My friend Marit suggested we go for a hike as she prepares to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail this Spring. I have hiked often with Marit in the past, and she is the toughest hiker I know. When I suggested we try this hike before she leaves for the Sierras, she jumped at the opportunity. Marit knows long distance hiking, as she completed the entire Appalachian Trail in 2009.
The dog and I left the house at 6:45 AM and met Marit at a McDonalds near Waynesboro at 7:30. We left her car and drove the remaining miles together. Marit didn't think we needed to drop a water cache (and she was right), so we were on the trail just after 8:30. We hiked the loop in a counterclockwise motion, starting at a parking lot at about 2:00 on the loop below - near a Girl Scout camp named Camp May Flather. It isn't easy to find your way here (and even tougher to get out), thanks to a series of farm roads that all look alike.
|Wild Oak Trail - west of Churchville and north of U.S. 250.|
At the bottom of the mountain, 10 miles into our hike, we had the only stream crossing on the hike. It was a little dicey, especially since the dog didn't want to cross, but we all made it over the stream, crossed FDR 95, and headed right back up the mountain.
Another steep climb took us to the edge of Ramsey's Draft Wilderness Area, and we hiked a section of trail the two of us had hiked back in 2010. This section took us over Big Bald Knob, which ironically isn't as high as Little Bald Knob had been several miles earlier. Then it was back down Dividing Ridge, steeply.
I remembered wrong.Hankey Mountain was a tough slog. Maybe it is because we were already 0ver 15 miles into our hike. Whatever the reason, it was a hard climb that seemed to go on forever. The trail peaked 2.3 miles later on Hankey Mountain, at 3,407 feet, nearly 1,000 feet above FDR 96.
And then the trail kept going forever. Until after the sun went down. Venus and Jupiter came out. Mars glowed red over near the Big Dipper. Harrisonburg glowed brightly in the distance. And we followed our headlamps slowly down the mountain, using my GPS to make sure we were staying on the trail. (I love using map and compass, but the GPS was sure handy once it got dark out.)
We finally reached the car again at 9:30. We hiked 27.4 miles according to the GPS, possibly higher than the published length of 25.6 miles due to going off trail to have lunch and retraced our steps when Marit lost part of her trekking pole. I didn't get home until after 11, thanks to a few circular miles on the farm roads east of the mountains.
It is amazing to think that there is a trail running event every February that strives to run this trail four times in 24 hours. I cannot imagine! I now know that I can do a Grand Canyon rim to rim hike - which is on my lifetime list.
South Rim to North Rim via the South Kaibab Trail: 20 miles, 6000 foot elevation gain.
Wild Oak Trail: 27.4 miles, 8699 foot elevation gain.
Distance: 27.4 miles (also a new record)