Posted by: davepidgeon | December 5, 2008

Shivering in the Shenandoah

If there’s one sure thing that can wreck your best-laid plans or make your trip a success, it’s weather. My friend Jason and I are facing such a dilemma for the upcoming weekend. We’re set for a two-day, one-night backpack in Shenandoah National Park hoping to chase early winter vistas and icy waterfalls, and just when we had our route set, Mother flippin’ Nature gets in the way.

If you’ve ever been to Shenandoah, you know the best way to access just about every trail is via Skyline Drive, which runs the length of the park for more than 100 miles. The problem is in winter because of ice or snow the National Park Service shuts off access to Skyline Drive as it has right now. That means you’re forced to find your way into the park via backcountry roads, and that’s not easy because many are gravel, unkept or pass private territory. Fortunately, Jason and I think we have found a way to gain access to our original route after some hand-wringing over what to do.

Weather forecast is for temps to be in the upper 30s and low 40s on Saturday and Sunday, and Saturday night the temps are likely to plunge into the teens. Some moderate snow is predicted. I haven’t yet invested in a goose-down 0 degree sleeping bag – silly me – and so I’m forced to haul a bulky synthetic from Eastern Mountain Sports. Hey, when I bought it, the bag cost only $50. Forgive me for being frugal. I considered a 20 degree goose-down bag (the Exped Catepillar) with an added liner, but after some advice, I thought better of it. 

I plan to file a few gear reports after the trip like my new Black Diamond trekking poles.


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