Monday, January 23, 2012

Beautiful Chestnut Ridge

High meadows, windswept vistas on a mild day. It was too good to be true, especially after morning rain kept me off the trail until 11AM. Much later and I wouldn't have been able to make the out-and-back trek over 4400 foot Chestnut Knob. But the weather cleared - one last shower got me wet as I started out, and fog on the ridge obscured all the vistas on the way up, but that's the beauty of hiking the trail twice - a second chance at seeing the sights. After dropping down 900 feet to Walker Gap where I ended yesterday, the fog had lifted, and on my return leg, Chestnut Ridge presented me with all the glory of its grand vistas:

And at the very top, standing defiantly before the rasping mountain winds, is Chestnut Knob Shelter - a true mountaintop refuge. This is one of the few shelters that is entirely enclosed and has windows and a door. And it's built like a bomb shelter--with stone walls that must be two feet thick. It used to have a big inside fireplace, but they've filled that in and closed off the chimney.

Finally, even at 4400 feet, the hale species Quercus Alba (White Oak) thrives -- here's a huge spreading, squat old specimen just off the trail:

Highlights of the 2100 foot climb/descent off the ridge include a quarter mile stretch of trail with 120 log steps (yes, I counted them), and this creative yet functional trail art:


I got in 13 1/2 miles despite the late start - that meant a late finish too. I was hiking until just after sunset, and once again I was alone on the trail all day. Too bad, because Chestnut Ridge was unusually welcoming for a mid-winter day. Climatologically this is the coldest week of the year, and yet the temperature was up over 60 degrees this afternoon.


Below is a plot of my detailed GPS track, and the EveryTrail page also links that track to photos at every point marked with a little red 'pin':

AT Day 23 - Chestnut Ridge at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Virginia

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