Saturday, September 6, 2014

Matthew's Arm Hike - Day 2

After a mostly downhill day of hiking on day one of my three day hike in Shenandoah National Park, day two resembled a roller coaster track - up, down, up, down.  This day of hiking was a week ago, Saturday, August 30.

My route is shown in blue, and I hiked it starting at the bottom and ending at the top where it joins the track marked in orange (Sunday's hike out of the backcountry).  I hiked on the Thornton River, Appalachian, Jeremy Run, Knob Mountain Cutoff, Knob Mountain, and Heiskell Hollow Trails for the roughly 9.5 miles.  At one point (see the short blue spur heading east near the top right of the map), I inexplicably walked by the marker for the Heiskell Hollow Trail.  I realized my error soon enough and turned around.

The elevation profile reminds me of a roller coaster track - up and down, up and down.  It did have two nice level sections that were a joy to hike after the long and somewhat steep uphill slogs.  I gained and lost a lot of elevation that day.

As I finished my breakfast by the Thornton River "ford," a deer came down to get a drink, I suppose.  She saw me, and bounded into the woods.  I packed up my camp and was on the trail by about 9:15.  I had slept poorly because of my flat air mattress, but had really enjoyed the sounds of the night, especially hearing multiple barred owls calling off and on.  As in the past day, my walk was through deep deciduous forests, but there were a lot less spider webs in the face on the second day, as the trails I was on were more frequently traveled.

I saw a number of interesting fungi along this day of hiking, such as these three types:

At camp, I made a decision to hike with a full Camelbak, 3 liters of water.  Upon studying the route, I could see that most of it was high up, and I felt like I would have limited success finding water as I hiked.  That was generally true - here is one stream that I crossed.

It is summer still, but can autumn be very far away?

Unlike my first day on the trail, I ran into people hiking on the second day.  I probably encountered at least a dozen others on the more remote trails, and even more when I passed near the Matthew's Arm Campground.  I chatted with a guy who had been hiking since June.  He would finish the southern half of the Appalachian Trail in about two more weeks.  I told him that I felt I would feel too lonely to do that, but you never know.  He told me that he would not be hiking the northern half in another year.  His trail name was "Hedge Hopper."  I still don't have a trail name.  Maybe I will after my longer hike later this fall.

Once I reached the Heiskell Hollow Trail, it descended fairly steeply.  I was looking forward to finding a nice spot to camp along the East Fork of Dry Run, where my guidebook recommended camping.  But as I descended along Compton Run, that creek was totally dry.  I was getting a little nervous.  My three liters of water was mostly consumed during hours of hiking up and down on a fairly warm day.  The trail leveled out, and I spotted a small pool of water in the creek.  I noted the spot and kept going for the camping spot by Dry Run.  I kept hoping the Dry Run was named after someone, rather than being descriptive.  But when I got to Dry Run, here is what it looked like.  What do you think?

I really questioned finding a good spot to camp with water here.  I looked around for about 15 minutes and then made a command decision - I revered course and headed back to where I saw the pool of water.  And near there, I set up my little tent - my home for the night!

I hung out some things to dry and air out, filtered plenty of water, and relaxed for a bit.

I talked with a group of six who were desperate for water and showed them where the one wet area was.  Then I made dinner, cleaned up, did a little "sponge bath," and relaxed.  As it got dark, I lay on my back by the dry stream for a couple of hours, just looking at the patches of sky through the canopy of trees, and listening to the sounds of the night roll over me.

Read about day 3 here.

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