Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The rolling stone gathers abundant moss

It depends on your frame of reference, you see. Human time frame: we need to see the stone roll. Nature's time frame: the evidence that these stones roll down the slopes is clear. And the moss accompanies their geological journey.

Today was a delicious day for moss. It was damp and mild at first, and a steady rain developed after 1PM. I'm glad I chose to hike in it. There were so many mossy scenes like this. High up near 5000 feet on Pine mountain, the forest took on the character of the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, with spruce trees as the most abundant species. What more appropriate time to wander a rain forest than when it's raining?

Although this Day 29 of hiking (February 1st) was a fifteen mile day, the trail description is fairly brief - I climbed two big mountains and visited a shelter on each of them. First came Hurricane Mountain - an easy, gradual ascent to 4300 feet from the parking lot at 3500 feet along Fox Creek. I descended the other side to Hurricane Shelter and on down to 3100 feet where there's access via a side trail to FR 84. Part of this section of trail follows a former road that cannot have been abandoned more than a few years - the road surface is free of all vegetation and still looks as if it has been recently graded (meaning by heavy equipment, not a maintainer's hoe) and manicured to passenger car standards. The AT follows many 'old woods roads', but I'd call this a 'freshly converted forest road'. I guess I'm dwelling on this because besides the nice new Hurricane Shelter (built in 2004), this was about the most unusual aspect of the traverse of Hurricane Mountain.

Then came the ascent of Pine Mountain from the north - the wooded approach that passes through the edges of the Lewis Fork Wilderness Area. Near the top of Pine Mountain you cross through a stile and enter a broad high open pasture at close to 5000 feet elevation. Today I turned around there and headed back into the woods, glad to have the chance to come back and experience the open pasture tomorrow when there's at least a chance that it won't be raining and foggy.

Old Orchard Shelter, half way up Pine Mountain, is one of the more rustic - a log structure that isn't chinked, so some of the wind can blow right through it. But it has a nice new metal roof that keeps the ancient, well-worn sleeping platform as dry as a bone. No moss allowed.

It's been a month on the trail now - perhaps time for a bit of reflection. I'm done ten percent of the total length, and what the AT has taught me in that month is that I want to be the kind of rolling stone that gathers and nurtures the moss - the patient kind that can watch with equanimity as the human struggle to roll stones ever faster and faster plays itself out.

Some day we, as a species, will figure it out.
And all the stones will again gather their moss.


Here's the detailed GPS track. For more details and photos, click below:

AT Day 29 - Hurricane and Pine Mountains at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Virginia

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