Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Practice Hike #3: Three Ridges

Peter Jefferson (Tommy's brother) referred to the Blue Ridge Mountains as "The Devil's Backbone."  There's no doubt that Three Ridges Mountain is related to the Devil....

If you want to experience the hell of 13.5 miles of (seemingly) 80-degree inclines and declines littered with ankle-breaking boulders, then Three Ridges is the hike for you.  And if you crave an extra challenge, do the hike in one day of steady rain.

A couple of weeks ago, Corey gave us a dire warning: Three Ridges will break some egos.  No sh*t.  It broke more than my ego—it’s two days later and I’m still crawling up stairs.  You can bounce quarters off my tight hamstrings.  I'm a mess, but thankful that I did this hike.

The trail started with a steep three-quarter mile climb up Bee Mountain, followed by a steep three-quarter climb down Bee Mountain.  When we reached the first shelter, Corey said, “I promise that was the worst of the trail.  I’m pretty sure he had been hitting the flask since dawn.

The climb up Three Ridges Mountain
 After a tough two mile climb, we reached the first overlook.  As you can see below, it was a breath-taking view of the surrounding valley and neighboring Priest.  This overlook made our strenuous hike worth the effort. 

Oops…I stole this picture from VirginiaTrailGuide.com.  This is what we saw when we got to the summit.

That’s right. Nada. Zip. Zero. Jack. 

We're smiling because Corey told us the worst was over
And here’s a photo a little further up the trail from one of the “best views on the trail” (near Chimney Rock). 
Corey & Bob taking in the stunning views
We hiked through fog and rain the entire day, and didn’t see a damn thing.  Actually, the rain turned out to be a blessing.  While it obscured the rewarding views we had come for, it was fantastic hiking weather.  I’m pretty sure I would’ve died on the trail had it been the hot and humid conditions of a typical July day.

After the (supposedly) amazing overlooks, we descended another two miles to the Harper’s Creek Shelter for lunch.  The rocky descent was absolutely brutal, but the waft of the shelter's campfire gave me hope that the bottom was near.

The descent from the summit
Someone thought it would be funny to blaze a pile of rocks and call it a trail

Keeping the fire lit for us @ Harper's Creek Shelter

At the shelter, I plowed through half the food in my bag, refilled my bladder, took a shot of Jack, and then we hit the trail again…

After seven miles of relentless hill after hill, I really thought the worst was over. I thought our hike through Campbell Creek canyon would be a scenic walk with lots of pretty waterfalls and swimming holes. 
Pretty waterfall on the Mau-Har Trail

But some masochist named Angelo Filippi 'designed' the Mau-Har trail as a cruel joke to punish hikers.

The Mau-Har Trail destroyed me.  I’m writing this entry two days after the hike, and I’m still having waking nightmares of the first hill we climbed after lunch.  I don’t have words (or pictures) to describe how stupid this hill was.  But that was only the beginning…Angelo had some more in store...

As we hiked through the canyon, I didn’t appreciate the beauty of the canyon's waterfalls because I was too busy climbing boulders and trying not to bust my ass.  And despite my increased awareness of the terrain at my feet, I still managed to submerge my shoe in a stream (multiple times).  Once my shoe got wet, I thought it was game over. It was only a matter of time before blisters would spontaneously combust around my foot—but somehow I finished unscathed.  I love love love my Oboz Sawtooths—three big hikes and my feet are still intact.

The rest of the Mau-Har trail was a blur. I just wanted to go back to the parking lot and cry.

Once we finished our 12-mile loop and returned to the first shelter in Maupin Field, Corey gave us the options to leave the trail via a FLAT service road or to leave the way we came in.   Instead of taking the "easy way" out, Di and I climbed over Bee Mountain again (we're so macho!)  Almost nine hours after we started, we were back at our van... and ready for hard ciders at Bold Rock.

(As a side note: I haven't mentioned my teammate/wife much in this blog...she doesn't like the attention, but let me state for the record: she's amazing. She doesn't eat or drink water on these hikes, she doesn't break a sweat, and she waits for me...I'm starting to suspect that I married a cyborg.  I'm so thankful that she's been able to hike with me. When I started to fall behind mentally and doubt myself on the final hills, she was there to give me the boost--and WATER-- I needed.)

Di owning the Mau-Har trail
Despite the difficulty of this trail, this hike was an amazing experience.  Something everyone should do at least once. This was a HUGE accomplishment for us, and a great bit of momentum as we head into the final two months of training.  For weeks, the anxiety of hiking Three Ridges had been building...we weren't sure if our bodies or minds could handle it...and I'm proud to say WE KICKED ASS. Bring on Massantutten Mountain.

If you'd like to support our adventure, please click on the link and donate!  We're HALFWAY to our goal, and we could use your help! :)

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