View Full Version : AT - Snicker's Gap to Keys Gap, 13-14 October 2007

2007-10-19, 23:06
A friend and I hiked this last weekend. What I can say about it is that The Rollercoaster is everything you ever heard about it and Igive Sgt Rock my sympathies when he gets there. Note we didn't do the 14 miles of it that goes around Mt. Weather, and think that the 4 miles to the North of Route 7 is quite enough of THAT for one lifetime. *chuckle*

Did I mention all the conveniently placed tree roots on the Rollercoaster? LOL. For whatever reason, I was not leading, and rather than watch the trail, I was watching my partner. Boot connects with root and over I go. I fall like a Giant Sequoia, so it was pretty impressive. Whacked knees, forearm, fingers, and just above my hairline. Shook it off after a few minutes and we kept going. Note that If I had not had hat, gloves and neoprene knee braces on, that hike would have been over right then.

It's dry here in the Mid-Atlantic. Not a single spring was running up there, so we packed on the extra water and bumbled along through the endless switchbacks and boulder fields on the way to Crescent Rock. Gorgeous view there, which I took in while I cooled my feet down and surveyed the damage to my knees in the fall.

Then we realize that we have not even gotten to Devil's Racecourse. More fun on dangerous switchbacks, which are really moreso because of leaf-fall and just the silty, dusty conditions due to drought. Upupup, then downdowndown. The PATC guidebook is really quite good at understatement, btw. ;)

The trail is a great deal more hospitable after you climb out of the last hole in Devil's Racecourse and get past Raven Rocks. Most of the views are either overgrown or were crowded with other hikers. We sat down around 1pm for lunch and there was a steady stream of people stopping by to be social. It was kind of drag.

And then there were those poor Boy Scouts! Some of them were in decent outfitting and most were in ill-fitting packs, loaded down with heavy gear. Ick. My pack was over 30# for an overnight, and I know those kids weren't happy. We leap-frogged this troop several times on the way to Blackburn Trail Center.

Waypoint GPS is a lousy way to track distance under leaf cover. Make a note of that. Our distances where off by over a mile on both days. My partner and I were pretty frustrated by that, and pretty much stopped relying on it for distance. I had my GPS along for the purpose of APRS on 2m, and it worked well for what I was doing with it. Lithium Energizers are worth the money, last for 48-72 hours in the radio and GPS I was using, and weighed a TON less.

Blackburn Trail Center on weekends seems to be a zoo. Oh, and the access trail is a winding, nasty bit of walking when you're tired. We arrived on PATC Pig Roast Weekend and PATC members had apparently taken all the lodge-level campsites, which forced us into overflow with the Boy Scouts. There is potable water on the side of the building, so we filled my "Canteen" and hauled it up to overflow camping, set up tents, and watched my partner restrain his natural urge to cuss like a sailor in a sea of kids. *chuckle*

I also learned things about the mindset about Boy Scouts and what they think backpacking gear and food are. Let's just say: Not My Son. I have better cast off gear than most of those kids were carrying.

However, the Mountain House Turkey Tetrazinni hit the spot, as did the tea, and I collapsed into my sleeping bag right around dark (7ish). It got down to 38 degrees, and even though I am a legendary hot sleeper, I still needed the silk liner for my bag. Then I was quite toasty. I was on the REI knock off of the ThermaRest full length self-inflatable pad, and given temps, it was a good choice. Every time my feet got off the pad, they got cold. Insulation matters.

We got up at first light, got breakfast, and got back on the main trail by 8:45. Note about Blackburn access trails; They are steep and wicked, no matter what you take. The one out of the overflow camp up to the AT is steeeeeeeep. I was impressed, and dismayed.

The AT from here to Keys Gap was, compared to Saturday(and getting up to it on Sunday) a piece of cake. It is mostly, gently rolling to flat trail, with the occasional rock field to cross. We really enjoyed it a lot. The trend of dry springs continued, but the weather was cool and pleasant, so our water usage was lower than it would have been in the high summer. We covered the 6.5 miles to Keys Gap in 3.5 hours, including the stops for foot breaks. If we hadn't been interested in getting to a meeting in Sterling by 2pm, we would have taken it a lot slower in this portion, but it still would have probably been, at most, 4-5 hours to Route 9.

We've done the segment to the northof Route 9, down to Harpers Ferry, and it really isn't much more challenging, until you wind down from Loudoun Heights toward the river.

At the moment, I am trying to figure out if I took anything I should not, or would not have had(apart from the second bottle of DEET). Mostly, the answer is 'no', though I could probably shed a pound or two if I worked it at it. What I found was that took a lot of little things that I didn't use, but would have if it had been colder, hotter, more bugs, raining, etc. One of my big 'excesses' was probably the fleece pants for camp, which due to my weight loss this year, are much too big for me, and thus were a lot of extra weight. I took a lot of extra socks, which I shamelessly changed when I felt the need, and I feel they were an excellent investment, given that the blister I did get was the one I always get, and NOT on any other part of the foot.

Excellent hike, but too crowded for me. Time to hit the National Forest again.