A few weeks ago I drove out to my trusty state park to check out the conditions of the trails, and found that they were still covered in snow. And because I’m not a fan of walking over snow and ice, I’ve been sticking to a 4-mile paved trail that runs in a loop around the park. It’s a nice option for outdoor walking, but it’s just not the same as a wooded trail. I was anxious to get back into the woods, so to speak.
And this week felt like a turning point. It helped that I spent the first part of the week in western Virginia, where the weather was a little warmer and there were mountains almost at my doorstep. I took advantage of this beautiful area of the country and went on a few hikes: the first, an 8+ miler to a decent overlook, and the second, a 3+ miler straight up a mountain to a 360 panoramic view of the countryside (this is the hike that tortured my legs).
This part of the state is home to a section of the Appalachian Trail. Hiking the AT isn’t something that I think I’ll be doing any time soon, if at all, and yet… every time I’m on the trail or near the trail, I think about what it would be like to spend 6 months walking through the woods. There’s something immensely appealing about it- to spend all of that time almost entirely in nature. Moving slowly up a country (not unlike what I’ve done on the Camino, just a much greater distance), carrying not only my possessions on my back but also my food and my home… and doing nothing but walking. The Camino was such a great accomplishment, and I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to walk the entirety of the Appalachian Trail.
But for all of the trail’s appeal, there’s a lot about it that doesn’t appeal to me. Namely, wildlife. Specifically, bears. And snakes. And anything that moves during the night. And the fact that I can’t routinely pass through towns and indulge in cups of coffee and glasses of wine. So for now, I’ll stick with the Camino.
In any case, my 8-mile hike this week found me on the Appalachian Trail, but just for a mile or two. I was hiking the John’s Creek Mountain Trail- or at least, I was trying to. Supposedly, I would be on the trail for about 3.5 miles and then link up to the AT, where I would hike for another mile over to Kelly’s Knob, a ridge offering a decent view of the New River Valley. Except I couldn’t find the trailhead for the John’s Creek Mountain Trail. I drove up and down the mountain roads until I finally pulled over in a clearing that led to a wide, flat, dirt covered track. The track meandered up the mountainside at a very slight incline, and a sign indicated that no motorized vehicles were allowed through, but that foot travel was welcome.
After a few miles I came across an orange blazed trail, and for once my navigational instincts were correct: I turned right on the trail (which was indeed John Creek’s Mountain Trail), and after a mile hit the Appalachian Trail. I’m not sure where I went wrong and missed the trailhead, but I’m glad that I did. The mountain track was an easy way to start the hike, and as it wound around the mountain, I was frequently treated to beautiful views and blue skies.
So here’s the photo of the week, from what felt like my first real hike of the year:
Anika Goldhahn says
This sounds and looks amazing!
I would love to do the AT – however I think it would be impossible for me doing it on my own. I don’t think I could carry food and tent on my own. But also can’t imagine doing it with someone else. And also the snakes, dangerous insects, bears….but what an adventure!!!
I agree with you- I know that I’d probably feel anxious and scared on my own (especially at night), but the AT is definitely something I’d want to do alone. Oh well, sticking with the Camino is the perfect option for now!!
Jeffrey Everets says
Just a reminder. You could do the AT like the Spaniards do the Camino, in bits. Try a week and see if it suits you. But I agree. I like a place to sleep at the end of the day. Even better if there is beer. Cheer!
Hi Jeffrey! You’re absolutely right- I’ve thought that if I ever start to consider trying the AT, I’d do about a week or so… see if it’s my cup of tea. But that will be a year or two down the road- for now, my mind and heart are filled with the Camino!
Jeffrey Everets says
I understand. We are thinking of doing it again in 2020. There is so much more of the world we want to see.