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Vacation 2018 - MABDR and Michaux State Forest/Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Vacation 2018 began Saturday, August 4th in the usual fashion for a Gessner Family vacation - at least 4 hours later than expected.

The Plan:

Saturday - Reach Damascus, VA - the start of the Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route (MABDR) and hit the trail. Initial goal was to reach Roanoke area by end of day and find camp.

Sunday/Monday - Continue on the MABDR up to PA. Planned stops included nearby waterfalls, a drive through Antietam National Battlefield, and Harper's Ferry.

Tuesday through Friday/Saturday - Camp at the Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Michaux State Forest just southwest of Harrisburg, PA.

How it actually went down...

We hit the road Saturday afternoon at around 3 pm. That didn't leave much time to hit the MABDR, since we weren't sure exactly what to expect and didn't want to be navigating in the dark. So instead we camped at the Bear Tree Recreation Area in the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area. We drove through several downpours on the way to the campsite, but luckily camp was dry and flat, the camp host had dry firewood and we settled in for the night.

Sunday morning we woke up, ate breakfast, and broke camp. Cleaning up camp with a 3 and 5 year old seems to take about 10 times longer than it would otherwise. On the road at 10, we headed to Damascus, VA to start the MABDR. Once we arrived in town I pulled up the Gaia GPS app and pulled up the map of the trail. Having never used Gaia outside of my home I promptly deleted the first leg of the trail accidentally and had to pull the laptop out, hotspot from my phone and reupload to the Gaia server to restore it. Once that was done I also uploaded it to Google Maps, which I thought I had already done, and ended up coming in handy later in the day.

Now, it was time to really actually start the MABDR. The first leg of the trail headed out southeast from Damascus on Route 91 then back north onto the first less traveled road, straddling the VA/TN line for a few miles. Not knowing what to expect, we proceeded with caution. Along with the turn north came a slightly upbeat rhythm in my chest as the paved road gave way to gravel and the switchbacks narrowed as we climbed. Pulling the trailer behind the Jeep was my main concern, yet slowly but surely we made our way to the top, not running into anything too tight for the length of the rig.

We continued northward along mostly paved roads into the town of Marion where we stopped for lunch. Luckily for us a tour bus had called ahead and reserved all the seats in a BBQ restaurant we were going to try, forcing us down the road a few blocks to a local pizza joint called Pizza Perfect on Main ( which was awesome. Pizza was delicious and the pizza twists were amazing. The next time we are even close to Marion we will be making a stop!

With lunch behind us we hit up a grocery store next door and got back on the trail. Less than an hour later the first tools were broken out...

To be continued tomorrow!

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