Due to Easter, the Massanutten loop ended up being schedule for a week earlier than normal this year. While nominally two days into spring, this year’s running ended up being a winter trip.
One of the weather forecasts leading up to the trip called for 12-20″ of snow for Front Royal two days prior to the start of the event. Jen and I were exploring our options and had decided to reschedule the events when we got a weather report from Chris T who was on the mountain at his family cabin. We would be dealing with only about 6″ of snow and it was melting. So we went ahead for the event as planned.
The Baconator, B~~~ and Camel arrived at the trailhead at 1:20 and started hiking in. They were able to confirm that the snow on the trails wasn’t as bad as expected:
Magnet and Jeff B started slightly later and were treated to a sunset over the ridge. Finally, Karan, Kylie and Brian A left Vienna metro at 5pm and arrived at the shelter sometime after I went to bed.
Overall, the trail was well maintained. A brief section to the East of the turn off for Strickler Knob had a number of blowdowns on it. Given the recent windstorm, this wasn’t entirely unexpected.
While we had expected the snow to melt off by Friday afternoon, we ended up having sections of snow / ice into Sunday. Most people had wet feet on at least Thursday and Friday. We had an overnight low of 18F or so on Friday night. Most hikers brought gear rated for 20F or so, so wound up sleeping in all of their clothes that night. Camel brought his 0F bag and white gas stove, but felt the additional weight for all 71mi.
On Friday night, the field that has been used in the past was flooded, so we camped along Crisman Hollow Rd, as it was closed to traffic anyways. Some of us ate dinner sitting in the gravel in the parking lot. One hiker was eating while in his sleeping bag in his tent due to being cold and Karan went to invite him over. The conversation went approximately:
Karan: Some of us are eating together down the road, you’re welcome to
Hiker: Is there a bonfire?
Hiker: Then I’m not interested.
For puffy jackets, most were using three season gear, so many folks retired to their sleeping bag when they started to get cold. Some folks brought booties while others opted for the weight savings instead.
While the guidance was to hit the trail by sunrise at around 7:20, it looked like almost everyone was on the trail before then. Some folks had hit the trail by headlamp.
Saturday afternoon, the group ran into Crusher, Ashley and their friends providing trail magic. Hot apple cider, two types of cookies, Zucchini bread, Irish Soda bread, clementines and beer were all served. I found the apple cider and zucchini bread particularly refreshing. And it was awesome to catch up briefly with Crusher.
[Devoured food and talked with Crusher, so didn’t take any pictures]
When we got to camp, David S. was there with a campfire and treats. He had a kayak of course, but had it loaded with beer. There weren’t any other campers, so we took the developed tent sites. It looks like the bridge to the old campground that was collapsed into the water last year had also been repaired.
Jen, MM, Karan, Kylie and Shane got started reversing the car shuttle for the 1/2 instead of doing the hike out, which saved a lot of time and also avoided aggravating injuries.
Jalisco’s was better this year. We noted to the waiter to bring the food as it arrived and ordered relatively quickly after getting there, so the only non-trivial delay was in getting the checks closed out. Based on the Baconator’s carnitas platter, the cooks seemed to have done a better job this year.
Thanks to Jen, Crusher, Ashley, Karan and Kylie for all helping injured hikers bail from the route. Thanks to Dave S., Crusher, Ashley and their friends for awesome trail magic. Best wishes to Karan and Kylie as they set off doing their own thing for a year. See everyone else on the trail sometime.
–Andrew L (Camel)