December 21: Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail near Roanoke. 5.4 miles.
It's an easy 5.4 whichever direction you do it in and whatever your jumping-on point. We began, as always, at the Chestnut Ridge Overlook on the Mill Mountain Spur Road to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and reverted to our usual pattern of walking to the right (clockwise?) and paused near the back side of the campground for lunch, after which The Day Hiker took her longest nap ever on a hike – 50 minutes, while people tromped on by or right next to us. There's no easier, more convenient hike around Roanoke.
December 27: Appalachian Trail to McAfee Knob from Va. 311 and back. 7.4 miles.
There are sometimes periods of time when Gail does not assert her identity as The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All. And then there was this burst up the Appalachian Trail, with various signs noting its distance as 3.7 and 3.9 miles, where car door to formation took exactly one hour and 30 minutes – the fastest we've done it in years, if not forever.
"Just trying to get it done," was her reasoning on the times when she paused to let me catch up and get water.
On the rocks, on a cold day, the place was nonetheless packed with hikers, as nearly always.