Sunday, January 22, 2012

With apologies to Carl Sandburg

Mountain fog comes
On lion claws bared
Raking with the wind
Over tree and vine
And restless, roaring
It moves on.

And Mountain Fog graces the land with haunting beauty.

But there was a view behind all that mist and rime ice. I missed the view.

It was foggy almost all day today as I hiked sixteen miles along Garden Mountain from Jenkins Shelter to Walker Gap in two out-and-back sections.

The morning section started at 3900 feet at the VA 623 crossing. It takes half an hour to get there from civilization - 7.4 miles of hairpin switchbacks on one lane gravel road up from VA 42 - but it's worth it. The wind-driven fog made for a cold 1.5 mile hike along the ridge of Garden Mountain; then I began the descent, dropping into calm conditions, passing an excellent spring at 3200 feet, and then descending out of the fog below 3000 feet.

The afternoon section began with a steep rocky ascent to over 4000 feet and then more than a mile of rocky, tortured ups and downs. But it was beautiful. How do Virginia's rhododendrons survive, even flourish, on mountain-ridge bedrock?

And Mirabile Dictu - I met a hiker! First one in a week. A local out for a Sunday day-hike with his dog parked his Subaru where I parked while I was on my northward leg, and I met him as I headed south. For a few minutes we chatted about the fog, the ice, and the remaining distance for me to reach Walker Gap.

The trail gradually mellowed as I continued south, and finally after about 3 miles, I passed the last of the rocky sections and began a peculiar set of knob-climbs and knob-desents. These are what some hikers call PUD's (Pointless ups and downs). It would be easy to just go around these knobs on level trail - easy, that is, if the land was publicly owned. The trail corridor along this last mile of Garden Mountain where it descends to Walker Gap is very narrow.

Walker Gap is where I turned around, and it was where the fog briefly lifted, affording me a nice view or two of the west end of Burke's Garden. I drove through Burke's Garden back in 1978, and secretly have wanted to live in "God's Thumbprint" ever since. But if the locals wouldn't sell land to Vanderbilt (his first choice for the Biltmore Estate was in Burke's Garden), then they surely wouldn't sell to little ol' me. It is an amazingly isolated, amazingly serene patch of earth.

The icy mountain fog returned as I traversed the rocky ridge line on my return leg, and the day ended much as it began, at an empty, dreary ridge-top parking lot:


For the complete detailed GPS track of today's hike, complete with embedded photos, click below:

AT Day 22 - Garden Mountain at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Virginia

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