One of my hopes this year is to go backpacking at least three times, and I am starting to plan the first of these, a single night, 14 mile loop in the Laurel Forks area of Virginia. This is a rugged and remote portion of the George Washington National Forest on the West Virginia border. The area has some similarities to Canada in the vegetation and even some of the wildlife. Although it is not a wilderness area, it is not swarming with people either. From what I have read, I am not likely to see another person on this trip. There is a trail system that, depending on the account you read, is either fairly well blazed or inadequately blazed. There is a major stream that will have to be forded twice, and it will be at least knee deep, and maybe even deeper than that in the spring - and bone-chillingly cold! But the reward will be a great camping spot very close to the stream. The bad new is that within minutes of breaking camp, I will have to wade across that ice-cold stream for the return hike. There are no grand views, I think, but lots of beaver ponds, the potential to see wildlife, and some great forest hiking. It sounds like fun to me! How about to you?
I am thinking of going in the next five to seven weeks, essentially early spring. The area is no doubt buried in snow right now, and I want to pick a time when it is not snow covered. I don't know if that would be late March or early to mid-April. I've asked a friend if he wants to go but haven't gotten an answer yet. I am hoping he does, as it would be more fun with another person than going by myself. But no matter, I am planning on doing this hike either with someone or alone - unless the weather just is horrible or I find a better trip to do. I will also need to potentially alter my route on the fly if I get to the stream and it is dangerously high from spring runoff. That would be disappointing, but better disappointed than drowned, eh?
Later in the spring, I am planning a much grander trip that I will discuss later. So the Laurel Forks hike will be a great starter for my 2014 plans.