Apple Orchard Mountain
The top of Apple Orchard Mountain is still home to a giant ball from the FAA.
We were in search of several things on this clear, cold day with temperatures dropping into the mid-30s as we drove the parkway to Sunset Fields: A shelter destination point so we could build a fire; a high-elevation lookout; and any evidences of the old Camp Kewanzee that was operated in the general vicinity more than 50 years ago by prominent Bedford citizen and former Jim Thorpe football teammate Gus Welch.
Two outta three's not bad, especially when the fire was barely needed owing to the strong sun and a weak breeze, and when the view from the top of 4,200-foot Apple Orchard Mountain was great in every direction, especially toward the Peaks of Otter, which seemed just one good long-jump away.
We both remembered odd little seats in the area of the government-property giant-soccer-ball tower atop Apple Orchard, and theorized that with their tiny butt buckets and coiled-spring bases, they made have been put there – many years back – for kids, and maybe as part of the camp. In this realm, we were 0 for two, as the little seats seem to have been removed since our last visit, and subsequently learned information reveals that the camp was not atop Apple Orchard Mountain proper, but back where we had started, just across the parkway and in a quarter mile or so. An exploration for another day.
We built this hike to about five miles with several side excursions to explore for the (not-here) former camp. The hike itself, just 2.2 miles each way, was a good one, with The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All basically chewing up the 700-foot climb to the Apple Orchard summit as I huffed and puffed from behind. The shelter was ours alone for lunch, made up of – you guessed it – turkey sammiches!
Hike: November 28, 2010 – Appalachian Trail from just below Sunset Field overlook at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 78.4 to Thunder Hill Shelter and back. About 5 miles.
How to get there: Blue Ridge Parkway's Sunset Field Overlook at MP 78.4.