Saturday, October 20, 2012

Primo - Hiking Through the Lewis Fork Wilderness

October 12.

Wow, it was a windy night camped out at 5,400 feet.  I had brought my lighter weight bag to save bulk, and it was just warm enough with the bag liner.  I would guess that it got down into the 30's, but above freezing - a far cry from 15 on the Priest two years ago and 18 last year near Furnace Mountain.  It took Hawkeye and me some time to get going in the morning.  For one thing we needed water, so I made the 0.2 mile trek (each way) to the spring.  Coming back up from the spring, climbing a fairly steep and rocky path with my arms full of water bottles, I tripped on a rock and went down like a ton of bricks.  I have never fallen while hiking that I can remember but I surely did on this day.  I was very lucky not to get hurt because I fell flat on my face.

Eventually we had breakfast and packed up, and hit the trail.  And a lovely and fairly easy trail it was!  We hiked on the Appalachian Trail for a while, going right past the turn-off for Mount Rogers that I did the previous evening.  Eventually, we turned on to the Mount Rogers Trail (that is the name of the trail - it does not climb the mountain) and then on to the Lewis Fork Trail, which goes through the Lewis Fork Wilderness.  The latter is not marked but still has some fading orange blazes from time to time.  Here's the route (in black, starting near the bottom of the map and curving left, then up, then right.)  Remember that the trail for the first day is in blue.  The summit of Mount Rogers is in the lower left of the map.  In the top right, you can see a short track heading west where we made a mistake by not checking our topo map to get the right trail:

 The elevation profile shows that this is predominantly a downhill hike on our second day, but we did gain 1,110 feet and lose 2,500 feet for a net drop of nearly 1,400 feet.
 Shortly after leaving our campsite near the Thomas Knob Shelter on the AT, we still had pretty open views.
 But after passing the junction to the trail to climb Mount Rogers, the AT entered a spruce - fir forest, with the lovely smell of evergreens.  It so reminded me of Maine!
 As we descended, the spruce and fir mixed with hardwoods, and rapidly changed to all hardwoods.
Most of the second day's walk was in forest, but we did come on one area with beautiful open views.
Here is a panorama of that open view:
Hawkeye descends through the forest, on the Mount Rogers Trail:
Beautiful Lewis Fork was our lunch spot.  We ate our sandwiches, relaxed, and watched a small brook trout in the cold stream:
Hawkeye looks back as we hike through the wilderness area.
Just before we joined the AT again near the Old Orchard Shelter, these horsewomen passed us by.  They were obviously enjoying the beautiful weather.
It was a Friday night and the whole area around the shelter was jam packed.  There were a lot of great open sites, but they were all spoken for, as was the shelter.  We searched for a good 45 minutes before we settled on this spot in the open woods near the shelter.  It was not ideal, but it would do.  People were continually arriving after we set up camp.  One group of four young men came in around 8:30 in pitch darkness, set up camp with a lot of commotion, and build a camp fire that would have consumed a log cabin.  That was fine, but they carried on loudly until well past 11:00.  I don't know about you, but I don't walk miles with a heavy pack to listen to a bunch of guys shout at the top of their lungs for three hours in the dark.  Strangling them seemed too extreme, so we gritted our teeth and tried to sleep.  They talked so loudly that I could barely hear a screech owl that started calling about 10:00.
There was a great campsite near these beautiful trees, and it was occupied by one man and two women, one of whom was on her first backpacking trip.  They also had three well-behaved dogs - better behaved than the humans between their site and ours.  This group was very friendly, and invited us to share their fire, which we gladly did for several hours.  We toasted marshmallows (which they provided) over the fire, looked at the amazing stars together, and chatted about our lives and hikes.  They even packed in a little oven and had made pizza!  Talk about an Italian feast, eh?  They were going to make cinnamon buns Sunday morning in it.  I gave some thought of following them but that seemed too much like stalking!  :^)
After the four loud guys finally shut the hell up, I slept fairly well.  It was not as cold, with low of maybe low 40's, because after all, we were about 1,400 feet lower in elevation that the first night on the trail.  And there was not wind to speak of, so it was quieter.  Despite the dozens of people camped nearby, only that one group was loud.

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