Saturday, September 06, 2008

Breakin' Da Roolz

What can I say? I had the entire gorge to myself. It was kind of scary as night fell.

Sometimes I break my own self-imposed rules when I go backpacking. One of these rules, which I interpret as part of the "leave no trace" ethic, is to not build campfires.

Generally, I do a good job of abstaining from building fires. Most of the time I can't stand to be around campfires when I'm backpacking. On a trip a couple of years ago I set up my tent in Deep Gap along the
Black Mountain Crest Trail. Having been the first person to arrive in the gap, I set up my tent in what was, arguably, the best spot there. By late afternoon about half a dozen other hikers arrived and set up their tents. A pair of couples decided to build a campfire just upwind from me. So I had to suffer through about two hours of their attempts to start a fire. While they were ultimately unsuccessful, for quite a while I had to breathe their freaking smoke while they tried to get the damp wood to ignite (it had just rained rather hard just before their arrival). I could have showed them how to build a proper fire, but I didn't want one in the gap. I wanted total darkness. I did not want the trappings of fires and such ruining the wilderness experience for me.

However, this past year, I broke my own rule not to build a campfire. I had hiked down into the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. Once at the bottom of the gorge, I searched for a decent campsite and found quite a good one. Level, forested, and adjacent to the Linville River. It not only had a tremendous pre-existing fire ring, someone had built a nice bench out of stones and driftwood. So I set up there.

Pretty soon I began to realize that I seemed to have the entire gorge to myself. Not only hadn't I seen any other humans, I hadn't heard any other people. For whatever reason, I began to feel lonely. I looked at the fire ring and figured I couldn't do any more harm to the ground than had already been done, and decided to build a campfire. As I was beside the river, there was absolutely no shortage at all of tinder-dry driftwood.

In short order I had collected up huge piles of fire wood and the stuff with which to start a blaze.
A few minutes later I had a good fire going, and soon I was tossing in larger and larger logs. There are times when a good fire almost seems like company.

Looking Glass Falls

There are signs ALL AROUND THIS WATERFALL telling you NOT to climb on it and FOR GOD'S SAKE NOT TO JUMP OFF OF IT! However...

Here's one of our all-time favorite campgrounds. In addition to this being a kickass campground, you are smack in the middle of the Mount Rogers Recreation Area, which is packed bottom to top with outdoor recreation. You could spend an entire summer here and still not do everything worth doing in this tiny corner of southwestern Virginia.

As if I needed one more reason.

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