Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Years eve from the Andy Lane Trail

The Andy Lane trail is marked with yellow blazes. It is a 2.6 mile connector to the Appalachian Trail that I need to use to get to the middle of a twenty mile stretch of the AT with no road crossings. I had hoped that this would be a well marked and well maintained spur trail, and I was not disappointed.

The Andy Lane trail starts at a big parking area in the Catawba valley about ten miles north of Roanoke, VA. There's no better evidence that it's a seriously well-maintained trail than this major foot bridge that the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club built across Catawba Creek:
From there the ascent is steep - sometimes extremely steep - and often muddy (it rained for an hour last night). The Andy Lane Trail climbs 1400 feet to Scorched Earth Gap where it meets the AT.

The sign at the trailhead says it's a 2.3 mile hike, but my GPS measured 2.6 miles on the way up and the same on the way back. That's 5.2 miles of extra hiking I'm forced to do just to get to my starting point on Monday. But it's either hike those extra miles or try to do this 20 mile stretch of Appalachian Trail in two humongous day-hikes from either end. The Andy Lane Trail lets me add a third day to cover the middle. Better not to burn myself out. Once I'm in shape, after maybe a month of hiking, two consecutive twenty mile days would be doable, but not right out of the starting block.

So that's the plan: Hike maybe 8 miles out and 8 back from Troutville on my inaugural hike tomorrow, then come up the Andy Lane Trail on Monday and do maybe 4 miles of AT both ways, and finish up this wilderness stretch with another 8 out and 8 back on Tuesday.

Tuesday's hike will take me past the iconic McAfee Knob - possibly most recognized vista of any on the trail. This picture at left is from HikingUpward.com

My view of McAfee Knob came from the Catawba Valley this afternoon, as I did a bunch of sight-seeing and scouting road access and parking areas for the first week of my adventure. Here's the rustic view - the Catawba Valley is a little hidden bit of Appalachian paradise:

So tomorrow the adventure officially begins. After two days of warming up, I'm ready to go. Unfortunately the weather is forecast to go in the other direction (cool down - in fact get downright winter-like). I'm ready for the cold, just hoping that not much more than flurries come with the arctic chill. Stay tuned ...

... and have a wonderful New Year's Eve celebration and a prosperous and joyful 2012. See you next year :-D

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