The Massanutten Loop Adventure?
by Chris Scott

To Anstr's Report

Photo: Chris on the east ridgeI hate it when my calendar doesn't give much room for flexibility. It's getting worse as the weeks map out thru Summer. So, after seeing Anstr's subtle teaser on the website (the Forest Service had officially designated the Massanutten Loop Trail, begging for someone to do it first), and remembering that Ed Demoney had attempted the route before the official designation, I quickly consulted my calendar. Sadly, only one opportunity stared me in the face. Sadly, too fortuitously, as yes, others who would otherwise be inclined to beat me to the punch were either committed to other near-term events (Umstead, BRR, MMT) or were injured, or had to wash their cars that weekend.

It's not as if the mention of a brain fart is necessarily detestable in its utterance. It's when one attempts to translate ideas to reality that the whole mess begins to stink like a decaying forest critter. What a great idea!! I'd sweet talk one of my buddies into being first to do the Loop. (Now admit it: YOU would have loved being first, wouldn't you?) True, I'd not set foot on the despicable Short Mountain section, but my ever-failing memory conjured up the beauty of the other sections, individually breath-taking, compositely (how should I sayą) a "real piece of work."

I knew I couldn't do it solo (I'm hardly as tough as Ed; I like to whine with someone in earshotą), much less without some crew support. Who else would be gullible enough to join me except Anstr? What a buddy ("buddy" = "sucker"?)!!! And, after committing to it, in casual conversation with Bill Van Antwerp at the BRR Package Stuffing Frenzy, Anstr found us crew support. What buddies!! To finish our preparation, Anstr took on the task of Mr. Anal in mapping out a strategy for doing the Loop. What a buddy!! We idea people need task-oriented people around to get things done. What a buddy!!

Here's how the senses were excited (early on) / abused (later on) during our siege of the mountain:

(1) Sight: Not one friggin' animal!! (Not until I left early for work on Tuesday morning did I see anything "wild", that being a near-comatose opossum slinking under my neighbor's car.) No deer (battalions of them laughing at us from Skyline Drive, no doubt), no bear (Gary wasn't there, so we should have seen gaggles of 'em). No bloomin' blooms!! A couple lousy birds. Lots of scat (too big for dog, too hairy for human, must've been bison or moose). True, the gracefully meandering Shenandoah Rivers pleased the eye (let's see, 15 minutes' worth, worth it?). And what's to see at night? Shadowy images darting among the trees and other hallucinations that diminishing eye-brain coordination could create. Mostly, sometime after midnight, all my eyes wanted to see was the back of their lids. Second sunrise was lost beyond the ridge; hazy skies and hazier eyes clouded clear views until the very end.

(2) Taste: Sub sandwich for dinner. Grilled Cheese for midnight snack. Chocolate Milk!! Donuts. Jerky. What?!!? No beer? Pate? Surprisingly, with a banquet of munchables (ibid "What a buddy!!"), our taste buds tended to appreciate a limited number of high calorie/impact foods. That Sub after 25 miles disappeared way too quickly. The midnight wind was too cold to justify a third GC. We should have rented a Hershey Cow to satisfy our milk cravings. And neither of us puked. I'd call THAT aspect a total successą

(3) Hearing: Silence IS golden!! Standing on the East trail Sunday afternoon, gazing down on the Shenandoah River, and hearing nothing but our own breathing, was about as serene as I could hope for. No engines revving, no crowd noise. That serenity lost its appeal when darkness engulfed us, and wind creased through the trees to verbally remind us of its intent to chill our bones. The only other notable interruption of peace and quiet occurred at the Tower, where early morning commuters raced over the mountain from the Valley towards Woodstock. The accompanying dust was especially welcomeą

(4) Smell: With no fragrant blooms, the only highlight was Anstr's Monday morning windbreak. "Hey, who cut it?" "He who smelt it, dealt it, buddy!!"

(5) Touch: The brunt of all those hours negotiating rocks, roots, trees, hallucinations, etc suffered itself on our feet. When it felt less painful to step on the pointed edge of a rock rather than the smooth surface of dirt (less foot surface contact meant fewer neurons screaming out in pain), the brain began to understand the feet had surpassed their limit of appreciation for motion. Where's that damn helicopter Anstr promised? Trekking slowly but methodically over the East's rocky trails (and memories of past Massacres) didn't adequately prepare us for later brutality. In contrast, Short Mountain was paradise to Signal Knob's Hades in the diminishing willingness of the feet to withstand the abuse. Next time (?? (speak not of such things, you blasphemer!!)), I'm duct taping a package of marshmallows to each shoeą

Photo: MT Trail SignAll said and done, having been the first-but-never-never-never-do-it-again conquerors of the Loop, I'm happy to report that another brain fart squeezed out. I bet if we offered up the opportunity to host a "Laurel on Quaaludes" event, we'd make some new "buddies" within the ultra community. One aid station at Milford Gap; a roving "party" of observers to the end, much sympathy along the way, and rejuvenation of the Massanutten Massacre rock award for those lucky enough to finish, and we'd have one mighty powerful teaser for our crazy "buddies" to challenge themselves with. Pyewwweee!! Who farted?

To Anstr's Report

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