We haven’t a clue as to the proper pronunciation of the name. Which syllable would you stress? *snort*
The weather was horrendously hot the days prior to our departure. Hotter than even here in Florida. The weather.com assured me that a cool front was going to pass through on Friday evening and the temps would plunge into the 60s during the night.
Kari and I went to REI to pick up Stacy’s pack. The lovely customer service rep there informed me there wasn’t a pack rented by Stacy, no paperwork nothing. So I called Stacy and she let them have it. Michael at REI even gave her my discount to make up for the mistake. After picking up the pack, Kari and I went off to Enterprise to pick up our rental car. I chatted way too long with the customer service rep there because he was interesting — he worked for the Detroit Pistons until his fiancee began her residency at UNC hospital.
The next morning off we went to SW VA. Now you have to understand that I ALWAYS get lost in Christiansburg VA which is next to Blacksburg. My mother told me not to humiliate myself again by getting lost there. I complied. Instead I got lost in downtown Blacksburg and Stacy had to direct me back to her house.
You so should have seen Stacy’s face when she saw the size of her pack (and then again when she went to lift it). Kari’s pack weighed in at 22.5 lbs. Mine was in the mid to upper 30s. Stacy’s was somewhere in between.
Warning: post is heavily laden with pictures
John crammed our packs, us and the kidlings into the car and off we went. We pulled into the parking lot on VA-311N and donned our packs.
Immediately we were headed up. No gentle warmup either. Immediate ascent and frequent switchbacks
Stacy started off with a big grin on her face. Little did she know that was soon to change.
Perhaps it was seeing that in places the mountain was so steep and rocky that bridges had to be built so we could safely traverse that section.
Perhaps it was the rootbound and rocky trail…
Early on Kari spotted something way up in a sapling that was growing in the middle of the trail. She pointed it out to us and proceeded to shake the sapling. Stacy and I screeched that it was a hornets’ nest and that she must stop immediately.
By the time we arrived at our shelter, we were all a bit fatigued from carrying our heavy packs. Can’t you just feel Stacy’s pain?
The bugs were out in full force that first evening to greet us and serenade us. You would not believe how loud they can be. I don’t think any of us slept well. It certainly took us a long time to fall asleep (please note that I did sleep better than Kari and Stacy. I can sleep almost anywhere) The next morning we were up at 6:19. We left our camp at 10 and headed further up the mountain. Stacy and I discovered that we both despise stairs. And there were a number of stairs to go up. Oy.
Thank goodness at times the path was beautifully shaded and smooth.
Bears love to claw trees to death. (Don’t tell Kari and Stacy about it though. I had other shots where individual claw marks were visible, but they didn’t come out clearly. *sigh*)
We saw blueberries and raspberries and blackberries. There were also these greenish berries. They weren’t unripe blueberries though. Anyone know what they are?
Butterflies are so pretty. We saw several types on these same thistles. This was my favorite.
Leaves aren’t all over the rock. It’s some sort of lichen/fungus thingy. It was really cool.
An offering to the mountain…
This wonderful gentleman passed us on his way down the mountain. He told us we were very close to the top… we had to make it through the boulders. And what interesting boulders they are!
Hurray! We made it (although I do believe Stacy will be referring to me as the labor coach from now forward. lol)
Views of McAfee Knob and the Catawba Valley… absolutely gorgeous.
I was even treated to a touch of fall colour. So exciting since I only see it when Stacy, Steph and my mom send me fall leaves.
And then we headed down from McAfee Knob back towards our shelter.
We passed a wee house belonging to some woodland faeries.
and there had been a changing of the guard on the thistles…
Once we got back to our shelter and set up our camp again, we all headed to the spring to refill our water jugs and to drip water over our heads. The spring was running very low… a mere dribble.
That night we met a thru-hiker from Portland Me. He started at Springer and was backpacking to Harpers Ferry before catching a ride to CT and then hiking to Katahdin. He had gotten a late start since he hadn’t yet graduated from college. He was very appreciative of our fire (and the food we pawned off on him the next morning). Did you all know Stacy is a pyromaniac? Seriously!
After a strange breakfast (never ever bother trying dehydrated “scrambled eggs with REAL bacon” -They aren’t natural looking, smelling or tasting), we packed up everything and headed back.
Kari continued practicing patience while Stacy and I gulped air and water.
I do wish you could see just how steep the trail was in parts… this was the best I could do and it doesn’t really show it.
Kari checked out the last privy we passed on the trail. It smelled far better than the one at the Catawba Shelter, but it had more bugs living in its vicinity.
The last glorious viewpoint…
And then we were done…
We headed back to Stacy’s house. She dove right into her pool.
Kari was a bit more tentative and dipped her toes in first.
Those of you who wish to join me on the trail sometime… always remember this…