Deep Woods and I have a tentative plan now for this Spring’s AT section hike from Damascus, VA to Bear Garden Hostel on VA 42 (not quite 90 mi). Our schedules for the latter part of April and all of May are booked with family obligations so its either sometime early to mid-April or early to mid-June. Naturally, both have their pros and cons. Since we’ll be passing over Mt Rogers (within a 1/2 mi of the summit) and Grayson Highlands, the weather may be sketchy. It could be gorgeous…or its quite possible we could have cold, howling winds and snow. Average highs in April are mid-60’s and lows are mid-30’s. Average precip for the month is between 3.5 and 4 in. Assuming we’re not faced with gale force winds and rain, that sounds good to me! As for June, most thru-hikers should have moved on further North so it won’t be quite so crowded and the rhododendron should be in bloom, which would be awesome. However, considering how warm it got during our early May trek last year, we figured June may not be such a good idea. The bugs will likely be out in force and the average precip is a bit higher as well. So, for now, early April is our target. We’ll watch the forecast as the time to hit the trail draws near and make a decision then. I may just wimp out and vote for June, hoping for favorable temps and dry skies.
Until then, I’m anxiously watching the forecast for the earliest possible long, WARM weekend so Loonie and I can knock out the remainder of the Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail. There are two wet crossings on the section we have left: Padfield Branch and the Black River. I was able to cross the former on an earlier trip, May 2017, barely getting my shoes wet. The latter is another story. The OTA recommends using the Hwy N bridge to get across during high water. I would think that most times of the year it’s a simple wade across but regardless, neither of us relishes the thought of getting wet this time of year. Google “fair weather hikers” and you’ll undoubtedly see a picture of us! We had more than 8″ of snow this past weekend and another 3″ is on tap for this one. And we’re supposed to get more next week. Below freezing temps are predicted well into the following week so it may be a while before all of this melts and Padfield gets back to a level where we can cross without getting more than our feet wet. I’m just not familiar enough with the area and its fluctuations in river and stream levels to know for certain. The USGS has info online about current water levels of many of the Ozark’s waterways so I’ll refer to that and the OTA’s forums before we set out. Regardless, considering the time of year, I’m sure Loonie will want to take the bridge over the Black.
Meanwhile, I’m finally making a concerted effort to lose some weight and get into better shape. Gone are the days of dozens of little chocolate donuts, gallons of frozen custard and massive quantities of Coke.
It’s not like I’m training for a marathon or anything but I’ve got about 20 lbs or so to lose yet. For now, I’m just concentrating on eating better and doing some simple strength training. When all is said and done, I hope to lose more than my total starting pack weight from last year…which was just under 20 lbs. That would be sweet. A co-worker suggested I look into the ManFIT app. I’m all for saving a buck (or many bucks) by not having to join a gym so I’ll check that out. Deep Woods is training like he’ll be competing on American Ninja Warrior. What a butt head.
More to come…