At the beginning of 2010, I made a New Year’s Resolution to hike 200 miles – Getting to and hiking along the Appalachian Trail. I had completed 193 miles by the end of November and needed only 7 more miles to complete my goals. I had planned to finish on 12/13/10, but I was recovering from a cold and the weather was bitterly cold so I decided to postpone the adventure for another day.
I had taken the week before Christmas off from work and the day with the best weather of the week was the day I was able to get away to hike 12/23. I planned to hike from Black Horse Gap near the Blue Ridge Parkway northbound to the junction with the Hammond Hollow Trail. I was thwarted by closure of the parkway just beyond US460, presumably for snow and ice and had to change my plans. I decided to go to a section just north of my plan and hike southbound from Bearwallow Gap at VA 43 to the Hammond Hollow Trail junction.
I parked the car at a snowy parking lot and proceeded to look for the trail-head. There was no sign of it from the parking lot. I walked under the parkway and it wasn’t there so I went back. The trail-head was about a tenth of a mile down VA 43. The trail was all snow, a couple inches deep and the temperature was at or below freezing. I climbed up a number of switchbacks towards the ridge-line. I really felt the wind as I came over the ridge, but moving along at a good pace, I stayed pretty warm throughout the hike.
There were great views on both sides of the ridge. To the south and east were the Peaks of Otter. To the north and west great views of the Great Valley of Virginia and the Alleghenies beyond. The weather was crystal clear. Walking along the ridge, the first crossing of the parkway was at Mills Gap. The trail crossed the parkway and followed the height of the land. As short ascent of the knob and back down brought me to the Peaks of Otter overlook.
The trail crossed the parkway again and descended to the Bobblets Gap Road and Shelter. I decided to stop for lunch and a break so I descended the .2 miles on switchbacks to the Bobblets Gap Shelter 150 feet below. The shelter as small but was a welcome windbreak and dry spot out of the snow. I signed the new shelter register and was only the 3rd person to sign. The log was placed on 12/1. Usually I end up near the back of the book so it was a novelty to be on the front page. I was glad that I packed a small thermos of coffee. I was well pleased that the coffee was still hot over 5 hours after I had filled it up at home in the morning.
Warmed up and ready to go again, I ascended the blue blaze shelter trail back to the AT. After reaching the trail it was a continued ascent to the Hammond Hollow Trail. There were no switchbacks and the trail was fairly steep – especially in the snow. I finally came upon the trail junction and went just past it to where I could look down the mountain toward the parkway.
To return I decided to walk along the parkway – I was very glad to be out of the snow. I took advantage of the road being closed and had the road all to myself. The return trip took me back down to Bobblets Gap and then what seemed like a long but steady ascent up to the overlooks I had passed through earlier in the hike. The return on the parkway was only 3 miles cutting off 1 mile of my return trip. The lack of snow and reasonable grade of the parkway made for fast hiking. I completed the return trip in just under an hour.
The total trip including the side trip to the shelter was 7.4 miles. This brought me to 200.55 miles completed for the year and to my goal! I have now completed 211.7 miles of the AT or 9.72% of the entire trail.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – I hope to complete another 200 miles next year.