PC: David O.
There is nothing like kicking off a new year with an old favorite backpacking trip so we decided on the classic Duncan/Strickler loop for January 1, 2022. After some initial metro issues and carpool confusion, Holley, David S., Dana, David O., Karan, and I were headed out toward Massanutten in a steady rain. The forecast called for definite precipitation in the morning and overnight with some possibility of rain for the rest of the day. On the bright side, it was also supposed to be about 60 degrees out.
By the time we arrived at the 211 parking lot, it was only raining lightly. That continued as we made our way up the connector trail. Karan and David O. regaled us with stories of their more challenging Waterfall Mountain climbs as we walked.
Once we hit the Massanutten Trail, it was time to cut the chatter and climb ourselves. By the time we got to the top, the rain had pretty much stopped. We enjoyed a few miles of flat walking from there to Q’s View. We hadn’t been expecting much at Q’s view but we were pleasantly surprised to find a unique view of the valley completely filled with clouds. We stopped there for lunch and a group photo.
After that, we took on the rocky terrain solo and got decent views through the trees along the way. At one point, the sun actually came out! I stopped to regroup at the Jawbone Gap intersection. David O. was ahead of us and Karan joked that he would have snagged us a great site and have a fire going by the time we arrived!
We descended to Crisman Hollow Rd. and tanked up at the stream. It turned out that David O. was waiting there so there would be no blazing fire waiting for us at camp. Nevertheless, we marched forward up the last climb to camp. It turned out that there was no one there so we needn’t have worried about sites.
We set up our shelters and with some solid teamwork, we had a nice fire going in no time. Karan pulled out the beers he carried and we all enjoyed our respective dinners. Luckily, the rain held off during dinner and fireside chat.
I went to hit the hay around 7pm but before I could slip into my tent, I heard a loud call coming from my left: “Ca-caw! Ca-caw!” Alexander, who was signed up for the trip but then last minute wasn’t sure he could make it, had arrived and surprised us. We all agreed he needed to work on his scary animal calls.
It did finally start to rain around 8pm and it continued throughout the night. By early morning, it had stopped. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the wind had pretty much dried our tents off completely by the time we got up.
We hit the trail around 7:15am and descended to the stream where we filled up on water. Then, we began the climb up to the junction with the Strickler Knob Trail. I always forget how long and gradual this climb is!
The weather was nice enough that we decided to go out to Strickler. Dana had had enough of the rocks so she decided to relax at the junction. The rocks were slippery but we made it without any issues and enjoyed the views from Strickler until some menacing clouds to the west prompted us to move on.
Back at the junction, someone mentioned that it was (almost) all downhill from there back to the cars! We pondered whether the phrase “all downhill from here” was supposed to have a positive or negative connotation. We did not come to a conclusion.
The descent went smoothly until just about the very end. A few of our group almost took a spill on the wooden plank around the gate just before Rt. 211. Luckily, there were no last-minute injuries and we headed to Spelunker’s for a post-hike meal.
Thanks, everyone, for a great start to the year!
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