Trip report: Southern Massanutten June 2020

Trip report for: https://www.meetup.com/DC-UL-Backpacking/events/270965300/

Since the 27mi Trout Run valley trip was full, I decided to lead a separate trip with my friend Steve G. We went to S. Massanutten and did an ad-hoc loop starting at 8am on Saturday morning and finishing up around noon on Sunday. We were joined by Mark V, Logan and Loay. Chris T wandered out of his front door to meet us on the trail and hiked with us for a while.

While I had anticipated more people from the waitlist for the Trout Run Valley trip to join us, my enthusiasm for adding miles made this trip a non-trivial shade of physical fitness harder. As is, it wound up as 40mi and roughly 9,000′ ft of elevation with splits of 27/13. The overall pace at which it was hiked was quite high. My watch shows we spent sixteen hours on the trail including time spent at breaks, so that’s an average for each day of 2.5 MPH or faster if you remove the time for breaks.

As for physical fitness strategies, Logan’s strategy of continuing to get out and hike appeared to have worked well for him. Mark V’s strategy of having thru hiked a long trail and just being 24 years old worked well too.

Unfortunately, the heat of the middle of summer is going to postpone further long physical demanding hikes until the fall. As for this hike, we lucked out with seasonably cooler weather for the hike. It lightly rained on us a times, which kept the temperature in check. We had a ten minute downpour at one point, but one can enjoy the rain instead of donning their rain gear.

The mountain laurel at higher elevation was in full bloom.

For wildlife, Mark spotted some newts. I saw a bunny and a deer fawn. I nearly stepped on a snake when drawing water. Surprisingly, no one seemed to get any ticks despite extensive tick checks. Perhaps that was just good luck.

As Sharon had warned us, the trail has some muddy sections. The section on the Massanutten South Trail from Morgan Run Tr to Fridley gap was the worst of these. For various reasons, we opted to take the Martin Bottom Trail to Cub Run Road instead of re-hike that section. This also put us camping on Cub Run Road instead of at Fridley gap. While there is a nice campsite right at Fridley gap, it’s easily accessible by car, so seems likely to be occupied. Due to rocks and slopes, there didn’t seem to be as many ad-hoc tenting sites as I was expected, but there’s plenty of space for hammocks. Some of the lookout points have sites on flat rocks nearby if carrying a freestanding tent.

Since we camped near water, I washed up before dinner. On one side, it was nice to remove the dirt, etc. But on the other, it also removed the insect repellent, so I seemed to get a number of mosquito bites while eating dinner.

We saw some day hikers near the major access points. We even saw some other backpackers in camp and when regrouping at the cars.

An upside of running VMO trips with separate travel logistics is that it’s easy to accommodate changes. Mark put in on the Friday night and got to enjoy both the sunrise and sunset from a peak. Another hiker wanted a slower hike out, so could take his time and we didn’t need to wait for him.

While things aren’t completely back to normal, it was good to be on the trail again with friends.

-Andrew L. (Camel)

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