View from the Top... of Sharp Top
From the top of Sharp Top, looking eastward, 2/11/12.
With as close to a truly winter day as we've had this winter, we opted for the once-a-year of lunch in the Peaks of Otter Lodge at the pause point between a hike up a mountain on one side of the Blue Ridge Parkway and a hike up a mountain on the other side of the parkway.
The first one – Sharp Top – is shorter at 1.5 each way, but also harder, with its steep climb and rocky surface at some points. Especially on this day, when most of it was covered with a thin layer of snow.
Part of that wintry day aspect was the forecast of dropping temperatures and increasing winds as the day went on. When we got out of the car it was 32 and breezy; at the top of 3,800-foot Sharp Top it was minus 57 with winds of up to 155 miles an hour. OK, below freezing and with gusts that cut through your layers like they pretty much weren't there.
We also found we had two non-functioning camera batteries, but luckily there were two other people up there, and one offered to take a photo and email it to us.
Back down the mountain at lunch, the food was good but a pair of attitudes deteriorated a bit, as The Day Hiker and nine-year-old Matthew began to conspire to accomplish a blowing off the after-lunch part of the excursion.
"It's so cold out there."
"We already walked a lot."
"The wind would be terrible."
"My feet kind of hurt."
All of which resulted in that rarest of hiking phenomena for us – me leading the way up the relatively gentle climb of 3,300-foot Harkening Hill, with Matthew buoyed by the prospect of visiting Balance Rock to the extent that he stopped along the way several times to try to make geology happen by pushing against roundish, car-size boulders here and there.
And at Balance Rock, we learned for the first time, thanks to the rock pusher, that it really does teeter there on its perch just down the side trail from the peak. Matthew opined that 10 strong guys could push it over. He could be right.
As usual, no one was home at the Johnson Farm, and the place looked pretty bleak in winter.
From there, it was no more than on down the rest of the mountainside and back to the car there next to the lodge, with all agreeing that the second hike was easier than the first, even though it was longer.
Back in the car, the thermometer read 22.
Sharp Top up and down; Harkening Hill/Johnson Farm loop at Peaks of Otter. About 7.5 miles
How to get there: Blue Ridge Parkway to Milepost 86.