Sunday, November 20, 2011

Austin and Trayfoot Mountain Trip: Day 2

Saturday morning, November 19, it was 18 degrees around first light, and I couldn't force myself out of my warm sleeping bag at first. Finally, I got up and crawled outside, putting on all my barely adequate layers, gloves, and hat. We'd heard a screech owl call the night before as we sat in the cold watching the stars, the only real evidence of wildlife in our area. I could hear gunshots booming outside the park, as deer season was in full swing. While hunting is not as big here as in the hunter-mad states of Pennsylvania and Maine, it is still fairly popular. So I decided to explore a bit while Chris still slept to see if I could find anything, and also to try to (unsuccessfully) warm up. Eventually, finding nothing, I returned to camp and ate some trail mix. When Chris got up, we decided it was too cold to eat the powdered eggs he brought, and each had a bagel for breakfast. We packed up, got some water - not enough as it turned out - and started the day's hike at 10AM. Here is a map of the route - we started from the campsite waypoint at the top of the map, and ended the day at the campsite waypoint at the bottom (the waypoint near Furnace Mountain is a mistake): We had a minimum elevation of 1,359 feet, climbed most of the first half plus of the hike to a high of 3,340 feet, and then descended to our camping spot at around 1,470 feet. Along the way, we would gain a total of 3,238 feet and descend 3,155 feet. Here is the elevation profile of the day's 9.8 mile hike. Furnace Mountain is the summit about 2.5 miles in, and Trayfoot Mountain is the summit about 5 miles along:We clambered back up to the fire road, and walked a short distance to the Furnace Mountain trail head, then started ascending. Much of the hike up was steep, and it didn't take long for me to stop and remove my fleece. As we climbed, Trayfoot Mountain loomed high above us in the distance.
As we hiked upward, three men passed us - the first people we had seen since starting the trip the day before. They were part of a meet-up hiking group from the Washington - Baltimore area, and they had started from Brown's Gap early that morning to do a circuit day hike. There were a total of a dozen of them, and they joined us on the rocky summit of Furnace Mountain (click here to see my Spot check-in point) for lunch. There were great views there, and we had good conversation, plus a meal of peanut butter and orange marmalade on bagels, homemade oatmeal - raisin - chocolate chip cookies, apples, and Hershey bars. My pack lost a good two pounds of weight from the lunch break. Here are some of the views, the first being Austin Mountain, where we had hiked the day before:
Chris relaxes on the edge of the Furnace Mountain summit,
and here I stand on the same edge:
Our new found friends had left by now, and soon we did as well. After leaving our great lunch spot on Furnace Mountain, we descended the half mile back to the trail to Trayfoot and resumed climbing. It was a fairly continuous climb, and along the way, I stopped getting water out of my camel-back. When I unpacked my pack to take a look at it, I was shocked to learn that I had consumed both liters of my water already. Because I had so much water left from yesterday's hike, I had assumed that I would not need more than two liters today and had not replenished my water store.. But the steep climbing had made me drink more than the day before. My separate water bottle had only about a cup and a half in it. Chris had about the same. It was going to be a long, dry hike the rest of the day. We continued the climb, steep at times, to the Trayfoot summit - with a great view of Black Rocks, tomorrow's main destination, just before reaching the summit. Then, we started the descent.

After all the climbing we had done that day, much of it with very little water, it felt good to go mostly downhill along the ridgeline and then the steep descending trail. I got more and more thirsty. We each had less than a pint of water each for the last 6 miles of the hike. We knew we could get water at Paine Run, though. We got partial views from the ridge, but I thought this rocky area on Trayfoot's ridgeline was pretty neat:Every now and then, we got some clear views from the ridgeline, like this one of the Shenandoah Valley two thousand feet below about an hour before sunset:
The last four and a half miles of the hike was a steady descent along the Trayfoot Mountain ridgeline and down into Lefthand Hollow and the Paine Run area. Here is Chris booking it down the trail not too long before sunset:
We reached Paine Run, where my guide book promised many great campsites. Again, the land was so steep or heavily wooded or rocky that we just couldn't find any. We crossed Paine Run on rocks, looking for a campsite that couple we met along the way told us about, right by a little waterfall on the stream. We found the falls, but no good campsite. We kept walking, and started to climb, leaving the stream behind, and we knew that we would have to turn around and find a spot. It was nearly dark now as we retraced our steps. "There!" said "Hawkeye", pointing down a steep slope through the forest. It looked like a little spot of flat land, and when we checked it out, it looked just big enough for two tents. (Click here for my Spot check-in location of our campsite). So we immediately started putting up our tents as the last light faded.

Tents up, Chris pumped us enough water to slake our increasing thirst and for dinner, while I searched for a suitable tree to hand our food bags. Then I made our meal for the night, a delicious - if I say so myself - pasta and cheese dish called Debsconeag Easy 'Roni that I got from a Backpacker Magazine. We ate quickly before the food cooled too much, and split a big chunky bar for desert. We put the dirty dishes in ziplock bags and then into our food bags and hung the bags high in the tree. We walked downstream in the dark and found the spot where we had crossed and sat there for about 30 minutes, listening for owls - none tonight - and looking at the stars. Then, about 8PM or so, we returned to our tents and hit the sack. We were both tired and I slept great that night. It was at least 20 degrees F warmer and a much more comfortable night.

Here are some photos of our camping area. Our tiny campsite was on a little patch of flat ground about 20 feet below, and down a very steep slope from, the trail. There was barely enough room for two tents, and we sat between them to cook and eat:
Paine Run, a beautiful stream, ran about eight feet below our camping spot in elevation and maybe 20 feet away in straight-line distance. I loved listening to it babble along while we camped there:
Before we started our hike the next morning, Chris used his filter to get water for breakfast and for the day's hike ahead from Paine Run. We didn't repeat the mistake of the day before, and got plenty of water, even though our hike would be much shorter today:
This photo gives a good indication of the terrain in the area - very little flat land. This is the start of Horsehead Mountain rising just across from Paine Run where we camped.

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