All 2016 Reports

Daddy-Daughter Backpacking: Three Ridges 2016

1-2 Jan 2016

- Kaylee MacLuskie, Dave MacLuskie

What a way to begin the year! A challenging hike on the Appalachian Trail with 3000+ feet of elevation gain with sub-freezing temperatures. It's even better than it sounds.

Kaylee's Notes

I had a completely awesome time! The first day was mostly uphill and cold. Well, everyday was cold so no difference up or down hill. When we got to the top of Three Ridges camping ground the sun was just about to set. My dad made many attempts to make a fire. Seriously he used dry wood, hand sanitizer, leaves, fritos, everything! The main problem was the wind. It was blowing all directions. My dad said that the wind would die down when the sun set. We finally got the fire going and a little while after that the red beans and rice (we made for dinner) was ready. We ate that and my dad did the dishes. He put water in the bowl and as he was stirring it... I repeat: as he was stirring it... the water was freezing over! We both guessed that it was below freezing.

Sunset atop Three Ridges.

We got into the tent and went to sleep. Apparently the wind got stronger overnight. Dad read the first chapter of The Tripods: The White Mountains. In the morning once we got up we disassembled the tent. We lost sight of a stake! I want to write that we looked and found it but no. The truth is we looked and eventually had to leave without it! So no more adventures for stake number six!

Morning from Three Ridges.

The second day was mostly all down hill. We hiked down two miles and then had brunch and eye care [at the Maupin Field Shelter]. We passed a lot of people then (since it ws downhill). We also had lots of creek crossings and slippery parts and two log crossings. It all ended so fast. The bridge came and we were back at the car! All in all it was super awesome!

Dave's Report

I've hiked Three Ridges a few times but never in the winter and never with Kaylee. I've also never camped at the peak. We got started around noon on the first of January with temperatures in the mid 30's. We were a bit chilly at the start with just wool shirts and a fleece but quickly shed the fleece after a half mile of climbing. We had a solid 3000+ ft total elevation gain over 7 miles before camp and were able to stay plenty warm from exertion.

Crossing the Tye River on 1 January.

Crossing the Harper's Creek.

Harper's Creek was running quite well! I usually see it in the summer when it'd nearly dry.

One of the benefits of hiking in the winter is plenty of water (when it isn't frozen). We crossed Harper's Creek about 2.5 miles into the hike. The Appalachian Trail shelter was empty as was the large tent site. Of course it was only about 1:30pm. We tanked up on water at the creek and continued the long climb up to the peak. We stopped at a few overlooks to enjoy snacks and views. It turns out we passed a few more active springs on the climb that I haven't seen before. Apparently they dry up by the time I usually am on those trails.

One of the views while climbing Three Ridges.

This spring originates from under the this tree.

We made it to camp around 3:30pm, got the tent set up, the bear bag line hung, and hunted down enough firewood for the evening. While the red beans and rice meal rehydrated I made a long attempt to start the fire. The strong, constantly changing wind didn't help. The insufficient kindling didn't want to light. The hand-sanitizer soaked sticks were reluctant to burn. I finally broke into the Frito cache. For those not in the know they're tasty, high calorie, and flammable. Try it! With the fire going strong we spent most of our time running around the fire pit avoiding the smoke from the ever-changing winds.

We didn't stay up too long after it got dark. The temperatures dropped pretty quickly when the sun went down. I could only get one chapter read before my fingers got too cold. Sadly I didn't sleep so well with the wind whipping the tent around. Kaylee seemed to be out like a light though. We woke up around 7:30am but stayed snuggled in our sleeping bags for another hour. It was still below freezing and we weren't in a big hurry. Packing went rapidly until we lost track of one of the tent stakes that got stuck in the now-frozen ground. After several minutes of searching we abandoned it and hurried on down the trail to warm up just as the clock hit 9am. A couple miles later at the Maupin Field shelter we had some breakfast, hot cocoa and filtered some water. Soon we set off down the blue-blazed Mau-Har trail to complete our loop. It's named Mau-Har because it connes the Maupin Field shelter with the Harpers Creek shelter. This section use to be the official Appalachian Trail until it was rerouted up over Three Ridges - the route we had completed the day before. I particularly like this little section as it follows along Campbell Creek and is very picturesque year round. Fortuntely the few slippery spots weren't frozen over.

Sunrise from atop Three Ridges.

Finally some down hill.

The major view from the rocky cliff along Three Ridges.

We saw an impressive amount of "ice grass" on this trip.

Crossing Campbell Creek one of the many times.

Sometimes we crossed on logs.

The Mau-Har trail is really pretty.

One of the many waterfalls along the Mau-Har trail.

More log crossings.

More ice grass.

We reconnected with the AT and headed the last 1.7 miles downhill to the car, arriving at exactly 2pm then heading home. Surprisingly the temperatures were in the low 40's by the time we drove off. Kaylee really rocked a particularly difficult hike, especially in winter conditions. Three Ridges is frequently described as a very challenging hike. The Hiking Upward website ranks it with 5 stars for difficulty ( - though we started at the souther trail head at route 56, not the Reeds Gap trail head to the north.) The trail was more sparsely populated than I've ever seen it, but it was New Years weekend and fairly cold. We saw a couple backpackers, a dozen or so day hikers, and about a dozen hunters. It was the last weekend for bear hunting and probably something else. That's also why we had the blaze-orange pack covers.

Wrapping up Three Ridges.

Crossing the Tye River back to the car.

dave.macluskie AT