Shenandoah AT - Hwy 55 to Compton Gap to Gravel Springs Loop - April 2005

Trip theme - Bad Weather Karma tries to rear its ugly head

I led this as a Wilmington Trail Club backback April 22-24, 2005. I had several people signed up, but in the end I started out alone from VA Hwy 55 and met up with Sam at Compton Gap.

I had a little trouble finding the trailhead on VA Hwy 55. It seems it is a little further east from Linden than I thought it was. After driving back and forth a couple of times I figured I need to go further and eventually found the trailhead. The weather was somewhat dubious, but at least it wasn't raining when I left. The AT south of here meanders around for awhile and after a bit it got colder with a dampness in the air. It never really rained but it wasn't exactly a nice day. I passed by the Mosby Springs shelter and was very impressed with it. Too bad it wasn't far enough down the trail as I would have liked to stay at it. I signed the register and moved on. I passed one fellow heading north but that was it for people on the trail on a Friday. After crossing VA 602 I started to keep an eye out for the shelter. The trail description I had was pretty poor and led me to believe that the shelter was closer to VA 602 than it really was. Right about the time I was convinced I had somehow passed the shelter I came up on a sign that pointed the way to the Ginger spring and the Tom Floyd Wayside shelter. It turned out to be quite a trek back to the spring. When I got back there all I saw was dry rocks and was concerned that the spring was dry, however upon closer inspection the spring was flowing out of a pipe and was quite excellent. I filled up with water and found my way to the shelter. There were two people already there who were from North Carolina. After I got there it started to rain so I elected to stay in the shelter. One of the guys strung a tarp across the front to help keep the wind out. I noticed a piece of the roof that had some gum on it and figured it would leak. Sure enough later that night when the thunderstorm came in, it leaked like a sieve.

Next morning I slept in because I wasn't suppose to meet Sam until 10AM at Compton Gap. Today wasn't any warmer but at least the rain had stopped. I walked as slow as possible but still made it to the gap in an hour way ahead of schedule. Fortunately Sam was early so I didn't have to sit around. He loaded up and we set off for Gravel Springs. The day was reasonably nice and we had periods where the sun actually poked through the clouds. Sam kept indicating that the hills were longer than I had advertised along the way. Eventually we found our way down to the Bid Devils Stairs and decided to drop our packs and hike down to the first overlook. We sat on the overlook for 30 minutes or so until it the sun disappeared and it started to get cold. Right about the time we picked our packs back up it seemed like rain was imminent. And rain it did. I was able to get my Frogg Toggs on prior to getting soaked but then it just flat out poured until we got to the Gravel Springs Shelter at which point it stopped. There seemed to be a large number of people in the shelter, including the two guys from the night before at Tom Floyd, so Sam and I elected to set up our tents. 5 of the people in the shelter were high school seniors from somewhere in up state New York. They were a lot of fun and I enjoyed talking with them. The best part was that they were also fans of the National Barking Spider Resurgence Party. I thought I was the only one! I told them that this was who I voted for in the last presidential election and they found that immensely amusing. I was also amused by the fact that one of them had named a previous collapsable Nalgene bottle "Mr. Floppy".

Staying in the tents turned out to be a good idea as it was damp and the temperature likely was hovering around 40F in the morning. I kept commenting on the way back to the car that the temperature, wind and lack of leaves on the trees made this hike look and feel exactly like it did back in December. If you had dropped me there and asked me what month it was, I would have definitely said November or December. Definitely strange weather for late April. We strolled back along the AT, barely stopping because of the generally cold weather. Eventually we got back to the major obstacle for the day, climbing back up and over Compton Peak. I wanted to stretch my legs a little bit so I walked ahead of Sam and found the top. A little later Sam found the top and declared that 2 days, 18 miles and a big hill was enough for now. It was all downhill from there back to Sam's car. Sam then graciously shuttled me back around to my car thus ending the trip.

I've done this loop twice now and both times the weather was less than optimal. The loop itself however is a nice weekend trip with some very nice views assuming its warm enough to sit at them. I wouldn't do the AT section from Compton Gap to VA Hwy 55 again as it was pretty boring.

Mark starting out from VA Hwy 55. An incredibly nice shelter at Mosby Springs
Nice purple flowers on the trees Check out this leaf growing through a dead leaf
Mark at the Tom Floyd Wayside Shelter Picking up Sam at Compton Gap
Sam crossing a stream Nice bright orange salamander
Sam setting up camp at Gravel Springs Mark's camp at Gravel Springs
The inside of my spacious tent The crowd who slept in the Gravel Springs shelter
Sam is thrilled to have climbed back to the top of Compton Peak Mark and Sam make it back to the car


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