Alright, so it was more like 11…. but I’m assuming if my Dad was writing this post he’s tone would probably resemble something as dire as Ralson’s story.
Over Christmas my dad and I had mapped out some free weekends to go hiking. He was starting to up his training but we both agreed that some time on the trails would be good for us both, and plus we could test out all our new gear! Now, I’m not going to lie… I purposely planned a rough weekend of hiking. I figured it couldn’t hurt to scare him a little and I’m sure no one trekking to base camp ever said oh, this is a lot easier than I thought. So win, win? The email banter started and we quickly convinced my aunt (my dad’s younger sister) Dodee and her daughter Soph to join us. The game plan was to drive out to Cville early Saturday am, scoop them up and hit the trail somewhere between 8-9am. 16 odd mile hike… should put us off the trail well before sunset (5:36pm– a vital detail later in the day). We’d sleep there that night, then do a shorter hike the next day and head back to DC Sunday.
I used my fool proof system of finding aggressive hikes and landed on this route:
- Should I have paid more attention that most people did it as a two-day hike? Yes.
- Did I notice that it had a 5/5 difficulty rating? No
- Was it important to note there was still snow and ice on the ground? Probably
- Did I print out the map ahead of time? Absolutely Not.
I did however make sure we were well prepared before we left the house in the morning. Light, Knife, Matches, Mylar Blanket, LifeStraw, tons of water, and enough snacks for the 4 of us to survive for probably the next week. Everyone was making fun of me, but I have survived far too many bad hikes to make sure not to repeat past mistakes.
Things were going perfectly! The views were stunning, it was VERY steep… but everyone had a great attitude… we quickly found out service was spotty unless we were on the peaks, minor detail but without a map we were just following trail signs and this man’s terribly long winded step by step story of his hike.
As we summitted up and down two ridges, I started feeling a little uneasy– weren’t we supposed to be coming upon this gem:
buy lasix online 7.5 miles – Arrive at Harpers Creek Shelter across the creek and your stay for the night. The next morning, cross back over the creek and continue on the Appalachian Trail.
I looked down at my fitbit… we were already at 8.5 miles, but there hadn’t been a shelter. We couldn’t miss a shelter right?! I looked back at my Dad, who was happily hiking under the assumption we were over halfway done and it should be fairly easy on the way down. Do I voice this confusion to the group or just wait till we see the shelter and figure it out then?!? I kept quiet, and silently prayed that this g’da*m shelter show itself sooner than later. As luck would have it 20 mins later, we found the shelter and everyone was a bit relieved. The turn off was soon right? we had to be like 4 miles away from the end of the trail…. I gave Soph some bigeyes and explained the situation to her– with an Erin positive spin on it. This guy’s blog had the trail ending at 13.2…. 7.5 was over halfway. We’d make it back before nightfall no problem. Juuuuuuuust had to pick up the pace a bit. This was at 3:30pm. I even turned off the jammy pack to conserve my phone battery- shit. was. getting. real.
The next section was nowhere near easier and sadly without the sun things started getting more icy. Yet everyone kept hiking, there was a lot of ‘we can’t be too much farther to the next marker’, ‘it’s right around the corner’, ‘this is probably our last big uphill’… truth is I had absolutely no clue. I was using this jokesters blog (see screenshot above) as my ‘map’ which basically told me absolutely nothing. By the time we saw a post that said we were 3 miles from meeting back up with the AT, we knew we were going to be screwed. My dad was not buying my lies anymore and I was getting increasingly nervous that we might be lost annnnnd I was nervous about running out of water if we’d be hiking for much more than an hour. I quietly filled my camel back and nalgene bottles back up in the waterfalls and felt a little better knowing if it got desperate we could use the life straw as a filter.
As we were losing visibility very quickly, Dodee (who affectionately got the trail name ‘white rabbit’ after checking her watch no less than infinity times during this entire hike) suggested I run ahead and see if I could find the turnoff or anything to make sure we were not lost. I ran up the next ‘hill’ I quickly realized I should probably grab sophie to come with me as getting lost by yourself is never advised. We quickly started into a nice pace and ran for almost 15 mins before we saw fire. You could have thought we had never seen fire the way we reacted. I think tears were coming to my eyes. We didn’t even get closer, we just ran back to let them know we weren’t going to be sleeping in the forest tonight and less than a mile ahead were people!! (REAL PEOPLE! We literally had not seen a soul the entire hike).
We joined some spry college kids by their fire, warmed up, ate some snacks and collected ourselves. Less than 2 miles to the car. In the dark. Somehow this seemed like nothing after what we’d already hiked. Our fitbits were registering close to 17 miles at this point, which left a lot of unanswered questions.
Even though it was an icy decent in le dark. We were all joking by this point, relieved we wouldn’t be camping over night or having to call someone for help. What do you do when you just hiked for almost 12 hours? Reward yourself. Lucky for us Devil’s Backbone Brewery was right off the road on the way home. So we stopped in for some beers and a well deserved delicious dinner.
Lessons Learned: this was the first of many hikes this winter/spring on the AT. It quickly taught me (and everyone who had the pleasure of hiking with me) to be a little more prepared. Although the AT is typically pretty close to cities/help if you need it. We (read: I) underestimated how hard climbing close to 4,000 ft over 16 miles would be in the winter. Carneys apparently don’t scare easily, because we’ve already started to plan a weekend to hike Three ridges (with a Brew stop of course) once I return…. in case you wanted to come out with us!