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: