No knob today: McAfee, a popular AT stop near Catawba, VA. Photo by Bob Stimson, courtesy the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
Appalachian Trail from Va. 311 northward to just beyond the forest road crossing and back. About 5.2 miles.
The stretch of the Appalachian Trail from Va. 311 northward toward McAfee Knob is a great one for a threatening day. There's a shelter about a third of the way up, and another about two-thirds of the way up. (And if you make it all the way, there's another within a mile beyond the summit.)
On this day, our annual July 4 McAfee visit delayed a day by a family gathering on the actual 4th, the weather had moved a little beyond threatening and into downright rainy. At the parking lot, with just three other cars in it, a couple walked off the trail from the north as we got out of the car. They talked about getting down the mountain, out of the rain and into a cab back to their car at U.S. 220 in Daleville. The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All is also a fine dispenser of trail magic, and loaded the wet couple up for a ride down the mountain toward Salem while puppy Cookie and I started up the trail, pleased to be able to walk at a reasonable pace for a change.
The start of the walk was drizzly at worst, and the good leaf cover kept us dry. Cookie and I paused at the Boy Scout shelter – a little more than a mile in – and within a few moments, The Day Hiker came running on up the trail, having put even more speed in her step than usual without the laggard to hold her back.
The "good" weather continued as we passed Catawba Mountain Shelter, where we'd planned to stop and eat had it been raining. But we'd walked only a little more than a half mile further toward the goal of McAfee before the rain began in earnest and we turned around to retreat to the shelter, where we were warm and dry for lunch as the rain fell hard outside.
A letup in the rain coincided with our being ready to head back down, but lasted on a few minutes before the heaviest rainfall of our walk for the rest of the way down.
It's never fully gratifying to set out to walk to somewhere and then turn around before you get there; but it is satisfying, even on a foggy/rainy day, to be out in the woods, with your best girl, on The Great Trail.
July 5, 2009