Then again: Elk Garden to Thomas Knob Shelter (and back)

I didn’t want to go hiking on Friday. Isn’t that funny? Sometimes I get so caught up in all the business of school and errands and just the *stuff* I have to do that the simple act of packing for a weekend in the forest stresses me out. Me, of all people! I pack all the time! I can pack my pack with my eyes closed! But it had been engineers week, and that came with so many activities on TOP of my usual work, and I was just done. 

Mr and Ms Mechanical Engineering ^
So it happens. I would have called it off or left Saturday morning instead, but Butcher and SarTec were waiting for me, and they didn’t have cell phone service; if I failed to show, they’d be worried. 
So I did my things and started the drive to Virginia, stressed and frustrated and not…really…happy. 
I missed the sunset. It would be a night hike for me. 

I’ve hiked from Elk Garden to Thomas Knob a couple of times now. I know the drill. 
It’s a great hike. And of course, as soon as I stopped to eat a quick dinner (tortilla, cheese, honeybun, fudge round — can you tell I’ve abandoned my diet?) and got a mile or two under my feet, I felt better. 

Night hikes get pretty lonely though. I like to listen to podcasts when I hike. If you are looking for suggestions, I can recommend History Chicks, Dear Prudence, Tom and Lorenzo, How I Built This, and maybe FiveThirtyEight. 

Anyways, I got to the shelter and delivered my goodies to the boys (brownies, Honeybuns, fudgerounds, etc). I met Biscuit, a past several-times thru hiker who, AS IT TURNS OUT, hiked with Dr Love shortly before I met him. 
It was warm and peaceful and I was happy to go to sleep. 
I learned to make pancakes in the morning. Let me amend that: I learned to make pancakes ON A POCKET ROCKET. Of course I can make pancakes on a stove, but the boys and I decided to have pancakes for breakfast but weren’t ready to build a fire. Also it was raining. 

Sar tec tried but he ruined them. So I took over instead of backseat driving him, and by the end of the mix, I was getting perfect pancakes. It required much patience. 

In the mean time, the cold front moved in. The wind picked up into huge gusts, and we tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags and …well, I took a nap. 

The afternoon we spent cooking lunch- I had steak tips marinated in Dale’s, and cut up potatoes, squash, zucchini, jalapeños, onions, and bell peppers. The boys made foil packets for the veg and cooked the steaks on the flat plate and I…slept some more. It was a hard week! 

We ate. 

Some weekending girls came in to the shelter. They set up their stuff and we whispered to each other about how unprepared they were. Summer bags, with a predicted wind chill of 0F tonight. They’d be in for a rough night. 
As the temperature dropped further, and more weekenders filtered past, we bundled up inside. It wasn’t the air but the wind. I mean, it was chilly, but nowhere near my top 5 coldest nights. 

The girls decided to bail, and hiked out to their car. We were glad they did, for their sake. 
An early night, and more sleep. 

Well, I say it was an early night. I woke up several times from the wind. It sounded like the roof was going to fly off. 
It was definitely cold in the morning. We saw two people walking by with an extra pack; we asked what was up, and they said a guy in their group had been evacuated. He’d gotten too cold. 
You can get away with a lot of stupid stuff on the AT, but pay attention to weather. 
We packed up and hiked out. 4 miles to my car, then another few miles for the guys to their next shelter. It was a windy, chilly walk, but the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the ponies were waiting for us. 

It was worth the Friday stress, that hike. I’m getting a bit tired of the out and backs, and I’m itching for new trail. It’s not time yet, though. I’ve got some plans I’m mulling over, but nothing concrete yet. 
Anyways. I still love this section. There’s so much packed in to those short 4 miles. It’s one I definitely recommend if you’re looking for an AT section. I mean, clearly; I keep hiking it. 

I could wax on about my frustrations or explain why I’m doing what I’m doing but what’s the point? We all get stuck doing some hikes we don’t really want to do just because we need our forest fix, but we can’t fly to new trail all the time, and we can’t afford a shuttle every trip. And to be frank, I miss summer days and more daylight for longer miles without a headlamp. 

So a few more out and backs and low, low miles. And then? Happy trails ahead, my friends! 

Trip total: uhhh 8
MVP: steak and veg fajitasssss

LVP: that wind!

7 thoughts on “Then again: Elk Garden to Thomas Knob Shelter (and back)

  1. I have to write with more close ups like you do. It makes it much more personal. Your entries are ALWAYS so fun and honest and easy to read. I’m going out to finish the north end of NJ on Saturday and Sunday. You’re so right about the weather! It will be 12F Saturday night. Think I’ll take an extra layer! Congratulations on your engineering award!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Before I starting read posts and watching youtube videos by people who section or through-hike the AT, I would have been a typical “weekending girl” like the ones that you guys encountered. I was so clueless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been considering doing some videos, but it’s not something I enjoy watching. What do you look for in a “good” trail video? Ideal length? Etc. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


  3. Looking at doing this exact route to Thomas Knob Shelter to avoid weekend crowds and not start in GH park. Is it really pretty close only 4 mile one way and with what looks to be great views and ponies? Is parking pretty safe at Elk Garden? Are the trail intersections pretty well marked or dead reckining work good too? Thanks for the great post.


    1. Parking is very safe, it’s a popular trailhead and I’ve seen it pretty packed. Intersections are very well marked from what I remember. It’s a pretty short hike, but you can’t always count on ponies being there. I’ve had to walk another mile north from the shelter to find ponies before, but it’s a beautiful and pretty easy mile 🙂


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