Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Just about the perfectest day

When you get the bestest weather that mid-winter can muster, when you spend the entire day out in it, when you get to wander over hill and dale through some of the remotest parts of southwest Virginia, then you've got the formula for the perfectest day ever.

Yesterday I passed through Poor Valley and it was raining when I got there. Today I passed through Rich Valley and ... well you can see how the day ended there. The above was not taken from the Appalachian Trail, but from nearby, on the crest of the same ridge where I ended today's hike--Walker Mountain.

There was so much varied terrain and scenery today that I couldn't possibly get bored, even if the weather was dowdy and frumpy. But the wall-to-wall sunshine made everything seem even specialer.

Working backwards: the ascent of Walker Mountain featured some amazing stone steps fashioned by energetic trail builders in some bygone time. It also features a tortured route that made those steps necessary. The trail corridor is about 100 feet wide up the west side of this mountain, so the trail designers had to make do with what they were given. There were some switch backs up impossibly steep slope, and a section that followed an old deteriorating fence line with ominous 'Posted' signs on the other side.

The approach to Walker Mountain (background in this photo) passes through pasture land on either side of VA 610 - as peaceful a country setting as you could hope to find.

Turn around and face the other direction from this view and there's a wooded walk over a hill. When you get to the bottom of this, passing curious cows along the way, you walk on railroad ties alongside the North Fork of the Holston River (Upper Tennessee Valley Watershed already!) Crossing the Holston on a low-water concrete culvert, you go through a bit more woods overlooking the river then there's more pasture before you cross little Possum Jaw Creek and reach the nice roomy USFS parking area on VA 42.

North of VA 42 the trail has another brush with Brushy Mountain (and there will be at least two more before we finally say good bye to this ubiquitousest of Appalachian ranges). The trail takes you over a south knob and then a north knob on top of Brushy Mountain before it descends to Knot Maul Shelter, which practically blocks the trail, it is so *not* set back in the woods.

Now you get into the various collection of stream-side walks and crossings. Below Knot Maul the first such is the pretty little fall that the AT crosses. You follow this noisy tributary all the way down to Lynn Camp Creek where you are treated to a crossing on a rustic old bridge with moss covered railings:

Next you climb steeply up Lynn Camp Mountain on the dry sunny south side accompanied by crackly footing beneath pines and oaks, then you descend just as steeply on the cool shady north side in often soggy footing accompanied by rhododendrons and Carolina hemlocks.

Finally the flood plain and foot bridge of Lick Creek marked the northern end of today's sojourn for me. It was seventeen miles in all, out and back, and every step a pleasure.


Complete detailed GPS track with 31 embedded photos available by clicking below:

AT Day 24 - Lick Creek to Walker Mountain at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Virginia

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