Day One: October 13, 2007
On October 12-14, 2007, Joe and Jenn A. led a car camping event in George Washington National Forest. This Maryland Outdoor Club (MOC) event began at the Elizabeth Furnace Group Campground on the evening of Friday, October 12. But due to the expected heavy Washington D.C. beltway rush hour drive, Norma and I opted to drive down the following morning. I heard a good time was had by those to braved the traffic. They shared what I was told was a HUGE campfire.
Norma and I left her place and made it to the campsite in about 2 hours. Unlike the Maryland State Parks, the folks that ran this Virginia campground were willing to let adult groups stay. I'm guessing our spot (site B) would have held 25 campers. After seeing the fire ring, I could only imagine how big last night's fire got. I reckon the ring was about 6 feet in diameter! Unfortunately, a campfire ban went into effect the day Norma and I arrived so we would not witness such an event again. Supposedly, the dry conditions were a forest fire hazard.
The campsite had plenty of shade, some nice picnic tables, and steel poles set in concrete for hanging food. It was also far enough from the main road so I didn't notice traffic. But there were no showers and there were only two toilets. Actually, there were others toilets but they were locked. The other campsites were pretty packed so I'm guessing that averaged out to about one toilet for every 50 people! The toilet paper supplied by the park didn't last but fortunately, a few people in our group brought extra to share.
Our Signal Knob hike commenced at 1045. There were 18 people and 4 dogs. The dogs all got along quite well...and so did the hikers. See first photo at left. Wait a minute, I only count 17 humans! Oh, that's right, I took the photo. One dog, Lucy, was a bit camera shy so she isn't in the picture either.
For the first part, five of us led. We stopped at Buzzard Rock Overlook Passage Creek Gorge and waited for the rest of the group. Nice view. See second photo at left. From left to right is Joe, Dan, Mike, and me. Chuck is taking the picture.
After Jenn, the sweep, gave a thumbs up for accountability, we took off again. Mike set quite a pace that reminded me of the conditioning hikes during my infantry days. We had lighter packs and much rockier terrain, but it was the same level of intensity.
About an eigth of a mile past a big signal tower, we turned right on a joining trail and followed it to Signal Knob Overlook. Here, our group ate lunch. See Norma and me in the third photo at left. We had a nice view of what we believe was the town of Strasburg to our northwest. See fourth photo at left.
Continuing on, I decided to take a slower pace in the back and chat with a few different folk, such as Jude, an airwing Marine.
It should have been a great time of year to see the fall colors but our long, dry summer meant we would get a late autumn start. But Norma managed to find a perfect leaf specimen in color transition that we brought back.
After a long, gradual climb, the leaders did an accountability check.
For the last few miles, I stayed near the front again. This time Cat set the pace. In a race, I don't know who would win, her or Mike. They're both really fast hikers.
We finished our 10.4 mile hike at about 1630. The total elevation gain was reported to have been 2680 feet.
Back at the campsite, I got in a good stretch (a ritual I started for myself a few hikes ago).
That evening, Jenn and Joe prepared toppings so we could make our own fajitas. Delicious.
Once it got dark, we headed back to the trailhead parking lot where Kevin set up his battery powered telescope. It was a new moon so we could see quite a few stars. We managed to see a few falling stars also. Kevin showed us a star that was a blue giant. He was the Carl Sagan of the evening.
Without a campfire, I was off to bed early. I awoke once during the night to the sound of an owl.
It got kinda cold during the night but after a low of 27 degrees on my Roaring Plains backpacking trip, it didn't seem that bad.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.