The view from McAfee Knob
Appalachian Trail from Va. 311 beyond McAfee Knob to Campbell Shelter and back. 8.8 miles.
The deal with The Day Hiker on this cold day was to walk to McAfee Knob and then, assuming it really was too windy and uncomfortable up there, walk on the additional .7 miles to Campbell Shelter and build a fire for lunch.
And while there were momentary considerations during the warming walk of the climb, there was also the immediate decision to walk on once we took in the beautiful views from the knob.
Campbell Shelter, most of the way down off of the knob of Catawba Mountain toward the ridge line that takes you to Tinker Cliffs, has long held the apocryphal title in our family as "the coldest shelter in Virginia," beginning more than a decade ago on a winter hike when the snow and wind seemed to preclude any shelter the shelter could provide. A more recent winter visit had the same context.
On this day, when temperatures struggled to get out of the 40s and recent rains had dampened fallen wood, Campbell lived up to its reputation again, at least for Gail, who had her hands spread over the tiny, flickering flame long before it could put out any real heat. She spent much of lunch shivering, but in the end the fire did warm her hands enough to remove the white-finger symptoms of Reynaud's before we started back up toward McAfee.
For wacky dog Cookie, on the other hand, Campbell is surely the favorite shelter to this point in her AT explorations: The breaking of a stick is not a part of fire-building to her, but instead a signal that a stick is being readied just for her. And if you don't throw that stick immediately, then she'll come grab it out of your hand, because it is hers. This nonsense served to keep me warm during lunch, as the series of breaks, throws, feints and even actual placing of sticks onto the fire kept me moving well; and while I threw sticks as far as I could into the woods, it was clear that the longer the throw, the faster the dog's gallop to retrieve the stick and come back to bother me some more.
At least it served to distract her owner from time to time – from her sit-there-and-shiver approach to a cool day at the coldest shelter in Virginia.
October 17, 2009