Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Manassas Gap to Ashby Gap

With the regular occurrence of late afternoon thunderstorms, we thought we’d get an early start on our hike in the hopes of avoiding the rain.  We rolled out of bed, got ready, and were in the truck before 7.  We were pretty impressed with ourselves.  Fifty minutes later we pulled into the parking lot at Manassas Gap.  Gene was hiking north so this was his starting point.  Normally, he would have dropped me off first at the north end, but I wanted to park the truck at the north end in case I discovered my back wasn’t well enough to hike the entire section. He got out of the truck and reached for his pack which was nowhere to be found.  It never got put in the truck.

In disaster control mode, we tried to regroup and make an alternate plan.  We decided I should still walk south as the uphills were a little more gentle in that direction.  Didn’t want to put too much stress on my back the first day.  We came up with the plan to drop me off at the north end to start my hike south and he would go back to the house get his pack and park the truck at the south end--Manassas Gap.  The downside of this plan was that I would loose the option of turning around if my back started giving me trouble.

We drove the 15 or so miles to Ashby Gap on the back, back roads of Virginia.  VA 688 turned out to be a showplace of rolling pastures, gleaming white fences, and mansions on the hills.  Just gorgeous.

Our parking lot was located two tenths of a mile north of US 50 on VA 601.  On the map, VA 601 looks like a narrow, curving lane that eventually intersects with VA 7. We pulled onto 601 and so did everybody else traveling this morning.  What’s up with that--this road doesn’t go anywhere.  Traffic was so heavy we had to make two passes to find the drive into the parking lot.  Of course, there was nowhere to turn around without driving miles out of the way.  On the second pass by the drive, we were heading in the wrong direction to be able to make the acute angle turn into the lot.  We also noted that the drive was very steep and some of the gravel had washed off during the recent heavy rains.  We decided not to use this lot because we were concerned that we might not be able to get out of the lot.  The trail crosses US 50 only about a 100 yards from the junction with VA 601.  We just pulled off onto the shoulder and I got myself ready and headed south.  Gene headed back to Winchester to get his pack.

A footbridge built to last

It was a rough start, but ultimately a blessing.  I would have been really stressed out by the ordeal over the parking lot not to mention the disaster if I had parked there then not been able to get out this afternoon.  After Gene was reunited with his pack, he went back to Manassas Gap to start his hike.

After we finally got on the trail, the hike was very pleasant.  We were in deep woods all day except for a short walk across an open field.  Hiking south, I saw and spoke with several thru-hikers all excited to be only a few miles from Harpers Ferry.  The trail was muddy for the entire section from all those afternoon thunderstorms.  Our boots were a mess at the end of the day.  My socks and legs were a mess, as well.  It would have been a good time to wear my gators, but I had left them at home in an effort to lighten up my pack weight.  My bad.

My back did fine today with this 11.8 miles.  Our next hike is 14 miles so we’re going to take tomorrow off to rest rather than pushing the limit.

That’s it for today.

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