With its three distinct sections, this hike is a good one for nearly-spring when, especially in the lower section along the creeks, the early wildflowers are popping.
Which means, among other things, that The Day Hiker gets vigilant downwards and excited outwards; and that I get quizzed on what I remember from last year, and, like a kid coming back to school after the summer off, get to learn I've forgotten more than I remember. I did get the trout lily, I think, but whiffed on sawtooth cutwort and some other thing I'd likely say wrong as well if I tried.
What I can say is that there were some pretty purple flowers and some pretty yellow flowers out, and several types of healthy green shoots pushing through the dead leaves.
More toward my realm: After a brisk-paced 90-minute climb to the cliffs, the views to the west, south and north were crisp and pretty; and below, the Catawba Valley showed early signs of greening up as well. Tinker Cliffs, we paused to agree once more, is one beautiful place to sit and eat lunch; the views – from immediately below to as far as the eye can see – last a lunchtime and longer.
The way down was even brisker behind The Day Hiker, though easier since it is nearly all downward.
Andy Lane Trail to Appalachian Trail to Tinker Cliffs and back. 7.2 miles.
How to get there: Va 311 west from Salem to right onto Va. 779 for about eight miles to the parking lot.