Trip Report: Windblown in Sleepy Creek

Cover photo credit: Trisha

Most of the group (Adrian, Mark R., Trisha, Emily, David, Karan & I) met at Vienna on Saturday morning. We picked up Alexander on the way and made it to the trailhead a little after 10am. There was a dusting of snow up at the trailhead, but little enough that most of us decided to leave microspikes behind. As we were about to set off, Reza and Agata arrived and we’d meet up with them later on the trail.

The hike started off quite casually. The Tuscarora Trail was mild and wide, which made a great opportunity to catch up with other backpackers and get to know new ones! The ease of the trail fell away as we turned off the Tuscarora onto the Long Ridge and Spielman Trails. There we had a tricky stream crossing and a climb, but the main pain points were the many blowdowns which required some acrobatic moves or trekking around. And so it continued along the ridge. It was also quite chilly out so we waited until we found a sunny spot to stop for a short lunch break. We chatted about trail names as we had two new thru-hikers among us. DCUL trail names came up as well. Karan explained that his trail was B.A. for “Beer Angel” or “Bad Ass.” Someone astutely noticed that this dual trail name lent itself to the abbreviation “BABA.” Please help me make this stick!

Reza and Agata caught up to us just after our lunch break. They themselves hadn’t stopped yet and took the opportunity when we crossed Hampshire Grade Road again. The trail continued to be mild, other than the blowdowns, which felt like they impacted our pace overall. Shortly after the road, we did reach a wider, flatter path without blowdown that we made good time on. 

As we turned onto the Mill Race Trail and started to descend to the stream, the sun was also beginning to go down and we realized we didn’t have much hope of making it to the top before sunset. Still, I enjoyed the changing light and colors in the sky as we tanked up water and climbed up toward Shockeys Knob. 

For various, not super well-thought-out reasons, Karan and I had planned for the group to camp past Shockeys Knob Shelter in a spot where the group had camped on a trip a few years back when the shelter was full. It turned out to be not the best spot to camp on a windy night, although we did manage to find some sites that avoided most of the wind. After most of us had set up but the contingent of Adrian, Trisha, Reza, and Agata still hadn’t arrived, I went back to the shelter to find them. There had been some confusion, but they were headed toward our camp. I let them know it wasn’t the best site in the world and that they were welcome to stay at the shelter if they wanted. They elected to do that and I headed back to the campsite to find Alexander and Karan fighting the wind to make a fire. They managed to get one going as we cooked and ate dinner but I wasn’t entirely sure that the warmth of the fire offset the chill of the wind. 

After dinner, those of us who hadn’t already retreated to our tents did so. We enjoyed a long, chilly night with temps that dipped into the mid-teens (not including windchill!). Everyone managed to stay warm enough though. 

The next day was much brighter out, which helped counter the chilly wind. Emily wasn’t feeling her best after the previous day’s hike so she, David, and Mark decided to skip Pee Wee Point (a wise decision). As we trundled along the trail, we came to our first true viewpoint, High Rock. Karan had us rock climb/scramble up the back only to realize later there was a nice, easy trail that led to the view. Oh well. 

The hike out to Pee Wee point felt a bit long and laborious, but at the view, Karan, Alexander, and I found the rest of the group lounging in the sun by the lookout. This seemed like it would be a nice place to camp and catch a sunrise but we noted it was rockier around than it initially looked so it wouldn’t be great for a big group. We took a brief break there and then everyone headed back towards the cars together. 

Overall, this was a great trip due in large part to the wonderful group of backpackers we had! Although it is an LM trip, even with a strong group of hikers, we made it to camp just before dark this time of year so it’s probably best done when there is more light in the day. Don’t wait too long though, as the underbrush starts to fill in during the spring, I’d expect the blowdowns to become tricker to navigate!

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