a tent inside the shelter.

    Overall, I'll say the Potomac AT Club seem to be amazingly well funded and not short on volunteers! Great section.

  4. #4

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    Sounds like a great trip. Coming back from Florida a couple of weeks ago saw sign on I4 for mount Dora. Knew that sounded familiar. Now I realize I had seen it in your name. Glad y’all had a good trip.

  5. #5

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    Thanks for sharing, I like reading about others experiences. I did that section last spring and like you, I really enjoyed my time. My experiences flying during the holiday season is no better than driving, in fact it's probably a little more frustrating.
    "What brings no benefit to the hive brings no benefit to the bee" Marcus Aurelius

  6. #6
    Registered User Slugg's Avatar
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    Appreciate the report from a fellow section hiker! I’ll wrap up TN/NC and start VA next year.

  7. #7
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Congrats, you're almost halfway done! Finishing Virginia is great feeling, since it takes most section hikers at least a few years.

    I flew to the trail this year after a 14 hour drive back to NC from Mass. last year. It's roughly the same expense as driving 2 days and staying in a motel, and much quicker. You have to arrange a ride to the trail and fuel canisters, but that's not hard to do. I also started doing 2-week sections once I made it to PA.
    It's all good in the woods.

  8. #8

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    Spent 4 years hiking VA, and was then in 4 different states in just a few days. Quite a contrast.

  9. #9
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    We flew for everything north of PenMar, which was about a 7 hour drive from Knoxville TN. I can't imagine doing the drive from Florida - that had to be exhausting! Air travel has its downsides, but it gets you there a lot quicker.

  10. #10

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    JNI64, the new Whiskey Hollow Shelter is at the same turnoff as the Dicks Dome Shelter, but farther along the creek. Both were available last time I was there.

    IMO, small domes are not worth the trouble. A much larger dome with an open fireplace in the center would be really interesting, but just wishful thinking.
    Hot water, hot ramen, burning alcohol, all in my lap

  11. #11
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HotCrotch View Post
    JNI64, the new Whiskey Hollow Shelter is at the same turnoff as the Dicks Dome Shelter, but farther along the creek. Both were available last time I was there.

    IMO, small domes are not worth the trouble. A much larger dome with an open fireplace in the center would be really interesting, but just wishful thinking.
    Oh ok thanks I thought that they were building a new one , I stayed in the dome a couple times. I like your idea about a dome shelter with a fire pit in the middle and since you came up with it we'll call it HotCrotch shelter

  12. #12
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MtDoraDave View Post
    I don't remember all their names, but I looked in on a few of the shelters we didn't stay at. One new one blew me away. Two story log cabin.. not a half loft accessed by a ladder, but a rear stairwell to get upstairs!
    Apparently it was full the previous night, and someone was hogging the main part with a tent inside the shelter.

    Overall, I'll say the Potomac AT Club seem to be amazingly well funded and not short on volunteers! Great section.
    That would be the Ravens Rock shelter I think they built that in 2010 to replace the Devils Race Course shelter. Yes RR shelter is awesome I did a hike through there when it was just 2 years old.

    I stayed at the old Devils Race Course shelter my very first section hike and I was the moron that put his tent up in the shelter. But I honestly didn't know until a through hiker came by and gave me the protocol and agreed to take it down if anyone else came by.

  13. #13
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Second thought I think you're talking about the Ed Garvey shelter
    With the stairs that go up the back of the shelter to the loft . You could probably fit 4 or more up there.

    I stayed up in the loft during a real bad thunderstorms reading a Stephen king book. And on a separate trip I meet my first and only through hiking CAT this young lady walk with all the way from KATAHDIN. She the cat would ride on top of her pack and they never had mice problems in the shelters.

  14. #14

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    That's gotta be a great feeling, Virginia is endless! I still have 260 miles to go, working sobo.

  15. #15
    Registered User Crossup's Avatar
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    I might be confused but my recollection from 2 years ago was Dicks Dome is still there and usable but they built what amounts to a lodge, much larger than any shelter I had seen before called the Whiskey Hollow



    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    Very cool thanks for sharing indeed! And congrats on VA afterall that's more than a quarter of the trail! Did they ever build a new dicks dome ? If not it's a good thing y'all had it to yourselves because that's a pretty small shelter.
    Them leaves hide all the dangers underneath for sure and even more dangerous when wet of course. The Blackburn trail center is the only place a bear got our food which was hung probably I still don't know how it got it.
    Did you stop in to see the David lessoner shelter or the Ed Garvey shelter? It's a great hike with alot of accents but they're not long . After you left the bears den and crossed rt 7 and climbed up to ravens rocks that overlook there is one of my favorites.

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