Appalachian Trail - Caledonia SP to Penmar - March 3-4, 2007

Trip theme: "Snow/Ice" or "My Property"


Getting ready to leave Caledonia SP This was an official Wilmington Trail Club backpacking trip on March 3-4, 2007 along the AT from Caledonia SP to Penmar. I chose this section because it was a missing piece in my near term goal to complete the AT from the southern end of Shenandoah to the Hudson river. Jim had inconveniently scheduled the Saturday hike of this section when I was climbing out west, so it was perfect to fill this in on my 2nd annual winter backpacking trip. Originally it was to be the same four of us as last year, but Paul and his son dropped out last minute. So it was just George and I.

I went out skiing with the family at Liberty ski resort on Friday and then spent the night out there. Penmar is only a 10 mile drive from the ski resort so this was convenient. I decided to try sleeping in my car with the backseats down and see how that worked out. It was OK, despite the teenagers knocking on the window at 2AM, but I don't think I'd rush to do it again. George met me in the morning and we made the shuttle. This year we would get the fun of snow on the trail. Almost immediately out of the parking lot we were on a combination of snow and ice on the trail. This would be the dominant trail conditions except for on southern facing slopes. I hadn't considered it ahead of time, but hiking from north to south was a very good decision as it was far easier to go up the icy north slopes than it would have been to try and go down them. As it was the snow/ice made the backpacking more tiring than it would otherwise have been. Mid morning the forecast had called for light rain, instead we got snow. It snowed pretty hard with big flakes for about 45 minutes. This made the trail a little easier as the new snow gave the ice a little more grip that it had previously. The temperature was mostly comfortable today and bordered on hot when the sun was out. There seemed to be fresh footprints in the snow ahead of us and we wondered who it was. At a trail register we found it that it was a thru hiker. South bound in March? How odd. So we figured there was no chance in catching him until we caught him. He was resting at the first shelter we came to. The fellow was an overweight retiree who had just started his thru hike from Caledonia that morning. No wonder we caught him. We bid him good day and moved on to the planned stop at Antietam shelter.

The shelter is conveniently located next to a creek and was one of the few snow free areas we had come across. Perfect for setting up our tents. George initially set up his tent inside the shelter and said if anyone came along he would move out into the grass with me. Well after a bit our thru hiker friend showed up and said this was as far as he could go today. I got to chatting with him and found out he was carrying 48 lbs! Not gonna make Georgia with 48 lbs. I asked him what his plan was and it is a flip flop. He was starting in Caledonia and going south to Springer, then flipping to Katahdin and going south to Caledonia. Supposedly this is done to maximize good weather on the trail. Never heard of anyone actually doing it that way. He told us a story of how he was at a boy scout retreat out west and the leader wouldn't let him on the trail because he weighed too much. As he described it this seemed unreasonable. Then I saw him waddle over to the creek to get water. Unless there is some miracle transformation this guy has no chance of getting to Georgia. He also talked at length about his property. It seems he owns 45 acres near Caledonia and is having run in's with various neighbors about right of away's, driveways and hunting rights. This is exactly the kind of guy I want to make sure I don't live next to. Someone who is all anal about "my property". I did learn a valuable lesson from him for when we go to buy land. Make sure your land has direct access to a public road so you don't have to deal with right away's with a jackass like this guy. The night wasn't as cold as I thought it would be and was probably around 30F by morning.

30F in the morning was as warm as it would get today. The wind picked up and it seemed like it actually got colder as the day went on. There were longer snow free sections today but also steeper icier sections. Especially once we crossed over Route 16. The trail was all on the north side of the mountains and was steep and icy. It would have been very helpful to have crampons. Luckily there was one set of footprints frozen into the ice which made it a little easier to go up. It would have been difficult indeed had we had to go down this way. The way after Route 16 was longer than I thought it would be but eventually we finished up around 10:30A at the Penmar Park overlook. We were hoping for a post trip meal at Dairy Queen but alas it didn't open until 11:30 on Sunday, so Hardee's it was.
Starting to snow. I should have waited to take the picture as it really snowed hard a little later
This is what most of the trail looked like
Look closely and you can see the buzzards from Buzzard Peak
The view to the east from Buzzard Peak
Shame on you George for setting up your tent in the shelter
Sleep outside like a man
Preparations are underway for the hot dog fire
Frozen footprints from the phantom backpacker
The overlook at Penmar Park


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