Friday, December 30, 2011

At the trail - a shakedown hike

The adventure begins. Left the beach early this morning (yes, a day later than planned), and drove to Black Horse Gap (central Virginia) where the Appalachian Trail intersects with the Blue Ridge Parkway and with a horse trail. This is the point I've chosen to start a branch of my Personal Continuous Footpath that will link the AT with my new home at Topsail Beach. That's more than 300 miles of mostly road walking, but today's first leg east was on a pleasant trail, hiked in downright balmy weather (calm winds, temperature near 60, bright sunny skies).

I arrived at Black Horse Gap about 9:30 and hit the trail. The route was on a smooth graded horse trail converted from an old road. About half a mile down from the gap was a sign (shown in the picture) identifying the former site of Black Horse Tavern, which served travelers along the road (called the Old Sweet Springs Road) in the 1800’s. I'm posting more pictures from today's hike (mostly of signs) in my Panoramio album

On the way down I met a friendly talkative muzzle loader hunter who lives in Montvale at the base of the mountain. We must have chatted for twenty minutes. When I mentioned the tavern, he launched into a story about a cache of smuggled gold and silver that is supposed to be buried somewhere within ten miles of the tavern. Supposedly the native Americans indigenous to the area have part of a clue to the whereabouts of the loot, and descendants of the early settlers have another part of the clue, but each side refuses to share their knowledge with the other. True or not, it makes a good tale!

Down at the base of the ridge my trail emerges at a US Forest Service parking area called the Day Creek trail head. I hiked another half mile out to the paved road before turning around.

Then on my ascent I was passed by three mountain bikers climbing the trail barely faster than I was walking (the trail is pretty steep, climbing 1300 feet in about a mile and a half).

It was a pretty short day of hiking, just to stretch my legs. The total distance was a bit more than 5½ miles. I was back at my vehicle at 12:45 and it was only when I sat down that I realized I had spent a lot of energy—it seemed effortless when I was hiking.

The rest of the day I spent scouting parking areas etc. for the next couple of days.

Tomorrow I'll do another short 'warm-up' hike, and hope to post another entry tomorrow afternoon or evening.

Hope everyone is enjoying the week between holidays. Enjoy tomorrow evening's celebration!

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