Virginia Backpacking – AT-Mau-Har Trail

Guys, I’ve been busy. And haven’t had much to write about. But you know what’s great? My weekends have been busy, but I’ve been home for most of them! Last Fall, I was gone almost every weekend, and this year, I’m here! What’s been keeping me busy, then? I don’t know really. The half marathon was three weekends ago (and so fun!). We had several friends over (both runners and non) for brunch afterwards. I made breakfast tacos: scrambled eggs, black beans, sautéed onions and peppers, tortillas, shredded cheese, cilantro, etc. Plus coffee and mimosas. And tomorrow, I’m taking my Project Management Professional certification exam. Studying for that has kept me busy. Will I be less busy now? Who knows. The election is tomorrow, and I expect work to get very busy after that (now I’m finishing this post days later, and the election is over. Ugh).

In mid-October, Dan and I did a two-night backpacking trip with a friend of mine that lives in DC. It was a three-day weekend for me, so I was willing to drive a little further and wanted to get two nights in. We ruled out Shenandoah due to no campfires and picked a loop with the Mau-Har Trail (also called the Three Ridges hike) in the George Washington National Forest. It was a little short for two nights, but we made it work. The total hike length was 14.4 miles, but a significant portion of it did not have water access, so we planned our camping accordingly.

Last Fall, our hiking plans were foiled by intense rain due to Hurricane Joaquin. This year, Hurricane Nicole and other meteorological activity threatened us – but we powered through.

We didn’t get started until about 5pm on Saturday and hiked only 1.6 miles to the Maupin shelter – in the pouring rain. My friend was smart and had brought a waterproof cover for her backpack. Dan and I don’t have them, so hoped for the best, which turned out just fine. There were plenty of campsites around the shelter. Some people were already there, but they weren’t planning to sleep in the shelter. Dan and I also decided to sleep in our tent, but my friend did not have a footprint for her tent so decided to sleep in the shelter. Before we went to sleep, all the campers hung out in the shelter to keep dry, which was nice. Overnight, the rain stopped but it was SUPER windy. Thank god no trees fell on us!

 

The next morning was chilly but sunny. And windy. The higher we hiked, the harder the wind blew, and it was a little crazy at times. There were some really great views.

We finally were sheltered from the wind on the other side of the mountain. We hiked about 8 miles total, turning onto the Mau Har Trail and camping about at the Campbell Creek camping area. This section of the Mau Har Trail (~1.5 miles) was almost entirely steep downhill. Kinda rough.

We were the only ones at Campbell Creek that night. We set up our tents on land between two running creeks. It was pretty loud from the running water, but really pretty and nicely sheltered from wind. We had a little trouble getting and keeping a fire going because all the wood was wet. Thank goodness my friend brought some small firestarter things :-).

On Monday, we hiked the 1.8ish miles back to the Maupin Shelter and AT on the Mau Har Trail. This trail was HARD. Campbell Creek where we camped was the bottom, and the rest was uphill back to the AT, a lot of it VERY steep. It was as if the trail blazers decided to use the shortest distance between two points instead of working with the mountain at all. That’s not true, of course, but it felt like it. I took a picture of the shelter in the sunshine instead of the dark and rain, as well as the start/end of the trail at Reeds Gap. Then we hiked the 1.6ish miles back to the car at Reeds Gap the way we’d come on the AT. We drove a few miles to Devil’s Backbone Brewery for lunch before heading back to DC and Baltimore.

Overall, it was a very nice hike that definitely provided a workout and great views. I think the weather kept some people away. According to reviews, it can be very crowded. The parking lot at Reeds Gap was full when we got there on Saturday. We got the last spot. We saw a lot of people on the trail, but it didn’t feel too crowded.

Also, I think we went one week early for great Fall colors. There were some, but the next couple of weeks would probably have been incredible.

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