Apple Orchard Mountain – 6/18/11

Been a few weeks since I have posted, so I am going to try and catch up on what I have been doing on the trail over the past couple of weeks.

I wanted to make sure that I got back on the trail before leaving for summer camp with the Boy Scouts, so I took Tommy and Abby up to Apple Orchard Mountain in Virginia.

We started north into Virginia and decided to do some Geocaching along the way. It was nice to stretch our legs after a bit of time in the car. We stopped along the way near Danville, Gretna and Altavista and got our first caches in Virginia. The drive was nice and we enjoyed some of the less traveled backroads on our way through Bedford, home of the D-Day Memorial and the Peaks of Otter along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The plan for the hike was to start at the Apple Orchard Falls Trail near Parkers Gap and follow the AT up and over Apple Orchard Mountain to the next road crossing with the Parkway. We would follow the Parkway and a parallel woods road back to complete the circuit.The climb was not too bad but the kids and I could really feel the burn as we made the ascent. The high elevation and the extreme weather encountered on the mountain cause the old oak trees there to take on the appearance of an old abandoned apple orchard – this gives the mountain its name.

Along the trip up the mountain there was supposed to be a geocache located along the route. This was at a good place to take a little rest on after making the way up the mountain, so we stopped to look. The logs indicated the cache was missing and unfortunately we confirmed this. No signs of this cache in the area. We continued up to the top of the mountain and the bald at the top. There were great views and it was really neat to see the huge radar station located at the top. It was really big!

We then proceeded down the mountain and entered the Thunder Ridge Wilderness Area. The descent was pretty steep and passed through some large rock formations and followed down some stone steps on the way down. The best part was a rock formation called “The Guillotine”. There were 2 enormous boulders that the trail passed through, and between the 2 was another boulder that looked as if it could fall at any moment. I am sure that this stone has been stuck in this position for a long time but the illusion is really effective.

We continued on and passed on the edge of a large field. Along the edge I was excited to see a chestnut tree that had lived long enough to bloom. I am not sure how long the tree will last due to the blight, but it was a very rare sight. We reached the Parkway crossing and headed back toward the car. Luckily there was not a lot of traffic. We then followed the woods road. The top part of the road was gated and the grass was growing pretty high. Once we reached the gate closing the road, the path cleared and it was an easy descent to the parking lot.

The only bad part of the hike was the large swarms of gnats that followed us as we walked. If we kept moving it wasn’t bad, but if you stopped you had to be careful not to breathe in a mouth full of them. All in all a very nice day that we all really enjoyed!

4.6 miles hiked – 2.4 new AT miles

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