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Backpacking Ramsey's Draft Wilderness
Since I just finished posting my last year's backpacking trip, after almost a year's break, I thought I'd go ahead and write about the one we did this Spring. Ramsey's Draft is a wilderness area about 30 minutes west of Staunton, VA.
The US Forest Service first purchased land in this area in 1913 for Shenandoah National Forest, and has managed the Ramsey’s Draft area essentially as a wilderness since 1935 as much of it had never been logged. A road more than three miles upstream from U.S. 250 constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s lasted until 1969, when rainwater from Hurricane Camille wiped out much of the road at the stream crossings. Another flood in November 1985 further eliminated the original road and changed the course of the stream in multiple areas, shortly after the area was officially designated a wilderness under the Virginia Wilderness Act of 1984.
Ramsey's Draft was one of the last stands of Old-Growth Hemlocks in the Eastern U.S. There are still a few live trees and lots of small hemlock saplings, but overseas trade has introduced the woolly aeglid, native to east Asia, which has destroyed most of the hemlocks in the valley.
Well, we actually got started on Day 0: Friday night we drove out and arrived at about 1am, and pitched camp between the parking lot and the river. Bright and early the next morning we made pancakes (but it was still too early for me to document this) then packed up our gear and hit the trail.
We started out by fording the river, then climbing a steep hill on the other side, up to Bald Ridge.
Once on top we stopped to enjoy the view and catch our breath:
and check our phones:
and pose with the view.
Yes. I know the horizon isn't straight... no tripod this trip!
We then discovered that the trail didn't exactly stay on top of the ridge - more steep climbing!
Ridge hiking before the foliage came in was nice - no real views but a sense of space on either side. We stopped for a well-deserved lunch
The trail took us by a stagnant pond:
And another vista, before dropping down into the valley to Hiner Springs.
We dropped our packs and set up camp at Hiner Springs, but there was still a little side-trip we wanted to do - a short jaunt up to Hardscrabble Knob.
The Forest Service kocked down the fire tower on top of Hardscrabble Knob to prevent people from climbing it.
Also up on the knob there was an abandoned cabin, which had seen better days. No pullback shots because that was also a couple's kitchen for the night, but here's one of me in the window looking in.
Back at camp we waited for the flames to die down and cooked dinner on the coals, and then sat and told stories into the night. Hiner spring had about six different groups camping there, but we'd only seen one other person on the trail the whole day hiking.
The next morning we re-filled our water and headed down the valley. As you get lower the trees got bigger, but not many of them are still alive.
Some of the downed trees are real monsters!
up and over!
Many of the stream crossing we came to had nice tree bridges so we didn't get our feet wet in the beginning
For scale, here's a stump of an old-growth hemlock that's succumbed to the tiny aeglid beetle.
And a view through the trees - the canopy will fill in later in the spring, but many of these branches are dead. Sort of menacing looking...
Some of the crossings were a bit scary
We saw plenty of evidence of the road that was built in the 1930s.
There are also chunks of asphalt, and some pieces that have remained somewhat paved under a layer of leaves and pine needles. These are being steadily broken apart by tree roots.
We made it down to the bottom of the valley and hopping over more down trees we walked out with plenty of time to spare.
Well, that was my most recent backpacking trip. I tend not to go when it's quite as warm as it's been during the summer months, but will be heading back out this Fall, we'll see where I end up.
seem like you guys had loads of fun :) i love such trips into the wilderness :)
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