I didn’t expect to lead a trip this weekend but I was tagged in at the last minute and found myself on the edge of Caledonia State Park with 10 other DCULers on Saturday morning. Everyone (Laura, Mark, Rose, Aileen, Ben, John, Ephraim, Hayden, Atticus, Sam, and I) gathered in the parking lot and set off in a timely manner. We started by navigating through the picnic area of Caledonia State Park and passing a few people out for the casual walk as well as picnicers along the way.
Shortly after, we started climbing on the AT. The sun made it feel warmer than I thought it would be. We passed a pair of thru-hikers who had recently started in Harpers Ferry. At Quarry Gap shelter we were able to make our way by a group of Boy Scouts who were headed the same way as us. Further up along the trail, we took a brief break next to a road crossing before continuing on.
The plan was to turn off the AT at Methodist Hill Rd and follow 4WD “roads.” This route was chosen to add miles, not for its scenic views. I, for one, enjoyed the solitude of this section: unlike the AT, we didn’t see anyone else on it. The sometimes rocky and rutted roads brought us down past a very nice-looking cabin. We stopped for lunch just beyond.
After that (and one missed turn), it was time to regain the elevation we lost with a slow, steady climb up a trail that connected us to a gravel road. When the climb was done, we rejoined the AT. At Milburn Cabin we overtook the Boy Scouts again and some other hikers who wondered how we had gotten behind them.
Although we felt that last climb up from Milburn Cabin, we were rewarded with a lovely stretch of trail through the pines and arrived at camp a few miles later. It was 3:30pm and there were already many campers! We all found sites and pitched together to get a fire going. Those of us with some foresight opted to cook early. It started to rain shortly before 6pm sending some DCULers heading for the cover of our shelters. Luckily, the rain stayed pretty light and we were able to gather again and keep the fire going.
I retired around 7:30pm and missed out on the commotion of Atticus’ hammock collapsing due to a broken tie out. Luckily, he was unharmed and able to rig his hammock up again.
It was still raining lightly in the morning but it stopped completely by the time we hit the trail (props to Laura’s prescient start time idea). We retraced our steps on the AT before turning onto the Rocky Knob Trail. The cloud we were in started to lift as we walked along which afforded us some view of the lake we were hiking down to. After a steep descent, we admired a small fairy house someone had built at a campsite along the way.
A little while later we joined a trail that skirted the lake. This was absolutely lovely walking but as we made our way along this section, the sun disappeared and the wind picked up making it feel chillier than it had the whole trip. We took a break near the end of the lake and moved on when we got cold.
We followed one more 4WD “road” that I found to be pretty pleasant. Soon enough, we reconnected with the AT, this time heading south. We ran into the PATC volunteer who maintains the highly praised Quarry Gap Shelter and 12 miles of the AT. He was generous with his time and good spirits.
After one more descent, we found ourselves back in the picnic area of Caledonia State Park. The weather was the nicest it had been all weekend! We arrived back at the cars around 11:30 am feeling good. Congrats to our four new DCUL members and thanks to all for a lovely trip!
Google Photos: https://bit.ly/3aPJn5c