I love the Massanutten mountains because they are so close, scenic, and relatively uncrowded. This weekend was no exception. It was a great opportunity to welcome four new backpackers to DC UL: Khanh, Sam, Laura, and Eric.
We met up at the Vienna metro station on Saturday morning and left shortly after 8am. We arrived at the Stevens Trail parking area around 10am with plenty of time to hike in the relatively cool morning hours. The group was fast! Alex took the lead, and I started a few minutes behind the others. I didn’t catch up with anyone until I reached the water source about 3 miles in. Everyone tanked up for the rest of the day, because there were no more guaranteed water sources on the route. (I thought there might have been one more, but either it was dry or I just didn’t look hard enough for it.) Because it was a warm day, some carried 5+ liters, which stressed the mostly lightweight packs.
There were a few blowdowns and much more brush that I ever recalled seeing on this route. The route to Strickler Knob is a bit tricky, and Laura missed the turn. The rest of us had lunch while observing the view.
I caught up with Laura shortly after lunch, and the rest arrived at camp, in the saddle below Duncan Knob, just as Laura and I finished pitching our shelters. It was plenty early for some gear talk, a scramble to the top of Duncan Knob, a leisurely dinner, and a campfire.
There was another group camped in the saddle with a different philosophy on enjoying the tranquility of nature, so those camped closer to the other group had a fitful night of sleep. (Sorry, Sam!) Thankfully I was the furthest away, and my earplugs did the trick.
The whole group agreed that sunrise was a normal wake-up time, so we were all up by 6:30am and on the trail at 7. Just like Saturday, the group was fast, and we were back at the cars at 8:30am. Alex scouted a good breakfast place, L’Dees Pancake House, in Front Royal. It was a popular place on Sunday morning, which required our group of 7 to split into two. We dug into our omelets, pancakes, hash browns, etc, with delight, and made it back to the Vienna metro station around 11am.
A great outing with pleasant weather, good exercise, and delightful company.