The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All pauses at Hale Lake, while still pretty oblivious to the storms preparing to brew up behind her.
The day's schedule had us in Rural Retreat for the morning and early afternoon--at Rural Retreat Heritage Days, where we had a little canopy to sit under, next to copies of "Finding Grace," which didn't sell quite as well as, say, lemonade, funnel cakes and kiddie visits to the big inflatable jump-around apparatuses, though we did meet up with a former Kenwood High School student from 200 years ago and her husband for a nice chat. Also under the canopy with her book: the just-out-of-high-school Selena McGrady, whose cheerful forwardness will take her far as she moves along to Wytheville Community College toward her goal of becoming an FBI agent.
Anyway, by 1:30 we were away from the festival and on our way to the Comers Rock area of the Mt. Rogers NRA, where we came upon a couple of rangers who were indeed a couple, and also very pleased to be assigned to the Virginia mountains, though they could tell us absolutely nothing about where the elusive trailhead was.
Comers Rock, a little more than a half mile into this walk, affords a nice view from the base of a long-gone fire tower. Then you backtrack to near the starting point and get onto the Iron Mountain Trail toward Hale Lake, along a good trail occasionally crowded by rhododendron. Hale Lake is a pleasant, man-made water body that on this day was well-populated with tadpoles and froglets, which The Day Hiker paused to admire as clouds gathered to the west and the distant thunder we'd pretty much ignored on the way in began to grow louder and closer.
The start of a storm in the forest is generally pretty pleasant in the summer . . . the gentle noise of infrequent drops hitting the leaves far above you, barely a drop reaching you.
But the full arrival, especially when you have left your umbrellas in the car (how would we know; we have been doing this now for only some 400-plus weeks), can be less fun, with those close-in rhododendron now soaking your shorts; and by the time we got back to the car--with The Day Hiker leading the way to get us back in 15 fewer minutes than we'd used to walk in--we were fully drenched from hair to socks.
A quick change back into our not-selling-any-books clothes fixed that right up.
In the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area of Virginia: Comers Rock Trail and Iron Mountain Trail section. 5.6 miles
How to get there: I-81 exit 72 at Wytheville onto Va 21 south for 17 miles, then right onto gravel FR 57 for 4 miles to campground/parking area.