Thursday, October 4, 2012

My first Rattler

Wednesday, September 26, 2012:

No AT thru-hike is complete until you've had an encounter with a rattlesnake.  Mine finally came today, near the summit of The Priest.  I've seen rattlers before, especially out in Colorado where I lived for ten years.  But here in the east, in all of my years, this is only the second.  And the first one I saw was a mere two miles away, on the trail up Crabtree Falls!  Coincidence?  A Rattlesnake hot-spot?  Who knows.

There were other significant headlines I could have used today.  For example:  Under 500 miles to go! To be precise, after today's hike, I have 499.8 official AT miles left to hike to complete my 2012 double.

Another more personal headline might be "Throw away the Ibuprofen" - after three days using it to combat a sore left knee (caused by trying to do too much too fast on the very first day down south after four zero days), I was back to my usual medication-free status.  This was the first time I had relied on 'Vitamin I' to aid my hike since the one day back down south when I woke up with a swollen twisted ankle.

I could also headline today as the day of my second encounter with a hiker I'd first met up north.  'Banjo' is doing a flip-flop from Delaware Water Gap.  I do not recall where we met (and he didn't say), nor what was said in our conversation up there, but for a change I did distinctly remember his face.  Speaking of rattlesnake hot spots, Banjo also saw one today while going over Three Ridges.

View E from 2900 feet on N spur of The Priest
I hiked more than 18 miles today in beautiful sunny weather.  Unfortunately it was a bit warm and humid, so it was sweaty on the climbs (and I had one of the big climbs this morning - 3000 vertical feet in four miles of trail ascending The Priest from the Tye River).  And the humidity made for less-than-optimum views from the available viewpoints on the Priest and later from Spy Rock.  In fact, I didn't even take the side trail to Spy Rock today because of the haze and because I had taken a full 360 degree panorama from there when I last hiked this piece of trail back on June 14th, 2011.

Spy Rock view, taken June 14, 2011

Woods road to Little Priest and Rocky Run
And that leads me to perhaps the final headline story for today.  This is the most visited section of the AT for me, and the trail around The Priest is the first significant bit of AT I ever hiked.  I used to own land in the Rocky Run valley right at the base of The Priest, and made the 2.5 mile hike from that property up to the summit via an old washed out woods road that follows Rocky Run, now virtually never used but still visible in the woods.  Today I located the virtually unrecognizable junction of that old woods road with the AT in a flat spot at 3780 feet elevation and not far below the Priest Shelter side trail, and got a GPS waypoint.  It's at N 37 49.165, W 79 04.476.  The road becomes clear and easy to follow just a few hundred feet east of the AT, where I snapped the photo at right.  It follows the ridge to the saddle between The Priest and the Little Priest before swinging down to follow the stream.

So it was a headline day.  I'd be eternally happy if every day was so packed with memorable moments.


Here's the map of the route of today's hike, with a link to more photos:

AT Day 240 - The Priest at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Virginia

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