Hiking the Appalachian Trail in Winter
Left: Kurt and Cookie on the trail. Right: The struggling campfire.
Appalachian Trail from Va. 614 north to Bryant Ridge Shelter and back. 6.4 miles.
On the cold day after snowfall ranging from an inch or so to six inches, we made big plans to be sure we'd have a good fire at Bryant Ridge Shelter. We checked for good matches, crafted a toilet-paper tube full of dryer lint and each carried a small dry log. We were set.
As we climbed from the low spot along Jennings Creek, where there were more leaves showing on the trail than snow, the dictum of more elevation means more snow proved itself once again, as by the time we reached the top of Fork Mountain, we were walking in three or four inches of snow, with the trees carrying full cloak. All the more reason to look forward to the great fire with lunch.
Well, whatever Backpacker magazine may have to say about the magic of packed dryer lint, I'm here to say it just doesn't work all that well as a fire starter. We settled on some dry leaves from under the shelter and a piece of newspaper at the bottom of my pack. Plus some small sticks also from under the shelter. Which seemed like plenty.
Maybe it was the wet base of the fire pit. Maybe it was the overall dampness of things even from under the shelter. Maybe it was just that I'm not all that good building a fire. Whatever the reason, and even with the good dry pieces carried from home, we struggled to get The Day Hiker enough heat for her hands and feet to stay comfortable during lunch.
Wacky dawg Cookie, on the other hand, could not get enough of the snow and cold, taking a few moments every now and again to speed around insanely in the snow.
This pleasant walk took us more than an hour and half each way… sure, the snow slows you down a little, but it felt, both ways, like a long 3.2.
December 6, 2009