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Matthew on the side of the Tooth
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Pondering lunch on the open spot near the Tooth
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Matthew on the side of the Tooth
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Aww, they got matching hiking shoes . . .
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The AT reaches the crest of the mountain at Dragon's Tooth
Seems like it might be better, if you gotta get behind at all, to get behind on the hike reports instead of the hikes themselves . . .
With that perspective, the last three weekends of November all provided great hikes to great lunch/overlook spots, and each with a different context.
The November 11 walk was one of our favorites, and one that had not been available for a time due to the closing of FR 59 because of fallen trees. But on this pretty day the road was open to the 8.5-mile loop up the Apple Orchard Trail to the Appalachian Trail south to Black Rocks and then back north to the Cornelius Creek Trail and down. Apple Orchard Falls was slender amid our dry year, but the view from the rocks was clear and long, and the walk was undertaken briskl,y with The Greatest Day Hiker of Them All leading the way up before grousing a little ("Does this ever end?"), as she always does, coming back down the wide, easy Cornelius Creek Trail. She went so far as to fall ceremoniously and ironically to the ground toward the end in pretend exhaustion, perhaps with hopes that her ostensibly heroic and owner-protecting dog would rush to see what could be done to save her mistress. But Cookie, as always, looked around a little to see if any food had been dropped, and headed on down the trail.
The November 17 hike was also one not done in a good long time . . . up the Appalachian Trail from Va. 621 to the Audie Murphy Monument and back down, for a 7.8-mile trek. On the way up, we crossed a rare north-to-south thru hiker--trail name Piper--who had left Mt. Katahdin in August and projected a December finish in Georgia. She said there were three or four others within a day of her on their way south. Up top, The Day Hiker's Reynaud's Syndrome turned her fingers pretty white as the evergreens prevented the full sun from reaching the overlook rock and nearby bench, one of a surprising number near the monument and along the trail approaching it. Back down at 621, there was an unusual cluster of people finishing up for such a cold day at such an obscure spot, including the day hiker who'd accompanied Piper for a few days; her ride arrived just as everyone else did.
The November 24 hike was a big ol' post-Thanksgiving walk undertaken at the suggestion of David and Emily, in from Raleigh. Also on the trail: Eric, Adam, Matthew, family friend Eric Evans and canines Fluff, Cookie, Sugar and Olive, whose last name, in case I've not mentioned it for a few weeks, is TheOtherReindeer. The other three dogs do not have last names, tho' they do all tie to the season as well, what with their goofy, sweet-treat monikers.
The Dragon's Tooth Trail itself is an easy meander with a few gentle climbs, but soon after the this walk gets onto the Appalachian Trail, things get rocky and even faux-technical here and there, with scrambles, cliffettes and even ladder-forming giant staples stuck into rocks. It was through this section that each of the dogs faced a challenge or two:
Fluff: I am old and my back legs are not that dependable any longer, and I'm not as big as I look under all this white fur, so just g'head and lift me on up onto that big rock, 'K?
Cookie: Oh no what am I gonna do where will I go how do I get up there are you gonna leave me why isn't there a way who put these rocks here what is going to happen to me next is there any food up there if I do make it?
Sugar: I'm pretty young and I haven't done all that much of this big-rock stuff, so let me balk a few times and then, since I am a giant, scary-lookin' dawg, I'll be fine.
Olive: Dude, I only weigh 13 pounds--you're carrying more than that on your back.
Up top, Matthew climbed the formation, reporting both great views and lots of cavities in the tooth. We debated the lunch spot a little before retreating from the open-to-the-west space around the formation to a more east-facing spot. Not icy-wind-free, but at least in the sun and a little bit warmer. Lunch featured--you guessed it--turkey sammiches, though they were flavored up several notches by the addition of the sausage Eric fired up atop his tiny cookstove.
On the way down, Eric, Eric, Adam and Dave got to flex a few more muscles with dog-hefting as the day warmed up a little and the trail flattened out to an easy finish.
How to get there:
November 11: Exit 168 of I-81 onto Va. 614 to FR 59 to the parking lot at the end.
November 17: Va. 311 west from Salem to Va. 621 to small parking lot on the right.
November 24: Va. 311 west from Salem to small, marked parking lot on the left.