Trip Report: Tuscarora 3, 4/9-4/11

Quick trip report for our Tuscarora Trail (TT) 3 section hike this past weekend. Early in 2020, Jen and I started repeating this section hike, which I led for DCUL some years back (2014). For those who don’t know, the TT is an AT variant that was constructed in the late 20th century, as people feared that the AT would be overrun by suburban development in the DC area. The idea was to route the trail farther west, which is in some ways more interesting than the present route of the AT. Anyway, the AT was never overrun and the TT stands as an interesting, but somewhat wilder way to get from Elkwallow in Shenandoah to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Anyway, we did my section 1 (from Elkwallow to Elizabeth Furnace) in the spring 2020. Then, in October 2020, Jen and I did section 2 (from Elizabeth Furnace to Waites Run Road in West Virginia) alone and “off the books,” since you have to do a shuttle. We were excited to lead DCUL’s first shuttle backpack since the pandemic started. Things didn’t begin auspiciously. My GPS shunted me off on to 50 due to an accident on I-66. This proved a picturesque, but exceedingly slow way to get to Gore, Virginia. Nevertheless, I arrived. Jen and Robert—eager to get his veteran membership—met me. Masked up, we drove south to the Half-moon Trailhead in Trout Run Valley. We enjoyed a gentle climb in the late afternoon sunset. The plan was to camp at the intersection of the TT and the Half-moon Trail. We’d start with the descent of Waites Run Road the next morning. We ate our sandwiches and drank a few beers as the dusk fell and the mist rolled in. Faceplant, Heavy D, and B~~~ came strolling up, headlights on. We stood in the darkness and discussed the doings of our feline companions. What are Loki and Jagger and Shadow and Snowball and Peter Porker and Mister Whiskers up to?

Saturday morning, 7am, we descended Waites Run Road and climbed for Gerhard Shelter. The weather was strange. Mist and fog and condensation inside our shelters. I lingered at Gerhard and it felt quite cold—cold enough to make us wonder if we had packed the right layers. Beyond 55, TT continued on the ridgeline. Back in 2014, when I led this, there was a diversion that took you down into the valley. PATC has greatly improved the route, keeping you on the ridge line, taking you rather opulently maintained footpath to Eagle Rock, where there is a fantastic view. We drank in the views and dried out shelters in the sun. This is an altogether better route by all measures. We thanked the maintainers who happened to be out working on it. Yet a small part of me regretted the old route, which included a valley descent and some rambling among farmers’ fields. A more varied route … but you can get that in other parts of the trail. On we went, descending at dusk to the Pinnacles Shelter and the long awaited water (this is a long way without water, incidentally, roughly 20 miles). We camped, battening down the hatches for anticipated rain. 23-odd miles makes you tired.

And rain it did. All nice long, rather torrentially. The ground sleepers slept in the shelter, the tree sleepers in their hammocks. All remained dry. Sunday, 7am, we set out north towards Gore. The Laurel Run area was beautiful, swollen with the rain. But there is a stretch of extremely rugged terrain … rocks from hell and barely navigable footpath. In 2014, this is where Hawkeye fell and broke an ankle (an old story). Overall, this is definitely the toughest stretch of TT south of Gore, all the way to Elkwallow. It’s a bit of a shame because the TT, from Gore to Elkwallow, is really pretty well maintained, overall, these days.

I lumbered on, at about 2mph on the rocks. I regrouped with Robert and Heavy D at the Barclay Run Shelter. We followed the white blazes to Gore (Gore connector trail). Shuttle and B~~~ joined. Faceplant was waiting when we got there. 

All in all, we had hiked splits a bit like 3/23/8, for 34 miles and about 5,000 feet of gain. The toughest hiking was the “flat” section south of Gore. We masked up, reversed the shuttle, and lowered the top on my car for a visit to the brewery in Front Royal. And that was it … Thanks everyone for the great trip. And, congrats, Robert on veteran member status. It was well earned! I look forward to subsequent sections!

Photo credit: Robert N

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