For the 2nd year in a row I set a 200 mile goal for Appalachian Trail hiking. I was able to finish up my hiking for the year on a trip to Roanoke on Dec 26th. I would be hiking on a section connecting with the first section I hiked in the spring along the Blue Ridge Parkway at Taylor’s Mountain Overlook. My hike would take me from the overlook to the Wilson Creek Shelter and back.
Considering the date, the weather was perfect! There was not a cloud in the sky and the temperatures at the start of the hike were in the low 40s. Later in the day the temps would top out in the 50s – A very pleasant day. Compared to a year ago – with temps in the 20s and snow – this was great. I tried out a new walking stick that my sister got me for Christmas and a new Smartwool balaclava that my wife gave me to cut the chilly breezes on the ridge.
I headed southbound from the Taylors Mountain Overlook. The trail passed over a double knob with climb of about 150 feet. This was a nice warm-up and I was soon headed down to the forest road and Blue Ridge Parkway access at Black Horse Gap at 2400 feet and 0.8 trail miles. The trail continued down, descending 300 hundred feet until it settled around 2100 feet, following around the spurs and coves below the main ridge line and the parkway.It was really apparent how low the sun was at this time of year because most of the hike was in the shadow of the ridge. The sunnier spots rounding the spur ridges were welcome.
I stopped after another mile of hiking at “old farts knob” and looked for the geocache placed there. It was in a very interesting container that was made up to look like a memorial stone. The cache was empty, with no log book, so I stopped to cut one of my notebooks to make a new book for the cache. While I completed this my phone freaked out and I lost all battery power – Went from 4 bars to nothing. I thought it was the GPS/caching application at the time, but I think it is a failing battery. I’ve ordered 2 replacement batteries – hopefully it solved the problem. No more trail pictures after this. As I was stopped already, I decided to eat my sandwich for lunch. After lunch, I headed out again, enjoying the well graded trail and the quietness of the trail in winter.
Along the way I met a couple that had been out hiking over Christmas and were on their last day. They had hiked from VA624 near Dragon’s Tooth northbound over McAfee Knob and the Tinker Cliffs. They look like they had a really nice time. The only wet weather they had was on their first night and nighttime temps were not very cold. Days over Christmas were in the 50s – perfect hiking weather. They continued on and I continued toward the shelter. I passed another hiker out for a long section hike. The shelter was down a few hundred more feet along a well graded trail. It is a 6 person shelter typical of Virginia. Not a lot of amenities, but it did have a privy and a spring close by. The patch of forest was nice and sunny out on one of the spur ridges.
I signed the shelter log and headed back toward the overlook. The trail climbed easily on the way back up the mountain. The most difficult part was the last half mile climbing back up to Black Horse Gap. At the gap, I decided not to climb back over the double knob and followed the parkway back to the overlook. The parkway had a nice gentle grade down and I was quickly back at the car. A good end to another successful year on the trail. Total miles: 6.3 / New AT miles 3.2