Appalachian Trail: Dripping Rock to Route 56 ( and lessons in first aid!)

After finishing off the AT in Shenandoah National Park, Birch and I were able to jump back to our southern most point in the trail, at Dripping Rock. Our plan was for an uneventful two day backpacking trip with a stay at Maupin Shelter. This area is known as the Three Ridges.

On the map, this looks like a piece of cake. In fact, the first six miles are fairly flat. The heat was a bit of a challenge, and by the time we got to the shelter it was about 1:00 pm. DSCN0593We ate lunch, filled our bottles with water, and debated our next move. It seemed a bit early to stop hiking. Should we stay at the shelter or move on? Looming on the horizon was the threat of major thunderstorms the next day. The last thing I wanted to do was a 9 mile hike in bad weather (especially the upcoming 3 mile ascent to a mountain peak – possibly during a thunder storm.)  We continued our hike, thinking that if we can at least get over the next peak, we’ll be that much closer to completing our trip before the storms get the best of us.DSCN0588

Theoretically, this was a good idea. Practically, it was a huge mistake. The big ascent, after already backpacking six miles, got the best of us. Birch was definitely suffering from heat exhaustion. We ALMOST decided to camp on the peak. But after a rest, Birch was feeling better and we felt that getting to the next shelter was doable.

About a half mile into our descent, near the middle ridge, Birch slipped on loose rocks, lost his balance, and tumbled down an embankment for about 20 feet. He was stopped by his arm getting caught in a tree limb. He suffered significant gashes to his head, a gash on his nose bridge, black eye, a big cut on his leg, and abrasions everywhere. His glasses? Lost! Talk about scary! The first aid kit was not well supplied, but we did the best we could to stop the bleeding and clean the wounds. Getting off the mountain that night was not an option. We were tired and it was getting dark.

We camped on the side of the trail overnight and I kept watch for any signs of confusion, etc. The next morning, we slowly descended a very rocky, difficult section of the trail and came to the  shelter. We used the stream water (filtered) to further clean wounds. Then, we  ascended a small hill before descending down a very steep area for about another two miles.

A tough trail!

A tough trail!

In the end, Birch got to the emergency room and was stitched up. Did you know that there is only a 24 hour window before stitching is not an option? We barely made that window! He definitely had a concussion so we were very fortunate that things turned out ok. The lesson? Don’t skimp on the first aid kit! I’m going to add a small squirt bottle that makes it easier to clean wounds. In a really bad situation, those little alcohol swabs don’t cut it (no pun intended). Make sure you have phone numbers for emergency assistance – just in case.


Tod looking great at the beginning of the hike

Birch looking great at the beginning of the hike

On the mountain after the accident.

On the mountain after the accident.


Appalachian Trail: Jarmans Gap to Rockfish Gap

The terrain on this part of the A.T. is surprisingly varied and somewhat more difficult than what Maple and I have experienced on the A.T. elsewhere in Shenandoah N.P. We generally cover two to two-and-a-half miles per hour, but this eight mile stretch took us a full five hours to complete.

Our trek began by ascending Calf Mountain, and, no doubt, this is where we were slowed down. As we came to the top of the mountain, we saw a bear foraging near the trail. I said, “There’s a bear,” Maple screamed, and the poor bear went running off as fast as its legs could carry him.


The trail took us through patches of wildflowers on Little Calf Mountain. There we saw deer and rabbits.

DSCN0584After having part of our lunch at Beagle Gap, we crossed Skyline Drive and ascended Bear Den Mountain, on which are several power stations. Shortly after passing these, we ran into two other section hikers that we recognized as having met in Pennsylvania. These were O.G. (Old Guy) Bob and O.G. Rick (a.k.a. Grey Cloud).

After crossing the road again at McCormick Gap, we ascended Scott Mountain, and then continued on a ridge parallel to Skyline Drive. On the map, this looks like a smooth three miles, but the terrain is actually quite rocky.

Overall, this was a great hike, one that is probably overlooked by all but a few visitors to Shenandoah N.P.

Appalachian Trail: Brown Gap to Riprap Trail Parking Area

Since Maple and I had hiked the short distance from the Loft Mountain Campground Store to Brown Gap during our last camping trip, we resumed our hike at Brown Gap.

DSCN0567This 6.7 mile trek reminded me of “The Roller Coaster” north of Shenandoah N.P. When we were not going up, we were going down. But the only peak that had a name was Blackrock Summit.

I was very impressed with the work that had recently been done to the trail on Blackrock Summit. Although the trail goes across rocks, the path had been made smooth by the laying down of great quantities of gravel, which ultimately made the path smooth. Question: Why isn’t this done on the A.T. across Pennsylvania?


Someone or some persons had recently placed a wind-chime on a tree limb overhanging the trail on Blackrock Summit. It was placed in memory of Nate Fletcher.

Maple and I saw several NB thru-hikers, even though they are rapidly going out of season in Shenandoah.

All-in-all, it was a very pleasant, if not particularly distinguished, hike. Although the temperature was in the mid-80s, the humidity left Maple and I quite drenched in our own sweat.

Appalachian Trail: Rip Rap Trail Parking Area to Jarmans Gap

It is day three of hiking, and Birch and I have hit our stride. This hike was very easy and – to be perfectly honest – a bit boring. The trail is lined with mountain laurel, rhododendrons, and ferns. The train itself is wonderfully smooth. After a short ascent we were fortunate to have a 3-mile descent. That was very unusual and very much appreciated. The only challenge was that, being the first on the trail, I was ensnared in quite a few spider webs.

Along the way we came across another area where a fire had occurred, long ago. It is so neat to see how resilient a forest can be. While there were not many tall trees, there was plenty of new growth.

My favorite part of the trail was at mile seven, when we came across a section of the trail blanketed in wild flowers. The butterflies were numerous and too busy tapping the flowers to worry about a couple of hikers.DSCN0576

Appalachian Trail: Simmons Gap to Loft Mountain Camp Store

Birch and I have not been on the AT in a while so I was excited to be going on an 8 mile hike, and even more excited about the prospect of hiking four days in a row. Loft Mountain Campground is a perfect place to hang out for the week while we indulge in some time on the AT.DSCN0543

The hike from Simmons Gap begins with a 500 ft./ 1 mile ascent. About 15 minutes into the hike, Birch shouted, “Bear, left!” Where? I didn’t see it. “No, the trail bears left,” he said with a grin. Yeah, very funny. Unfortunately, his sense of humor was in fine form the entire hike.

The trail goes up, down, up, then down. We stopped at an overlook to have a snack and met a father/son duo hiking from Georgia to Harper’s Ferry. I think it is so cool to see families doing the trail together.

I was fascinated when we went through a section of the trail that had experienced a major forest fire this past spring. The area is really bouncing back. The birds seemed to be very happy here. DSCN0550

After hiking a while once more, we were startled by a commotion in a tree about 10 yards ahead of us. A bear half leaped, half stumbled out of the tree! I’m very glad he saw us before we saw him because “Bear, left” was much better than having the bear land on top of us.

We ate lunch at a viewpoint and were ready to be done. The heat was getting to us! How awesome was it to end the hike at the camp store, where Gatorade and a cool shower awaited!?!.