Friday, May 6, 2016

Shenandoah Climbing/Camping

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Judy and I joined the Barrs for a two-day climb/trek (Thursday the 28th and Friday the 29th) down in Shenandoah before my triathlon in Rumpass, VA on Sunday.  In addition to the experience and the training, we build this trip around an evening camping at the Big Meadows Campground--to try to hone some of our camping skills--in preparation for our planned 7/8 day hike through Shenandoah, which is targeted for late October.

The Barrs drove down on Wednesday and Judy and i hit the road around 4:30 or so on Thursday morning.  We met up with the Barrs at Panorama--the northern most part of the Central district--and then we drove 20 or so miles on Skyline to the campground.  We parked our cars and quickly geared up for our first hike.

It was cool (around 50) and intermittently raining throughout the hike.  I had designed an essentially counter-clockwise loop starting and ending at the campground that took us passed three major water falls:

We had a very enjoyable hike and we all seemed to be quite strong on this trek.  I definitely noticed the 15 pounds I had recently loss and I felt I had another climbing gear all day.  The last couple of miles were pretty demanding as we had a nearly continuous ascent of some 1400+ feet back to the campground:

The climb, when all was said and done encompassed about 14.8 miles and 3,150 feet of vertical ascent and took us nearly 7:40 to complete--a pretty big effort for sure:

We averaged, including our breaks (which, with the exception of exploring the big waterfalls were few in number) about 31 minutes/mile--Our fastest was 19:12 and our slowest was 45:41--a big part of which was playing around on one of the falls:
It was a great hike and we were all a bit weary, wet and cold when we rolled into camp 5pm.  We quickly erected the tents and our 16X16 tarp and good thing, as it begin to really rain hard for about 90 minutes.  Danny and the girls huddled under the tarp, laughing at the absurdity of the situation and dug into our ample supplies of food and wine.  I elected to take a hot shower ($1.50 for 5 minutes) and change into drier clothes and soon the rain stopped.  We had a great evening, eventually getting our fire going and cooking up some burgers and dogs and washing said delights down with wine and too much scotch.  

We all crashed around 11 or so and the next thing I knew it was nearly 8am--which was the time we had planned to drive north for our second hike.  Of course, we had to dismantle our campsite, make some breakfast and pack up first (with fairly fuzzy brains) and by the time we did so and then drove about 40 miles north through Panorama and into the Northern District it was close to 10:30 before we began our second hike.

The second hike is what I call the Three Cemetery Hike (although, I've only found two of them) and it's the same hike I sat down just 10 feet from a mother black bear and three cubs a couple of years ago while training for Aconcagua.  No bears this time, but once again it was around 50 degrees but with only a bit of rain.  It was however very humid and we hiked in surreal and very beautiful fog for much of the hike (I'll try to post some pictures later)....

We had targeted a 10-11-miler for our second day but you'll notice a little spike at 5 pm off the circular path that was our intended route.  This added out and back were a result of some pretty basic navigational errors on my part--a bit embarrassing and something I've avoided the other 30-40 times I've hiked here--hopefully lessons well learned and never to be repeated.

Anyways, due to my errors we ended up covering 14.2 miles with about 2400 feet of vertical ascent.  This took us nearly 6:30.  We were able to average about 27:30/mile, due to the relatively easier terrain on this hike versus the day before:

We were all pretty tired by the end of the thing and interested in getting off of our feet.  My knee swelled up and was quite stiff and painful--something, if you've read my earlier race report you know about, I would have to deal with while racing on Sunday and at the orthopedic on Monday.

Still, great times with great people and money in the bank as we build our fitness for the challenges to come--which for me include Elbrus in July, Kilimanjaro in September, and our 108-mile SNP Appalachian Trail section hike in October....

Onward and upward!

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