The weather was exceptionally mild and I was itching to start the new millennium right. Furthermore, Amy had never been on a real backpacking trip before and was dying to try out her new sleeping bag and Thermarest knock-off. My AT wall map has a pesky 20-mile section just south of Harper's Ferry listed as unhiked, so it seemed logical that we would hike it.
Day 1 After much planning and car shuffling, we got a noon start from the Harper's Ferry historic district. Hazy sun and temperatures in the 40's. Nice day for hiking. Down the almost deserted Shenandoah Street, through the bridge construction and over the old bridge. Whizzing cars and trucks challenged our conception of this as a wilderness experience, but soon enough we were huffing and puffing up the mile and a half climb up Loudoun Heights. Amy's pack, really a large knapsack, was not behaving well and was causing tremendous back pain. With seven miles yet to hike and not so many hours of daylight left, I was becoming concerned.
Fortunately, the ridgeline hiking is surpassingly easy and we trundled along through the pleasently bare, brown and grey forest for several miles uneventfully. It's been quite a while since I hiked with someone else and I find the miles go both faster and slower having someone to talk to.
We arrived at dusk at the David Lesser shelter which is one of the nicest I've seen. Deck, dining pavilion, swing, several fire pits, and no more than 100 yards off the trail. Also deserted. Some kind soul had quite a stock of firewood, so we gathered some kindling and made a merry fire. Cooking ensued with noodles, tomato soup and dried peas and mushrooms. And (some would argue) too much tabasco. Thence to bed for the long winter's night.
Day 2 Never got too cold during the night, probably not even below freezing. Woke surprisingly late and got up leasurely. With only 11 miles left to go, I wasn't concerned. Trekked downhill quite a ways to a spring and packed up camp. Left by 10:15.
Sleeping bag test in progress
I was impressed at the scenery and serenity on this section which I expected to be a narrow section of trail wedged between housing developments. Better areas certainly exist, but worse ones do as well.
Total milage: 19 miles.
The Wilderness Journal