Sunday, May 6, 2012

Signal Knob Hike

The main event of my camping trip here at Elizabeth Furnace was hiking to Signal Knob! I’d seen this hike when I was here that other time and thought it was too far for a day hike – the loop from the parking area was 10.6 miles!  The nice thing about camping at the trail head is that you can get an early start and have the whole day, which means you can plan to hike further! 

The loop from the campground was actually 12 miles because you had to walk to the trail! I knew I needed to get an early start!  Lucky for me the sun comes up around 6am now!  I woke up for good about 5:30 and got out of bed at 6.  Despite having mostly packed my lunch and my day pack last night it still took me an hour and half to get myself ready to leave! 

I walked out of the campground at 7:30 am.  I decided that if it took me less than 12 hours to hike the loop I would consider it a huge success! 

The first part of the trail was an old road which lead to a short spur trail that connected me with the Tuscarora Trail which lead to the Massanutan Trail.  At the beginning the trail seemed to be one giant spider web as I kept walking into them, and they stuck to me since I was still sticky from applying sunscreen.  I wasn’t very far into the hike when I flushed out what I think was a turkey!  I heard a rustle in the woods and looked up and saw a large bird flying awkwardly away!

It was 8:15 when I arrived at the Signal Knob Parking area where most people start their hike.  I’d only been hiking an hour and I’d covered 2 miles, off to a great start!  There were 2 parties getting their gear together in the parking area.  One was a couple who passed me just a little while later and I never saw them again.  The other was a group of Boy Scouts who I encountered twice. 

From the parking lot the trail went straight up for 5 miles.  It was about 2200 feet of elevation change! The up wasn’t so bad, I just got into my rhythm and motored on!  There were 2 overlooks on the way up – Buzzard Rock Overlook and Fort Valley Overlook.  I think I missed the offical Buzzard Rock Overlook, but I ran into the Boy Scouts and the Fort Valley one. 

As I walked up to the overlook the leader saw me and said to the boys “If you have extra gear you can’t carry maybe this *girl* could carry it for you!”  I countered with “You want to bring it, you gotta carry it!” He was rather taken aback.  We chatted a bit and then I went on.  I was sure they would catch me quickly but they didn’t. 

I reached Signal Knob about 10:30 – 7 miles in 3 hours!  WOW! That’s over 2 MPH average speed!  Didn’t think I could hike that fast!  I took my time enjoying the view and checking in on Facebook and email!  Signal Knob lived up to it’s name, I had full 3G coverage! 

Soon it was time to head down.  The 1st mile down was on an old road and boring.  I was very glad when I got to the Tuscarora Trail! 

What I hadn’t counted on though was the trail would go up again.  I hate going downhill, especially if I’m going down for an extended time like I knew I’d be doing on this hike, but I still wasn’t prepared for some unexpected up.  And not just any up, a very steep up, steeper than going up to get to Signal Knob.  I realized that if I kept up my pace I was going to end up back at the campground at 1:30 and there wasn’t that much to do here so I realized I could slow down and take my time.  I was a bit worried that the rain and storms were going to come – the sky was looking ominous at times, but if I got wet oh well. 

Finally I reached the top of the last ridge and began to descend for good.  It was 2.8 miles from the top of the ridge to the spur trail I needed to use to get back to the campground.  It was the longest 2.8 miles ever.  The hiking was easy, I wasn’t that tired or uncomfortable, I didn’t really have anything else to do be doing, but I just wanted to be there and not hiking down anymore. 

Finally I got to the spur and soon after I was back at my campsite!  It was 2:30.  I’d hiked the entire 12 mile loop in 7 hours! Average speed was 1.7 mph!  WOW.  I usually don’t hike that fast!  I guess all the walking at home is paying off!

When I got back I just wanted to sit and cool off!  I had some snacks and looked over the map until I was ready to get a shower and put on some comfy clothes. 

I pulled out the camp chair and finished my book, then took a walk around the campground (because I hadn’t gotten in enough walking! LOL!), ran the generator while I fixed dinner, did the dishes, took another walk (this time I was trying to hit 35,000 steps on my fitbit) and finally settled in to blog! 

Lots more people came into the campground! 2/3 of the sites are filled!  I’m still the only driveable RV!  Lots more tents and lots of families with small children!

The frog concert started promptly at 8:00 – I was looking for them to start around 7:45 and was finding it odd that last night they were singing but not tonight! I’m about to head in and crawl into bed with my book and enjoy the frogs!  Hopefully the whippoorwill won’t be back!

Updated Sun Afternoon: 

No whippoorwill last night, but there was an owl! I find it rather ironic that the campground has quiet hours for humans from 10 pm – 6am.  It was 10 pm Friday night when the whippoorwill started and 10 pm last night when the owl started!

I slept in a bit, woke up at 6:30! Didn’t get up until close to 8.  It was so dark in the campground – cloudy/foggy and the sun wasn’t shining, that made it hard to get up!  I got all ready to go then ate breakfast and read a book.   I was ready to roll out by 9:15!

As soon as I turned out of the campground the clouds started breaking up and the sun came out!  I stopped to take some pictures of Signal Knob from below and took the scenic route through Front Royal and down 55 to Wegmans and home!

First trip was a success! :-)

Check out pictures here:  (I hate how Google changed Picasa web albums to Google+ albums….)

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