Wild Oak Trail BP

Day 182

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.

Torry Ridge BP

Day 102

It was a beautiful hike. My friend and I spent a couple days doing 20+ miles. The first night, we hiked a mile to the camp site. There were three other people there already. They happily let us shared the camp. They were using hammocks and so there were still room for us to pitch our tents.

We got up at usual backpacking time, and after breakfast we set out. There were a brief rain for maybe 30-45 minutes. We actually got back to the car and sat until the storm passed, since there was no rush.

We hiked a short loop, 20 Minutes Cliff/Overlook — that was what it was called. It think it took us more than 20 minutes to that.

We then got to the Slack Trail Overlook and continued hiking up on the Slack Trail to Torry Ridge. We did the whole trail and reach Sherando Lake. We stopped for a twenty minutes lunch. The lake was a popular spot. We saw several other families out and about at the lake. But we pressed on since there were some rough climbing for the rest of the day.

He hiked up Torry Ridge again, and that was a tough climb with a full stomach. The rest of the hike was not so clear to me since I didn’t look at the map for this portion. We hiked to the Torry Furnace to connect to the Mill Trail, which runs parallel to the Torry Ridge Trail. We did the whole thing and at the end we had to climb up. That was one of the most intense climb especially when we were tired (it was around 5-6 pm by now). We could have camped below in the valley by the river but we want to leave early the next day with less mileage. Based on the map, if we camp at the ridge, we only have about 5 miles to do the next day.

We met another backpacker and he said the ridge was too windy. However, we decided to press on ahead. It was indeed very windy. Luckily the temperature was warm. I was able to sleep but the wind kept my friend up.

The next day was an easy down hill hike and we were out by 10.