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Hikes n' Climbs Appalachian Trail: Bluemont, VA (Snickers Gap) > Linden, VA
 

Appalachian Trail: Bluemont, VA (Snickers Gap) > Linden, VA Appalachian Trail:  Bluemont, VA (Snickers Gap) > Linden, VA Hot

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Appalachian Trail:  Bluemont, VA (Snickers Gap) > Linden, VA

Hike/Site Details

Hike Type
Length
28 miles
Trail Type
Point to Point
Skill Level
Moderate
Duration
Multiple Days
Trailhead
Snickers Gap, VA Hwy 50

Location

Geographic Location

Latitude
39.11
Longitude
-77.83

4 day 3 night solo winter expedition on the Appalachian Trail in Northern Virginia

Feb 12-15th, 2013

 

The plan was to hike southbound on the Appalachian Trail, 28 miles from Snickers Gap trailhead in Bluemont, Va to the Rt. 725 trailhead in Linden, Va.  This was a solo hike, mostly due to the fact that I was on forced vacation time for my company, and none of my friends could do a mid-week trip.  This was to be a) my longest solo hike b) my longest winter hike.  I had my good friend Jeff Pokorny, who lives near Warrenton, VA, to follow me and drop a car in Linden and then drop me in Bluemont.  He gave me directions for where to meet him, and I couldn’t help but laugh that my GPS voice (aka Betty) pronounced the name of the street:  “Old Shipp Store Road” as “Old Sh*t Stool Road”.  I mean, you’ve got to laugh at that one.  So anyway, after depositing the truck at Linden, and taking one last look at the foot bridge that would signal the end of my trip in 4 days, I got in the car with Jeff to drive around to Bluemont.  This trip was relatively ambitious for a solo winter hike, but I must confess that I was motivated by an AT legend that I met on a one night trip a few weeks earlier at Pass Mountain.  This guy (trail name:  The Traveler) was 60 years old and was doing his 19th solo thru hike of the AT, and he is the only one who has ever hiked the trail 4 times end to end (9,700 miles) without stopping (he actually did 4 1/3 times).  I figured, if this guy can hike 9,700 miles, then I can handle 30 dangit! 

So the next thing you know, I’m standing at Hwy 50 watching Jeff drive off.  It was relatively warm. Honestly after I got underway I actually went shirtless for a good long while.  Shirtless in February in the mountains of Virginia, go figure!  It was kind of a slow start, I was doing about 1.5 miles an hour.  I gradually picked up speed, but by my calculation I only had about 4 miles to make it to the shelter I was planning for.  I didn’t get started until about 1:30pm, though, so I did kind of need to hurry.  I admittedly lowballed the load out for this trip.  It seems I always take way too much clothing, food, and fuel.  So on this trip I took only 1 fuel canister (gambled and used the propane MSR stove to save weight, knowing they don’t perform well in cold temps).  I also took no extra batteries for the headlamp, minimal clothing, and what turned out to be very meager rations.  Temps were forecasted for the 20’s at night, with some rain turning to snow for Wed night.  I had a zero degree sleeping bag, which I placed inside of a Gore-tex bivy sack and carried it the whole way inside the bivy so there was no risk of it getting wet.  In my estimation having a good bivy sack in the winter is cheap life insurance.  Honestly, my greatest concern on this trip was things getting damp from rain during the day and then having a MISERABLE night.  I was using a down sleeping bag, and they are worth next to nothing if you get them wet!  I also took a dry bag (normally used for rafting) and put all my clothing into it.  I was pretty proud of myself for this foresight! 

So anyway, because of a perceived discrepancy with my map which was printed in 2001, I basically after diligent search, concluded that the Sam Moore Shelter no longer was in existence, so I threw down on top of a big hill overlooking a populated valley.  There were lots of lights below, and I had a nice cell phone signal.  So, I plopped down and slept in the bivy sack on the ground for night 1.  In the morning I got underway for what I thought was a 6 mile hike, but when I eventually passed the Sam Moore Shelter, I realized that I was a bit off on my assessment of the scale of the map, and so I had a longer hike on day 2 than anticipated.  The rain was forecast to start around noon and then turn to snow in the evening, so I really wanted to make the shelter before then.  As it turns out, the rain thankfully was running late and it literally just started snowing when I made it to the shelter.  It surprised me that it snowed initially, because it felt to be about 45 or 50 degrees while I was hiking, but apparently it was in the low 30’s.  This brings up an interesting point which is acclimatization.  It is definitely true that after being out in low temps for about 24 hours your body begins to adapt and it doesn’t feel cold anymore, which is advantageous.  So Wed. night brought lower temperatures, lots of snow, and coyotes!  Several people had mentioned coyotes at this shelter in the journal for the hut.  I heard them howling earlier in the evening, but at about 5:30 right before it got dark, I saw motion in the woods about 30 yards off.  I couldn’t make it out, but I could see the contrast of darkness moving over the white snow behind some bushes.  I quickly got up and took my food bag down from the mouse hanger in the hut and ran out to hang it on the bear pole about 20 feet away from the tent.  Then I ran back into the hut and jumped up on the bunk and got my flashlight out and shined it out at the “thing”.  I then hollered at whatever it was.  I could see eyes reflecting in the flashlight, and then I saw a second pair, but they weren’t running away when I made noise; which made me think they were not deer (or dear).  Finally I saw about 4 creatures walk off, but I never could tell exactly what they were.  Nevertheless, with the food hanging outside the shelter, I felt I had taken every reasonable precautionary measure. 

Waking up to 4 or so inches of snow was neat, but it was also cold.  I don’t know who makes the ratings for sleeping bags, but I wish someone would explain how it could just be tolerable in 20 degree temps in a zero degree bag.  All I can come up with is that it has a lot to do with moisture in the air and wind, and if you have any perspiration present.  Anyway, the snow was just enough to make things look cool, but not too much to impede my progress.  This was a good thing, because I had a 10 mile day, with my most formidable climbing ahead.  I had to go over a segment called “The Roller Coaster” which; as the name implies, is a section of steep uphill and downhill elevation.  There was a sign at the beginning of it, almost taunting you; saying “enjoy the roller coaster, if you survive”.   I also neglected to mention that nearby my hut, on the AT were a myriad of what looked like dog prints in the snow.  Since it was so early that there had been no human foot traffic on the trail, I can only surmise that these were my coyote friends from the night before.  Nice doggie! 

So day three’s hike to Dick’s Dome Shelter was tough.  10 steep miles.  I realized at some point on day two that I was going to have to get creative with my food.  Earlier in the day the trail actually crossed over Route 17 just outside of Paris, Va.  On the map it looked like Paris (which can hardly be compared to its French counterpart) might actually have a gas station or a restaurant.  My food rations were calculated basically with enough food to keep me alive, but at this point I was literally having to budget my food in terms of caloric energy.  I had spread my food out and allocated myself a certain amount of food during my en route hikes, then I had my meals, and there was NOTHING left besides that.  So, I decided to start hiking up the highway to see if there was like a Wawa or a Sheetz station or something.  I decided to go ahead and try hitchhiking, mostly because I’d never done it before and wanted to see what it was like.  Well, it’s basically like this:  Every car whizzes by you at 60 mph and actually move all the way over to the far lane to avoid coming anywhere near you.  You are left walking along feeling  like a leper, and that if you were spouting blood nobody would stop and help you.  Thus ends my experience with hitchhiking.  After about ½ mile of that nonsense, I decided to bring up the GPS on my cell phone and turn on restaurants and gas stations.  There was one restaurant, the Ashby Inn, 0.9 miles away.  I decided to call them and make sure they were open.  Come to find out they were not open, but they would be open for dinner, but they were booked  because it was Valentines Day.  I can see that going over real well anyway:  All these couples in love in there having a candle light dinner, and then one stinking dirty hiker hunched over his third bowl of spaghetti eating like he’d just gotten out of Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq.  So I had invested a half mile in my trip to Paris, and then I began the bitter half mile back to the AT where the ascent awaited.  This was the big one.  After 9 miles and much grunting, groaning, and panting, I finally lumbered down to the Dick’s Dome shelter.  This one was a bit small, but it was cool because it literally sat a few feet from a stream.  All in all, this day was pretty uneventful.  The only human beings I saw were whizzing by me on the highway, although I did get a honk and a wave from one of them.  There were no footprints in the snow, mine were the only ones.  The morning of the fourth day, after breakfast which consisted of 2 packs of oatmeal, I had one Clif Bar and one Honey Stinger left.  Period.  This was kind of going to be my biggest challenge:  getting out on a 9 mile day with not a whole lot of food for fuel.  I woofed down the honey stinger after about an hour of hiking, and then an hour later I scarfed the Clif Bar.  Well, so much for conservationism.  I didn’t even have any more drink mix for crying out loud!  The good news was the pack was lighter, because there wasn’t any food in it!  The bad news was that on this particular day my body was ready for a rest.  My legs were sore down to the actual tendons, and they really weren’t interested in another day of hiking. I was pretty fatigued.  Just being in the cold constantly makes your body burn way more calories even when not moving, and I was about out of calories.  At some point that body starts tapping into its fat reserves, and I had a few fats reserved in the midsection, so it all worked out.  I can honestly say that my gut drew down considerably after this trip.  I surmise that strenuous multi-day winter hiking is probably THE best way to lose weight.  I was probably burning about 800 calories per hour, and I was averaging 6 hours of full on hiking per day over 4 days.  That’s 19,200 calories burned over the entire time, and that doesn’t include calories burned staying warm while at the shelter, sleeping, etc.

At the end of it all, I only saw 3 people the entire trip.  Nevertheless, it was very enjoyable.  I definitely enjoyed having to adapt to and deal with constrained resources.  Learning to deal with whatever situation comes your way without panicking is the most important outdoor skill to have.  I definitely learned some things on this trip.  One was to not skimp on food at all in the winter.  Don’t underestimate your caloric needs.  Another was to have a decent canteen.  My Nalgene was broken, so I bought a $3 wannabe Nalgene at Wal-Mart the day I left.  That stupid thing shattered when I dropped my pack up against a tree stump.  Lastly, probably just one more fleece shirt would have been nice.  Other than that, everything worked out pretty good.  When I got back to the truck, it was still there, and it started!  Now I’m sitting at home in the heat typing this story.  Life is good.  Until next time…

 

 

 

Craig Patton

 

Image Gallery

Appalachian Trail:  Bluemont, VA (Snickers Gap) > Linden, VA
Appalachian Trail:  Bluemont, VA (Snickers Gap) > Linden, VA
Appalachian Trail:  Bluemont, VA (Snickers Gap) > Linden, VA
Appalachian Trail:  Bluemont, VA (Snickers Gap) > Linden, VA
Appalachian Trail:  Bluemont, VA (Snickers Gap) > Linden, VA
Appalachian Trail:  Bluemont, VA (Snickers Gap) > Linden, VA
Appalachian Trail:  Bluemont, VA (Snickers Gap) > Linden, VA

Map

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Editor reviews

 
Appalachian Trail: Bluemont, VA (Snickers Gap) > Linden, VA 2013-02-17 14:19:23 Craig Patton
Overall rating 
 
3.4
Trail Conditions 
 
4.0
Camp Sites 
 
5.0
Water Availability 
 
5.0
Scenery 
 
3.0
Big Nuts Tilt 
 
2.0
Reviewed by Craig Patton    February 17, 2013
Top 10 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews

Review

Good Points
Easy access, well marked trail (AT). Cell Signal. Good trail huts.
Bad Points
Trail goes through a pretty populated areas. There are even places on the trail where there are houses nearby. Not exactly the more remote part of the trail.
Do you recommend?
Yes
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Comments   

 
0 #2 Craig Patton 2013-02-19 22:31
I meant to say the trailhead started at VA-7, not VA-50.

CP
Quote
 
 
0 #1 Shane Lewis 2013-02-18 13:46
Man, what an amazing trip! I'm so jealous. Loved the imagery about the 3 bowls of spaghetti over your dirty carcass in front of all the Valentiners. Awesome, great writeup!
Shane
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