It was a wild and wonderful weekend. On Friday I was supposed to be headed down south to Roanoke for a tripple crown hike/camping trip (McAfee, Tinker Cliff, and Dragon tooth) but God (or the hike lead) had a different plan. Plan was changing from the start. I was supposed to run the Ultra High Bridge 50k but instead I went for this trip. In the end, it was not meant to be.
As we were headed down to Roanoke, my hike lead was not feeling it. Instead at the last minute, we changed our plan to a nearer location. I don’t force her or mad at her fo a change of plan. Hiking any where is the same to me as long as we are all happy. The new location would still be just as hard, It has about 30 miles of hike and around total 8000 ft elevation change.
This place is less well known for backpacking. It has become a mountain bike trail and trail runner heaven. Ho and behold, as we pulled into the Wild Oak Trail head, the parking lot was packed. We got out, what to do and thinking what was going on. Normally, no one comes to this place after dark.
The guy who was tending at the parking lot quickly approved us to explain they were having a race going on for the weekend. We could stay and park on the side of the road as long as our car tires are completely off the road.
We were camping at the trail head with a race that was ongoing. The race started at 8 in the morning / or at night (I don’t remember). They were running 100+ miles). The trail has a 28-30 miles loop and they were running it 4 times. Through out the night as runners passed through the parking lot (an Aid Station as well as the starting and ending point) we heard cheers and applauses. Needless to say we had very little sleep.
As for me, I was trilled. I have read about races at Wild Oak. There was the Grindstone 100 and this was the hot TWOT. To finally be at ultra 100 miles race was heavenly. It was like shaking hand with celebrities. I might do the cold TWOT next February.
The next day we proceeded with our hike. My friend and I did this loop about three years ago. That time was my first backpacking trip (my friend disagreed) but I had plenty of memories from it because we did the whole thing in one day with a full pack on our back (and we were very miserable). This second time around we did it in a more relaxing way. Instead of hiking 28 miles in one day, we only hiked about 16 miles on the first day and finished the rest on the second. We camped somewhere in the middle. It was a good campground. I built a fire and tended it until backpacker midnight (when the sun went down and got completely dark) and I put it out and on the next day I bravely put my hand in the ash to make sure the ambers were completely out. Water was not plenty but still I pored water on the coals (I could pee on them, but I don’t think the ladies in our group would like that).
The next day, we finished the loop except we put in some extra miles after being confused by the signage and map. They changed the trail and the change was not on the map (at least that what we think). We had to rely on intuition and logic to get us ou of the place thanks to a very experience hiker in our group. He had a great sense of direction, otherwise we would still be looping at where we were lost for couple more times! Hey we all have our phones and gps, but none of us could make head or tail exactly where we were. We were lost for about an hour. I learnd some important old school navigation skills (love Sharron!). You don’t need map or signs if you use your head.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. We got out of the woods by early afternoon. I was in good shape. I ran this loop back in June and hiking it was not a challenge at all. It was no doubt considered one of the harder trail to run or hike, but splitting it into two days was really too easy.
Don’t ask me how I don’t remember the trail even though I was on it as recently as couple months ago. My friend I should start remembering stuffs. Haha! I really don’t bother remember unimportant stuffs.
Another thing I did differently on this trip was I carry a 28L bag (like a normal school backpack) and it was small and light weight. I was very light on my feet. It was a bit too heavy to run with, but I could have. I didn’t bring a tent but slept under the stars. It was cold at night but it was not too bad. The temperature was around 50-60F (around 10-15C). Couple times I was awaken by the cold and I had to move around in my sleeping bag to warm up (I slept in my undies). I didn’t bring long johns; didn’t need them. My friend said I must have a higher body temperature. I had my downs sleeping bag though, and that kept me warm enough.
I surprised myself to be able to pull off being minimalist on a camping trip. It can be quite dangerous because I could have frozen to death.