Yes. Even DC UL has been touched by the Baby Yoda craze. (And yes, I know this is the same photo as the Alpha VMO trip report–thanks, Karan!–but I may just use it for everything now.)
Okay. Onto the trip report — and our SNP series is underway! Evan headed up the VMO route, tackling trails on the western side of the park, Marika and I teamed up to come up with a route for the LM version. We decided to focus more on covering trails that get less use and were new to us and not try to force a route that would hit a mileage goal — to be honest, though, I came to this realization after first trying to hit a mileage goal and then developing a route that us switching among three trails in quick succession only to climb 500 feet that we would then descend. It was the complete definition of a PUD and would have been a terrible thing to do to people.
With that in mind, we aimed to explore trails on the eastern side of the park in the lower part of the Northern District–and we could not have ordered better weather for the weekend. Sunny and crisp — it was perfect hiking weather and I was looking forward to the route and to the company. We gathered at the trailhead for Little Devils Stairs, and then headed up the Keyser Run Fire Road and explored the Bolen cemetery before picking up the Hull School Trail. Much of this trail was new ground to me, and it was quite a lovely and easy walk along the hollows.
I had heard that the Thornton River Trail was a lovely one to explore, and it certainly lived up to the hype. We took this up to Skyline Drive, following the river for quite a while. The grade was so mild that I was surprised when Skyline Drive came into view. (A thought echoed by several others in the group.) Now this is a trail to put on your hiking list–I would think it would be especially nice in the spring.
Of course, however, the trail makes up for the mild climb with a punchy ascent once you cross Skyline Drive and follow it up to the AT. There was a perfect break spot at the intersection so I decided to take a brief break there. I wasn’t alone for too long — the VMO crew came into view just a few minutes after I sat down and we chatted briefly before they continued along. As soon as they left, Marika arrived at the intersection. We made our way along the last three miles, and were greeted by the merry sounds of backpackers and the welcome sights of UL tents dispersed along campsites as we approached the cabin.
Night fell quickly and a layer of frost covered the ground. It was setting up to be a chilly night, but we had warm drinks and cookies baking on the stove. (For future reference, yes, you can bake cookies on a wooden stove but it will take a long time. Settle in and enjoy the scent of freshly baked goods.)
The next morning, Ginny and Ian led the charge in the cabin to help get it in order, and Susanne then led the charge down the Piney Ridge Trail — another trail new to me and another trail worth putting on your hiking list. We linked up with the Fork Mountain Trail, and then made our way back to the cars. We were just in time for a delicious brunch at Griffith Tavern.
Thanks to all for joining!