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Kurt and Gail on what they say was their last full-summer ascent of McAfee Knob.
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Gail on Mill Mountain, August 2016.
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Kurt and Ava on a neighborhood walk.
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Gail and Eloise documenting some orange things.
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Mabel, Emily and Watson hug up at Watson’s third birthday party.
Kurt's Hikes: August 2016
August 6: Appalachian Trail from Va. 311 to McAfee Knob and back. 7.8 miles
You’re sure to meet lots of people anytime you do this popular hike on a weekend day, and sure enough, The Day Hiker crossed long-time running idol Joseph Teh, who often goes up and down more than once on each Saturday and Sunday, but on this day was limited himself to one run, due to an upcoming ginormous-length race. More unusual was meeting a friendly couple from Mexico up top, and then walking the last mile or so—yes, on the forest road—back down. Turns out they were thru-hikers, and looking keenly forward, as thru-hikers are wont to do, to dining at The Homeplace Restaurant. Their other mission at 311 was to visit the Catawba Post Office, closed on Saturday afternoon, but with a food package from home stashed inside for their pickup. So, The Day Hiker and I, far too seldom providers of trail magic, got to provide some, with a ride to the P.O. and then the Homeplace before heading to our own. And one more noteworthy item from this day in the 90s: We agreed to render one of our favorite hikes henceforth a three-season adventure. This, it should be mentioned, was not the call of The (Still Greatest on a Summer) Day Hiker, but of the old man with her, who labored in the heat getting near the top.
August 13. Harkening Hill-Johnson Farm Loop at Peaks of Otter. 4.2 miles
Not that The Day Hiker wouldn’t milk for all she could the stress of the week before, and cajole us into the unconscionable decision—again on a very hot day—to eat lunch first, and in the lodge, and then take the short loop hike up the “wrong” (easy) side of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The climb up Harkening Hill was accompanied by two pleasant encounters: First with a man even older than I, and dressed in a clean, dry, pressed white shirt, complete with pen-in-pocket. (My “quick-dry” technical t-shirt was totally soaked, as was Gail’s.) A European man, he reminded us of my late father with his enthusiasms, his love of the forest and the bounty of facts he could not wait to relate, whatever their relevance to the current situation. The second encounter came along just after a clap of thunder separated us from the hiker headed in the opposite direction (“That’s not calling me; is it calling you?” were his parting words), when the dry day suddenly erupted with an unexpected shower. The mild to moderate rainfall was nearly loud under the tree canopy, but we have never experienced a more marked example of how long a deep and tall forest will keep you dry, as we arrived at the Johnson Farm almost completely untouched by the rain.
August 19. Monument Trail, Star Trail, Mill Mountain Loop Road loop. 3.4 miles
With both weekend days booked in advance with just-turning-three Ava (Saturday) and well-past-two Eloise (Saturday night into Sunday), The Day Hiker again cashed in with a short Friday afternoon hike, up and down our local mountain. And at least we rode our bicycles to the trail head, adding a little extra mileage to the excursion; and this time we got it all done but the last bit of ride home before dining. And of course we went outside and walked with the little ones.
August 28. Trails of Grassy Hill Preserve near Rocky Mount, Va. 4.2 miles
The Day Hiker had mixed feelings about this chance to “get the hike out of the way” at the onset of a travel weekend: Hike, Hal Ketchum, lunch with Gail's sisters, birthday with turning-three Watson in Raleigh and two days at Wrightsville Beach, which also involved lots of good walking. And we shorted the Grassy Hill walk, omitting the west loop for the first time since we’ve been visiting, always in conjunction with the fine shows at the Harvester, of which Hal Ketchum, accompanied by guitarist Kenny Grimes, was no exception.