By Ed Demoney
We reach the Signal Knob Parking Lot before nine. Only nine turn out for this moonlight run including Gary Knipling who started it all. The moon is up and trying to shine down on us from an overcast sky.
It is decided we will move out at 9:10 p.m. Why, Iím not sure but perhaps someone else will show up. The obligatory photo is taken and we start out at 9:13 p.m. up the steep and occasionally rocky Signal Knob Trail section of the orange-blazed Massanutten Trail.
In a few minutes it seems like only David Powell and I are together. The others advance faster than I can climb. David stays behind me, recalling high school classmates at Wakefield in Arlington. I discover Anstr is also behind as he enters into the conversation.
We catch the others at the Buzzard Rock Overlook 1.5 miles on the MT. They are enjoying the view in the moonlight with the sky still overcast. The Front Royal town lights in the distance are very bright.
Walking the trail without flashlights has not been difficult with the rocks easy to see and scarcely any fallen leaves. Tom Corris points out evidence of the forest fire last year, the cleared slope down the hillside.
As we depart the overlook Anstr joins the others so it is the two of us, two that have run and walked these trails for more than 25 years. I remember when we were faster and Davidís first place finish at Old Dominion. We could even run over block fields.
The white-blazed Meneka Peak Trail is reached in about an hour and twenty minutes. Soon we can see the television tower, no light on it but easy to see on the point. Visibility is so much better in the winter, even at night.
Another great view at the Signal Knob Overlook. The countryside has really expanded over the years with orange lights showing newer construction according to David.
We quickly run into slick ice on the gravel road downhill from the overlook. So itís slow and careful with the ice turning into mud and water.
David takes the lead when I have difficulty finding a dry path. We spend most of the night trying to keep our feet dry, the below freezing temperatures helping except where there is standing water. Fortunately we are able to avoid the standing water on the roads by moving to the shoulders.
Reaching the intersection with the blue-blazed Tuscarora Trail we proceed a short distance and veer left, not leaving the road to follow the MT to the right around the Strasburg Reservoir. We stay on the road, per instructions, and no doubt avoid mud and water on the MT. The reservoir is not frozen.
The first stream on the road is carefully crossed on rocks. No ice on the rocks. We reach the locked gate on Forest Road 66 and refresh our water supply at the piped spring just beyond the gate. It has taken exactly three hours to proceed 8.5 miles.
Not far is the purple-blazed Mudhole Gap Trail as we break out flashlights to find the trail and aid in the five serious stream crossings over the next mile.
I manage to cross all five without slipping off a rock. David is not so lucky and splashes through Little Passage Creek at the third crossing. Wet feet for David for the rest of our hike.
We make the left turn away from the stream, proceed briefly uphill and reach the forest road that will take us to the Fort Valley Rd. While we see and avoid the pink- blazed Sidewinder Trail, we miss the white-blazed Bear Wallow Spur but donít back track since someone is waiting patiently for us to finish.
Soon we are back at the parking lot. Car lights appear as Anstr welcomes us and drives off to Front Royal.
It has taken us four hours and fifty minutes, two veterans on another VHTRC moonlight run recalling memories of other nights on Fort Valley trails. Davidís company is appreciated as is the bright moon lighting our way home. An enjoyable outing.