A Very Cold October Weekend

I set out to tackle another section of the AT in Virginia during the 1st weekend of October. The section I chose was going to be from VA 42 to FS 222, crossing over Brushy and Lynn Camp Mountains. After finishing this section, I was going to hike the section from VA42 to the crest of Big Walker Mountain.

The weather forecast for the weekend promised cool temps with a chance of scattered showers. I did not expect what awaited me on the trail. Being a good scout – I followed the motto “Be Prepared”. It would pay off by the end of the weekend.

Saturday dawned at home clear and crisp. Seemed like a good start! As I drove further in to Virginia, however, the weather seemed to get worse and worse. Scattered rain and clouds appeared as I crossed the Blue Ridge on I-77. I stopped at Subway in Bland to get a sandwich and it was bitterly cold. There were some nice rainbows to look at during the remainder of the drive to the trailhead, but when I arrived, it was pouring! There were some cars in the parking lot and they asked me which way I was headed. I told them my plans and they told me that they had decided that the rain was too much and were giving up on the day.

I bundled up and was glad to have brought my Gore-Tex jacket. I started out and headed up the first mountain. The climb was steep in spots but overall it was not a bad start. Unfortunately as I climbed higher the rain started to mix with snow.  I becoming less and less motivated. This was not a positive sign. I was seriously considering turning around and heading for home. I continued on – I hadn’t taken a weekend for a hike just to turn back now!

I reached the Knot Maul Shelter – named for the wood from knots in trees that were used as hammers that was harvested from the local forest. It is a typical shelter for VA, space for 6 to 8, picnic table out front and a privy behind. There was a blue blaze for a spring, but I did not check to see if there was any water. I ate my lunch, happy to be out of the rain for a little bit and I rearranged my clothing to get more comfortable – mainly took off a layer to cool down. I was sweating pretty bad in the jacket and wanted to avoid freezing.

I continued on the trail – the trail northbound from the shelter followed an old road down into the valley between the 2 mountains. This would have been a very pleasant section if not for the rain. The wet leaves on the trail made the descent a lot more difficult than it would have been in the dry. I crossed the Lynn Camp Creek at the bottom of the valley and headed up Lynn Camp Mountain. This was a pretty steep climb – and not a lot of reward for the work. Limited views at the top and the trail immediately headed down toward Lick Creek. The descent was very steep, but eventually leveled out toward the bottom.

The trail passed over a number of single log bridges to go over some of the small dry creek beds in the valley. You could still tell that the ground was very wet and prone to flooding and mud. The trail passed over a huge bridge over Lick Creek. This was a very impressive bridge. The main span was supported by a column in the middle of the creek and the deck was supported on 4 huge timbers. The remainder of the trail followed up a draw and over a small hill before descending into Poor Valley and reaching FS 222.

I had planned to sleep at the Knot Maul Shelter, but it meant that I had to return over the mountains I had just crossed over. This was one tough hike! The rain and cold did not help with the situation. I met a hiker on the trail who had stayed the previous night at the Chestnut Knob shelter. He told me that he woke up to 8 inches of snow at the shelter and crossed the fields at the ridge in pretty deep snow. I could not believe that it was the 1st of October. This weather was more like late November or December.

I reached the shelter and was glad to see the same hiker had decided to spend the night there. He was welcome company and was very nice to talk to. The temps descended as night continued. It was sub 40 by dinner time and I imagine that it got pretty close to freezing overnight. I am glad that I brought my hat, gloves and fleece jacket liner. It got me through. My hammock was cold, but I managed to make it through the night without getting to cold or wet.

I woke up the next morning very sore due to the hike the day before. Instead of hiking to Big Walker Mountain, I decided to cut the hike short and finish up at VA42. I hope to cover the section including Big Walker in a few weeks, closing up the gap between VA42 and the VA Settlers Museum in the Great Valley. I covered 13 total miles during the weekend, 6.5 new AT miles. Here is the map for the hike. I did not take any photos due to the dismal weather.

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