Friday, January 20, 2012
Day 20: Side-hill walking
Saying good-bye to Ellen was tough. And leaving Woods Hole Hostel behind added to the melancholy that began today. But there was trail to conquer, and new vistas of earth and soul to experience. It was, in the end, good to get back on the trail.
Because of the late start, I only got in about eleven miles today. The first three were all road walking - the longest stretch of AT road walking I've experienced (1.4 linear trail miles continuously on road according to my GPS). This includes passing over I-77. But then it was back into the woods.
The rest of the day I hiked the west side slope of Brushy Mountain with some nice views of Hunting Camp Creek Valley all along the way.
Back on January 10th you may recall me complaining about the tortuous rocky side-hill walking that the trail forced on me because it had to avoid a ridge-hogging public road. Well, I expected the same today. Wyrick Trail (FR 282) claims the ridge top of Brushy Mountain for nearly four miles here, so the trail is left to seek its sense of seclusion, and its own identity, on the side slope.
Well, as contrived and underwhelming as the January 10th experience was, today's side-hill walk was not only a pleasant surprise, it was one of the prettier sections of trail I've walked in many days.
This section (maintained by the Piedmont AT hikers - PATH) oozes a comfortable, mossy personality, kind of like an old leather glove. The trail often follows century-old logging roads that have settled into the hillside almost as if they naturally belong there, and the treadway is everywhere smooth and inviting. The winter views of the valley below are generous, and the trail does not, in fact, just scrape along peevishly, as if resenting the road, always just a few steps under the ridge-line. Rather, it sometimes drifts halfway down to the valley to find its muse.
I ended today's leg back near the ridge, though - at a place where one can access the AT from a small camp site and parking area on Wyrick Trail. It is exactly half-way (3.4 miles road distance, not AT trail distance) between where the AT enters the woods [leaves FR 282] and where FR 282 intersects with VA 615 in the Laurel Creek valley. This turn-out is not marked with a sign on the road side, but there is a well-trodden trail that follows an old woods road from the ridge-top camping area to the AT, intersecting it at a very oblique angle. And at that intersection is a post which once held a sign. (In recent days I've seen many signs that have been similarly obliterated - wondering if someone in this area has a vendetta or holds a grudge against the trail.)
In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed today's trail experience. It's entirely possible that the serene weather helped leave a positive impression - it was almost spring-like, with calm wind and temperature nearly up to 50 degrees up on Brushy Mountain. It got cloudy by mid-afternoon, and for the third time in the last week, a significant rain held off until I was finished my day's hiking.
Sort of reminds you of 'Camelot', where it only rains at night.
Here's the detailed GPS track for today, with a bunch of embedded photos:
AT Day 20 - Brushy Mountain above Hunting Camp Creek at EveryTrail
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