Karan and I decided that a low-mileage loop in the Northern Massanutten would be the right way to kick off a new year and a new decade. Apparently, Dmitri, Demetre, Sophie, Carlos, and Adrian agreed. We met at the Vienna parking lot on Saturday morning, just in time to prevent Adrian from accidentally going off with the Sierra Club. The drive to the Signal Knob parking lot was enjoyably short. By 10 a.m., the seven of us were geared up and ready to hit the trail.
We started up the Massanutten trail before turning onto the Tuscarora. The climb was gradual but we warmed up pretty quickly due to the unseasonable 50-degree weather. A few day hikers passed us heading down. We took the Meneka Peak Trail across the ridge and then rejoined the Massanutten Trail before Signal Knob. There were a few other groups up there enjoying the view with us, including one group with a small baby who seemed to be loving the outdoors. I took advantage of the “signal” to check the weather report and was reassured to see a small chance of rain during the late afternoon.
As we made our way down the Massanutten before reconnecting with the Tuscarora to climb back up another ridge, the clouds thickened. It started to sprinkle and then rain. At first it wasn’t so bad but as the wind picked up, it started to get a little chilly. We played some leapfrog as people stopped to adjust layers. Once we started to descend off the ridge and got out of the wind, we felt a bit warmer.
In the valley, we briefly hopped onto the Massanutten Trail and then arrived at our campsite for the night. The rain subsided as we set up camp and started to gather wet wood for the fire. It was a true team effort that included dropping a dead tree. At that point, good firewood was plentiful and we got a roaring fire going. It was only 5 p.m. We managed to fill the evening with good conversation and trying to dry out some gear without burning it.
The temperature cooled off overnight and the wind picked up but our site was protected down in the valley. We hit the trail again at 7:30 a.m. and backtracked to pick up the Mudhole Gap Trail, which was only slightly muddy this time of year. The sun finally made an appearance as we continued along the forest road-like section. The miles rolled by easily and before we knew it, we were back at the parking lot. We even came across Logan, who was headed out for a day hike!
Overall, this was a great little trip for easing into the New Year and shaking out the legs after being so stationary during the holidays. What a way to start 2020!
Cover photo credit: Carlos