Finally got a minute to report a short 6 day walk on the AT from Damascus to the US 11/I-81 crosing at Groseclose, VA. Hammocked when I could and wimped into shelters for 3 nights. I know, I know - shame, shame, shame!!! But read on you wimpy couch potatoes!
Had a good start from Damascus to Lost Mtn Shelter in cloudy cool weather (15.8 miles) on Mar 31st. Nice hanging spot with big fir and pines. Put up the new OES 11x10 SpinnUL and hung the HULBA. Six other folks in the shelter. Hanging well when the storm breaks at 1930 - steady wind at 25-30 mph and gusts to 50. Trees moaning and cracking - not a good sign. Wimped into the shelter at 2200 with the other ground crawlers. Heavy thunderstorms arrived at 0100 -lightning and pouring rain. Checked the tarp at 0130 and she was still straight as an arrow and taunt. Same at 0700, nice and dry under the tarp.
Bugged out to Mt Rogers and Thomas Knob Shelter in cloudy and cool weather again. Fog, clouds, and light drizzle on Buzzard Rock and then all the way to Mt Rogers. Good day for wearing the rain gear. Low and behold, there ain't a set of trees around Thomas Knob to hang in. Too many small firs and thicker than hairs on a dog's back. Wimped into the shelter again. Only benefit today was sun popped at 1645 for about 2 hours. Got to see the Grayson Highlands and the ponies for a short while. Temps dropping at dark. At 2300 the fog and clouds have covered everything. Wake up with a wet sleeping bag inside the shelter from the swirling wind. Bah Humbug!
Third day (Thurs) arrives with moderate winds (less than 25 mph), rain, mist, fog, low clouds, blowing around the Highlands. Head back out on the AT at 0845 after topping out on Mt Rogers at 0745. Visibility about 100 to 200 feet most of the morning on the open Highlands. Bum out the right knee at 1030 and limp into Wise Shelter at 1200. 5 miles and I call it quits for the day to let the knee rest. Pull out the bag and pad and then have a revelation: Put the HULBA over my bag as a vapor barrier. Guess what? It works. My bag stayed dry all afternoon and night. Temp at 44* Wrapped knee gets better overnight.
As bad as I thought Thursday was, Friday was worse. Temp at 40* at 0700. Kept the knee wrapped and went across open ridges of Stone Mtn with wind gusts to 50-60 mph and steady at 25-30 mph, with rain, mist and clouds blowing sideways. Visibility less than 100 feet most of the way across. Got into the shelter of the trees after passing the "Scales" and corral before Pine Mtn. Made it to Hurricane Mtn Shelter with temps dropping again. 44* at 1900 with the wind still blowing like a "hurricane". Appropriate for this shelter. Too much wind again for safe hanging; just another excuse for ground crawling. Dragged the HULBA over the sleeping bag again and had a good nights sleep between the wind storms.
Temp at 0700 on Saturday is 39 with frost, but wind is subsiding and sun is popping out behind Dickey Gap. Looks like a great day to rumble. Knee is unwrapped and ready to go. Put on the speed and headed for Partnership Shelter, 19.7 miles away. Great trails and good scenery from the ridgelines. Sunny and warm all day. Thank you Lord for a day to enjoy. Best long distance this old dawg has done in a while. Reached Partnership at 1800 to find Boy Scout Troop 42 encamped. One thru hiker already there set up in a bivy under the pines. But there was plenty of room. Good thing as 8 more hikers came in after me. 5 took up residence in the loft, 2 in a tent, 2 under tarps and bivys and myself in the HULBA. Ordered pizzas and sodas from the Mt Rogers NRA HQ building and had a great evening with good hiker company and the Scout troop. The hammock finally got some good use, until 0330 when the coyote serenade began at 100 yds down the trail. 10 minutes later they finished and I got back to the sleeping thing.
Last day on Sunday was a cake walk up and over to pick up point at US 11/I-81 junction at Groseclose. Beautiful, sunny, and almost hot day. Good company all the way.
Summary: Carried way to much weight but I used everything in the pack one day or another due to the weather conditions. Found a new use for the hammock besides hanging - emergency top cover vapor barrier. It does breath. Good hike despite the weather. Will need to go back when I can actually see the Grayson Highlands. June is probably a good time for that.