All 2014 Reports

Daddy-Daughter Duncan Knob Backpacking

4-6 April 2014

- Dave MacLuskie

The photos (and there are a lot of them) are pretty even mix of shots taken by Kaylee and me.

Kaylee's Trip Report

I don't know if I liked the rock scrambles better or creek crossings butter! On this trip I did both so I got twice as much fun!

There were three or four creek crossings each day.

I am eight and in second grade and I usually have a knee scrape but I guess I am use to the terrain because I did not bleed this trip! I mean sure, I stumbled and tripped but that did not hurt as much as you would have thought it would have. My foot was bothering me a little in the middle of the hike and it really hurt at the end of the hike but that was because my shoes I had on were too small and then the next day I had my let big toe hurting but that was because I was going down hill and my shoe were too small. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed it! My dad enjoyed it too.

I do admit the rock scramble was harder than my dad and I were thinking but we made it without any hurt body parts. Ha ha! Apparently we took the hard way up (straight up) and the easy way down (soft of spiralling down to where we started). What my dad I think is that that was what was on the map because it was a whole lot easier than my dad pulling me up every other step. There was a chance that we could have seen a snake but we did not. Though that does not mean that there aren't snakes over in the rocks. On the way down my dad did not need to pull me up because we were going down. We took some pictures up at the top of the hill. We had a lot of fun on the camping trip.

- Kaylee MacLuskie

Dave's Trip Report

Kaylee and I spend the first weekend of her Spring break backpacking out to Duncan Knob up near Luray, Virginia. The plan was to do the 13 mile loop over 3 days, spending Saturday and Sunday night on the trail, and meet BJ at Luray Caverns at noon on Monday to explore the caves.

The Massanutten Trail head on 675 near Camp Roosevelt.

The drive up went smoothly and we hit the trail around 1pm on Saturday. A couple miles in Kaylee's right heel started bothering her. We're fairly certain her shoes, which seemed fine, are really just too small at this point. As it would happen we had the next size in the car (two miles back) but didn't go back for them.

Sometimes the trail is muddy.

The original plan was to hike south on the orange blazed Massanutten Trail up Duncan Hollow along a creek to a blue-blaze trail that turns and climbs up to Duncan Knob. Getting to the top of Duncan Knob involves a rock scramble (fun!) and provides great near-360 deg views. It seemed like a cool place to see the sunset. We'd then return to the gap and camp at one of the many flat sites just below the knob. The next day we'd do the 6 mile loop and maybe head a bit to the car, then wrap up Monday morning with 2-3 miles before heading to Luray Caverns.

Creek crossing are always fun.

The modified plan, due to feet issues mainly, had us camping across the creek just at the intersection of the blue-blaze trail for a 3.5 mile day. The site was quite nice with two flat spots for tents, a nice stone circle fire pit, and even some large stones arranged as lounge chairs.

Lounging by the fire.

We set up camp just past 4pm and got a fire going. Some mountain bikers stopped by to climb the ridge behind us. A few other hikers drifted by across the creek along the Massanutten. Around 5:30 a couple from DC stopped in and we told them they were welcome to use the remaining flat spot and share our fire. They appreciated it as they weren't looking forward to the climb up to the gap for the next camp site. We chatted a bit about our various adventures in backpacking.

Requisite fire photo.

Kaylee and I enjoyed a dinner of vegetables and couscous. We spent some time taking photos. Her camera has some fun panorama features.

This was not Photoshopped! We did some fireside experimentation with human cloning. My clone wandered off into the woods never to be seen again. Or did he?

Photo critique.

After a lot of yawning we hit the sack a bit after 8pm as the stars were coming out. Kaylee slept like a rock in her sleeping bag. I was up a couple times with the wind whipping around. It got near freezing that night and my neck was a bit chilly. (My down quilt doesn't cover my neck and I didn't bring a buff because I didn't think it was going to be that cold.)

Packed up and ready to climb Duncan Knob.

We were up at dawn but in the shadow of the ridges the frost remained on the tent and in the air. We enjoyed some hot oatmeal while we watched the sun shine work its way down the ridge we were about to climb. Finally, basking in the early rays we wiped down the tent, packed up, wished our camp site friends a good hike and headed up the blue blaze trail to Duncan Knob.

On the blue-blaze Gap Creek Trail to Duncan Knob.

It's always interesting to see the views expand as you gain altitude. We arrived at the gap and took the white blaze spur trail to the Knob. As it was the biggest pile of rock up there it was pretty obvious which way to go. Soon the trail got rocky and we found the rock scramble.

It gets rockier as you approach the knob.

This cairn marks the end of the blazed trail. The rest is rock scramble.

We stashed Kaylee's pack and hiking poles and searched around for some more white blazes. We didn't find any so we picked a promising looking path upward and began the climb on the rocks.

We didn't pick the easiest path.

We both really enjoyed the challenge of the scramble.

I went first and gave Kaylee a pull over the occasional gap that was too wide or too tall. It took a while but we made it to the top and were rewarded with a near 360 degree view of the area.

Anything to get to the top.

It's all in the wrist.

There are fun rocky outcrops to sit and climb on and we spent a fair bit of time staging (dramatically cropped) photos (with dramatic captions).

On top of the world, or knob at least.

Dramatic gazing.

Skies below us.

Alone on the mountain.

There really are some cool vistas, even if it was early spring before everything greened out.

(Click image to see the big version.)

(Click image to see the big version.)

(Click image to see the big version.)

Sharing the view.

After exploring more of the knob we began our descent along a more gradual route. You'd think going down would be faster. You'd be wrong. We made it back to Kaylee's pack, geared up, and retraced our steps back down to the orange blazed Massanutten trail and headed back north to the car.


This almost captures the scale of things.

One last stop to tank up on water and before we head down the trail.

We still needed to spend the night somewhere and there was a small, but nice camp site about a mile from the car just on the creek. However, due to the rain that was due to start overnight and the high temp of 45 degrees on Monday I gave Kaylee the choice of camping, hiking out in the rain "to build character", or heading to a local hotel for the night.

By the creek where we didn't camp. That's a creek behind Kaylee but it's so clear it doesn't look like water.

We decided on the hotel. We got a great deal at the Days Inn (apparently Sunday night isn't a big seller in April). After we each showered up and ate dinner we watched a bit of TV and read some Harry Potter. I'm fairly certain I fell asleep first while Kaylee was reading. (Kaylee: Yes, you did.)

We got up on the morning, enjoyed some breakfast and headed over to the caverns to meet BJ. We toured all the gift shops, museums, and met a friendly, fuzzy cat. When BJ arrived we all toured the caverns, took lots of photos and enjoyed the wonder of the caverns.

Some Luray Caverns photos below.

Really fuzzy orange cat greeted us.

dave.macluskie AT