Last week I took several of my students on a couple day backpacking trip in the Ramsey Draft Wilderness in western Augusta County. I have never hiked this area but I studied my maps and I was sure I had a good route for us to do. We planned to head in Thursday afternoon, hike all day Friday, then hike the few remaining miles back to the van Saturday morning.
Hiking in under blue skies and chirping birds
We had to ford the stream at least 10 times
Some of the guys got their shoes wet so we are drying them out while sipping coffee.
Ahh life is good!!
The next morning it was close to freezing so Layne had to warm
his hands on the propane stove
Huddling around what is left of the fire
In case you were wondering my camera's lens was fogged up
Taking a quick breather before we climb to Hardscrabble Knob: elevation 4298ft.
At the top there was the remains of a rusted fire lookout tower
My students at the top of Hardscrabble. The ridge in the distance is what we hiked
along on our way back the the vehicle that afternoon.
After we hiked to the top of Hardscrabble we put down a fast pace to get to our next water source, a pond on the other side of Big Bald Knob. When we got to the pond we had plenty of water but I was reminded of a line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." "Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink." We had thousands of gallons of water but the following picture tells you all you need to know about the drink-ability of the vile sludge we would have to subsist on for the next 24 hours.
Your eyes are not deceiving you. Those ARE frog eggs and tadpoles!
After seeing the state of our last water source for 6-8 miles we got out my water filter and prayed it would filter out the soup of microorganisms that were sure to be in the water. It worked great for the first few quarts of water but soon clogged. After several fruitless attempts to back flush the filter to clean it out we had to make a decision. Between the five of us we had maybe 2 quarts of water plus the 3 quarts of water we had been able to filter. (Luckily it actually didn't taste too bad!!) We soon decided that there was no way we could make camp that evening and be able to survive on only 5-7 quarts of water. Although we had already hiked 10-12 miles that day we figured it would be easier to hike another 6-7 miles that afternoon rather than spend the evening and morning hungry and thirsty.
Carson adjusting his pack on the hike out
Taking a well-earned rest on The Pinnacle
We covered the last 6-7 miles in under three hours and by shortly after four we were heading back home. On the 45 minute drive home we had plenty of time to talk about our experiences. Although they didn't like having to hike 18 miles in one day they had relished the challenge and were ready to go on another hiking trip next spring. One lesson I learned is to both be more sure of water sources, and to have more than one water filter along!
Later this month I have another backpacking trip planned in Grayson Highlands State Park. Looking forward to it!
Till next time,