Summit by Sunrise, Breakfast at Big Meadows
The Hike from Hell
An E2 Noder Meet of Nietzschean Proportions
An Appalachian Trail Experience along Virginia's Blue Ridge Parkway
Saturday, May 22, 2004

Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker. -- Friedrich Nietzsche

Please join us on Saturday, May 22, 2004, as we summit Hawksbill Mountain, the highest point in the U.S. Shenandoah National Park at 4050 ft.

Nietzsche wrote, "What does not kill me makes me stronger." Do you believe that about yourself? If you do, this philosophy will be put to the test on an otherwise gorgeous weekend as you and your fellow E2ers climb Hawksbill Mountain in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park.

You will climb 700 feet in less than a mile to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain before sunrise, watch as the sun comes up, scamper down the mountain, go on a forced march of 4-5 more miles along the Appalachian Trail through a section having some of the most breathtaking scenery of the Shenandoah Valley imaginable, sit on boulders with nothing below your feet but treetops, and then -- finally! -- sit down to a hearty breakfast at the Big Meadows lodge.

The beautiful Shenandoah National Park (SNP) in Virginia is 90 minutes away from Washington, D.C., and is about 45 minutes away from the University of Virginia.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 200 mile road that runs along the ridgetop of the spectacular Blue Ridge Parkway. To the east is Rappahannock County, a region of rolling hills and farms. To the west is the winding Shenandoah river and green quiltwork of small Virginia farms. The drive is beautiful in the fall and spring months.

The SNP is gorgeous in late spring. Wildflowers cover the high meadows and hillsides. You may see deer, small black bears, fox, chipmunks, and all manner of birds along the trail.

Details. I need details.

Friday, May 21

12:00 p.m. Check in time to your tent campsite at Big Meadows. (see reservations below) Check in at the ranger station. We have tents at the "walk-in" portion of the park. Take one of the tent campsites assigned to us. Drive back and pitch your tent and relax.

5:00 - 6:00 p.m. Dinner. Let's try to have dinner together and get to know each other. We have a cake for Borgette's birthday. Grundoon promises there will be singing. For the more musically challenged (ahem), we will be listening and appreciating.

After dark: A starlight walk through Big Meadows.

Saturday, May 22

4:30 a.m. Leave Big Meadows Visitor Center parking lot and drive to Hawksbill Gap parking area. Begin the 700 ft. walk up.

We'll probably divide into two walking teams: a faster one and a slower one. Team leaders will have maps.grundoon has walkie talkies. First team lead will have a radio and second team trailer (grundoon) will have the second radio. Keep radios on at all times. Radio checks every 15 minutes. If anyone gets hurt tell your team leader. grundoon will have a field kit and can do basic medical stuff.

5:45 a.m. Summit Hawksbill Mountain and watch the sun rise. Photo op!

6:15 a.m. Begin walk down the Salamander Trail, which connects with the Appalachian Trail. 500 ft descent to Fishers Gap. Hikers too tired to continue can take a short trail down to Upper Hawksbill parking area, where they will be picked up and taken back to Big Meadows.

7:15 a.m. Franklin Cliffs overlook. Stop for extended water break. Excellent photo opportunity, especially as you pose on lichen-covered boulders with nothing but the budding trees below you. You're relaxed, you've had water, the sun feels good, you're getting hikers' high. Welcome to the wonderful world of AT hiking! ***************** After this nice break the last thing you want is to get up, but get up you must. Now begins the tough part, the final 500 feet up to Big Meadows. It's not tough physically, it's tough mentally. Perhaps your hunger will convince you to keep moving. Otherwise we leave you on the trail, and you'll be something's dinner tonight, some meat eating animal that's developed a taste for day hikers.

8:40 a.m. Fishers Gap. It's only a few hundred yards from the Cliffs. Last place to get picked up by cars if you really really can't make it.

9:45 a.m. Big Meadows. You've made it! Walk to the lodge and wash face, wash hands, come join the smelly crew for breakfast in the upstairs restaurant. Meals will set you back about $8.50.

Some of you will want to break camp as soon as we get finished with breakfast, as you're only staying one evening and have other things to do. Checkout time is 12 noon.

If you're staying an extra day, the afternoon is free. The truly adventuresome can do the Lewis Falls trail, hiking down 700 ft to a picturesque waterfalls very close to Big Meadows. There are many many walks very close to Big Meadows ranging from a mile or two to about ten miles, and quite a few waterfalls in the area too. Rangers have detailed walking maps of the area.

The Big Meadows area has large open fields perfect for wildflower picking, Ultimate Frisbee, and football.

The evening will be OYO. It would be nice to have a dinner together in a local town such as Luray or Sperryville. Some of us will have been able to take showers, and some of us will still be smelly from the walk. After dinner, Big Meadows has places to make campfires, which are ideal places to make S'Mores, roast marshmallows, and tell scary stories. An impromptu poetry slam may break out. Perhaps we will learn new ways of cursing in strange languages. (Think of the children!) Perhaps one of the Old Ones will regale us with a history of the Early Days of Everything2, back when saber toothed tigers roamed the land, and servers were just invented. Evening strolls into the big meadow are encouraged, because the view of the Milky Way overhead is fantastic.

Sunday, May 23

Those of us remaining will have to break camp by 12 noon. I hope we can have a breakfast together before departing.

Hike philosophy

We need a hike philosophy? Oh yes. All actions are dictated by philosophies. The operative philosophy for this trip is "Make Do". You make do with less. You don't need a GPS, a compass, a hike pedometer, a walking stick. You need a good pair of legs and a good pair of shoes and a little bit of water, and that's it, bunkie.

Sparkling conversation, witty repartee, blue skies, wildflowers galore, and fresh air are all you really need.

WiFi? Don't need it Laptop? Don't need it. Palm Pilot? Would probably be thrown off Hawksbill Mtn. Cell phone? If you want to see me go apeshit, start a one-sided conversation with J Random Person on the trail. Pager? Prolly not a good idea. (See previous item.) 40 lb pack with various hi-tech convenience items/encumbrances? Well that shore is purdy, but it would look far better on somebody else. (SEKRIT MSG TO KFX: D00der, if I see you bringing non-authorized military navigation in with you, there's nothing I'll be able to do except stare disappointedly. But it will also be a baleful stare.)

What you need is attitude, a sense of humor, and a desire to Finish The Job, for good or ill. That is all ye know, and all ye need to know.

What to wear

Dedicated to arcanamundi, who believes I'm completely anal about making lists like this one.

  • Walking shorts.
  • Socks. Two pair: a thick pair of long socks that go above the boot top. A thin pair of at least ankle length slip socks. These prevent blisters. Silk slip socks are a good investment.
  • Hiking boots. A good sturdy pair of over-the-ankle hiking boots to help you avoid twisted ankles and knees. Vibram soles for sure-footed boulder climbing. NB - If you buy new hiking boots just for this make sure you break them in with a few long hikes.
  • Shirts/tops. Think layered. Wear a light tee shirt underneath and a long sleeved flannel shirt over. You can always take the shirt off when you get really hot. And you will. Trust me on this one.
  • Jacket. Optional.

What to bring

  • Water bottle.
  • Bandanna and/or hand towel. For the sweat.
  • Flashlight.
  • Camera.
  • Trail mix. Peanuts, raisins, and M&Ms in a small ziplock sandwich bag will get you through the morning. PowerBar? Oh, okay, if you really insist. But the home made stuff is better.
  • Hat with visor. You don't really need one, unless you're like EXTREMELY light sensitive, but whatever.
  • Bug spray. For spraying on clothes to keep the gnats and ticks off. "You have ticks???" Oh yeah, big ones. They're waiting in trees, waiting, watching, lurking. Seen a few deer ticks suck a man completely dry once, before I popped 'em off with a .308. Big Marine too. It was horrible. Anyway, if your bug spray has DEET you'll be okay, except for the irreparable genetic damage. But that's years later.
  • Identification. In case you get mauled by bears so badly that the only way we could identify you is by dental records or your wallet. ONLY KIDDING. HA HA I AM A KIDDER.
  • TEAM LEADERS will carry trail map, cell phone or radio, and car keys.


SNP has two main campgrounds close to our hike: Big Meadows and Skyland.

The Big Meadows campground has rooms for one or two people, standalone cabins for up to four, campgrounds for tent camping, and recreational vehicle lots with full RV hookups. Big Meadows is the largest and most well equipped campground in the SNP. It is named for its large wildflower meadow located across the Blue Ridge Parkway from it. In the morning and early evening deer graze on the meadow grasses and wildflowers. It has playgrounds for children, a gift shop, and a lodge with a big windowed sitting room and a no-frills restaurant. There's a television room downstairs if you absolutely positively cannot go a weekend without television, and there may even be an Internet hookup in a separate room.

I'm going to guess that Big Meadows has spots for about 200 people in their lodgings Room rates are between $77 and $138. The quality of the lodging is comparable to a Super 8 Motel - nothing fancy. But you are so close to nature that it's worth the price. You'll need to reserve a room months in advance. There are probably 100 tent and RV sites at Big Meadows. The tent campsites go for $20/night. Bathroom facilities are available close by.

I'll find out more about this soon: "Big Meadows at Milepost 51 (first-come, first-served until May 14, then reservations are needed. Reservation only for organized groups through 1-800-365-2267 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-800-365-2267      end_of_the_skype_highlighting."

The Skyland campground has half the room accommodations of Big Meadows, and the rates are comparable. Skyland is a smaller version of Big Meadows, but is situated on almost equally beautiful land atop the ridgetop. Skyland is about 8 miles north of Big Meadows.

Lodging is available within the SNP at Big Meadows and Skyland lodges. Both have outdoor tent and RV camping areas as well. In addition, the following close-by towns have motels. As I learn more about these places I'll post prices, driving distance, and contact information

  • Front Royal, VA
  • Amissville, VA
  • Sperryville, VA
  • Luray, VA

If you'd like to have out-of-towners stay with you

If you'd like to have some noders stay with you Friday and/or Saturday nights, please let me know. I'd prefer you were only two or three hours away from the walk in order to keep driving distances reasonable.

Altusmens is coming in from Montreal and needs a ride from Washington D.C.'s Union Station to Big Meadows. He'll be ready in the early afternoon at Union Station. Please contact him directly about this.

Who's Coming

  • Momomom + the entirely-too-curious Jen CONFIRMED!
  • Borgo + Borgette. CONFIRMED! She's 9, fellas. The little girl will shame us all. I think we're gonna have to have a birthday cake for Borgette. I don't care when her birthday really is, every nine year old should have a birthday celebration when she's out camping underneath the stars. Sparkly candles included! Bring a birthday present for Borgette.
  • kthejoker
  • Frankie CONFIRMED!
  • Karmaflux CONFIRMED!
  • karmadebt, who will be married to ...
  • ...ccunning soon after the hike!
  • brassmule, who writes, "Yes, I still plan on attending. Given its weekend nature, also, it makes it much more likely even if I am gainfully employed or otherwise. I /want/ to come, and that is key. It means, therefore, than I will be there. CONFIRMED!
  • I hear one of the Ninjagirls is bringing a huge tin of cookies.
  • grundoon The outer space girl is CONFIRMED!
  • altusmens Yeppers. CONFIRMED!
  • IWhoSawTheFace CONFIRMED! I only include this because a Perfectionist who shall not be named (at present) inquired about the nodeshell author's presence at this gathering. YES I AM GONNA BE THERE. DUH.

All right, then, you're all freaking me out. It looks very likely that mine will be the sorriest ass out there.

Who's Threatening to Come

  • NotFabio + DATE(!!) The Naval Academy's prom is happening the night before. Good sign: NF's willing to forego post-prom sex to get here. That's dedication. Questionable sign: he's inviting a first date to a noder meet. This may be the first and the last date. Will he make her do the climb in pouffy dress, heels, and tiara? I don't think that's asking too much of a future Navy officer's wife, do you? Current news (mid March) is that NF may not be attending due to a sudden posting to a far off land where his peculiar talents are required. With your shield or on it, son. Godspeed. Stay tuned.
  • dharmalion, "re: hike from hell- sounds like a lot of fun, having hiked said hill before moons ago, yet I am unsure if 'finals' will be over in time... here's hoping!"

Weasels Who Positively Will Not Be There

  • RalphyK and JodieK "Oh yeah, sure, I'll be there, I'll meet you there, you go on ahead, I'm riiiiight behind you... heh heh heh, stupid IWSTF, never suspects that I -- oh, shit, I've typed out loud. There's no chance of us making this one, even apart from the heart attack inducingly strenuous hike stuff. That airport stuff was all true, by the way - we're shockingly unfit, but damnably good looking, which makes up for it" NO EXCUSE!
  • Cindy/Siobhan sends her regrets: "sounds a great idea. and i wish i was there... but yeah - unless they change the uni dates i prolly won't make it" NO EXCUSE!
  • crewgrrl sez: I'd like to come to the AT nodermeet, but I'll probably still be in Israel at the time. Sounds like fun though. NO EXCUSE!
  • anthony/strawberry frog who sends his regrets.
  • Chras4 sez: I am sorry I am unable to attend....I have previous plans... but that is something I WOULD have done had I not had plans already NO EXCUSE! ... you MUST capture the sunrise on film for me...and pick some wildflowers and press it between bits of prose written on a napkin or somethin. preferably not one covered in sweat. (NOTE: She's awfully demanding for a NO SHOW. Nevertheless we like her and we'll probably do what she asks, however reluctantly, in hopes of that perfunctory peck on the cheek when we deliver. -- The Management.)
  • thefez sadly, the poo and i cannot attend. vacation days and funds too thin - the following weekend we gonna be up on lake michigan. you can put us up on the WEASELS part of the gathering node :P NO EXCUSE!
  • wind, who was going to celebrate her 21st birthday with us on this hike, and would thereby have guaranteed massive male turnout, but who cannot attend on account of several pins and such being stuck in to a broken ankle. BROKEN ANKLE? Lady, we play with pain in this country. NO EXCUSE!
  • 00100, who gave some excuse. NO EXCUSE!
  • cbustapeck, who is lacking in time and $$, which is actually a pretty good excuse, but just on general principle we will have to say: NO EXCUSE!
  • allseeingeye, who had said, "hmmmm. maybe I will. If your puny American 'Nature' is ready for me." Perhaps it was not just ready, but more than a match for ASE, because alas, he's still waffling, which is a no in the eyes of the organizing committee, a comment about which he took umbrage, to wit, " I SHALL WAFFLE TILL THE COWS COME DOWN FROM THE COKE I SLIPPED THEM." Yeah? Well, WAFFLE THIS, EYE BOY! NO EXCUSE!
  • NinjaPenguin, who did not provide an excuse. Very clever, but it won't work. NO EXCUSE!
  • briglass, who claims to desired to be sociable and wants to attend a nodermeet, but gosh darn it, this just ain't the one. NO EXCUSE!
  • hodgepodge, who feels work is more important than a bit of hookie. BRAAAAAAP. WRONG ANSWER. NO EXCUSE!
  • Mirv, who will be in Montreal instead of in the mountains with us. NON EXCUSEment, allez vous!, or whatever the frenchies would say.
  • magicmanzach, who bleats, "Hm. It's looking like a "no," because I believe I have irreconciliable college plans that weekend. Apologies." NO IRRECONCILABLE PLANS! NO APOLOGIES! NO EXCUSE!
  • foxtrotjuliet who hasn't been hiking in years and who needs more information before deciding. "No, I won't be able to make it. Sounds like fun though. work--" NO EXCUSE!
  • Sekicho is definitely not coming, because "I have work commitments to keep the Republicans from taking over the Senate." I am loathe to say this, but that's a damned good excuse.
  • BlueDragon, who C!d the writeup, who lives in god knows what country (not in America), and who would thus have to take a large series of planes trains and automobiles from wherever she lived to our silly little mountain range, and who could only be assured of a pleasant few hours before the overly strenuous hike led by overly exuberant ex Boy Scouts who know far better, before we sent her packing back the way she came. We were originally disposed to treat this noder with a tranquilized sort of kindness and gratitude before we remembered our Core Values: NO EXCUSE!
  • Myrkabah, who says "I'm not moving back to North Carolina until June, dammit! I hope you're satisfied that you've continued my string of missing nodergatherings due to massive amounts of geographic distance! FUCKER! (Wish I could be there. :( )," the only part of which got through was WAH WAH WAH. NO EXCUSE!
  • Stavr0 "My sorry-ass excuse: Have they repealed the DMCA and Patriot? No? Can't come then." That is a sorry-ass excuse, but we have to give him props for recognizing it as such and being up front about it. However, we are disinclined to let him off the hook that easily. NO EXCUSE!
  • novasoy who can't make it on account of familial responsibilities, like feeding and changing a starving child, and who added, rather piteously, I might add, "you had me until you railed against Wi-Fi. :) Seriously, Wifey is going out of town (thus I have to care for baby) or we would totally come. I've always wanted to see the SV." NO EXCUSE!

NOTE This hike is a bit strenuous. You should have done a few woodland hikes and a few climbs before trying this. If you can't run for 3 miles or hike continuously for 6 miles on a flat surface, you probably shouldn't attempt this.
If you don't keep up, we'll leave you in the woods, after of course taking a picture to post on E2 later. Perhaps the next day we'd come back to pick you up. Perhaps. Just to see what you'd look like after the ticks got you. Your dessicated remains will be placed in a glass display case and you'll be an object lesson at the Visitor Center.

Reservations made 5/12/2004

Your reservations at Big Meadows tent campsites are:

  • 380-2927 2 nights May 21-22 $38
  • 380-2930 2 nights May 21-22 $38
  • 380-2967 2 nights May 21-22 $38
  • 380-2971 2 nights May 21-22 $38
  • 380-3008 2 nights May 21-22 $38
  • 380-3024 1 night May 21 $19
  • 380-3027 1 night May 21 $19

Tell the ranger you're going to take one of these campsites. She will tell you the exact number of the campsite you've been assigned. (The reservation number is NOT the same as the campsite number.) If you have troubles call my cell phone at (703) 963-7275 and I'll try to help as quickly as I can.

LATE BREAKING NEWS Weather forecasts call for temperatures between 60 at night and 80 during the day, humid conditions, overcast skies, and intermittent rain escalating in places to thunderstorms. All this is, of course, fantastic given the nature of our hike. Bring raingear for your tent and yourself. Fortunately the Big Meadows area has a lodge, and towns are only twenty miles away, so we have easy access to bowling, theaters, and other rain-weather activities.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.