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Kurt at Mill Mountain Overlook
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Gail on the Belfast Trail near Devil’s Marbleyard.
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Gail above Carvins Cove along the AT.
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Gail near the summit of Sinking Creek Mountain along the AT.
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Cookie in Brown Mountain Creek along the AT.
March 4: Belfast, Gunter Ridge and Appalachian trails out and back. 7.2 miles
The first concern about this hike is always the limited parking at the base of the Belfast Trail, as the Devil’s Marbleyard is a popular destination and the little lot fills up fast. We got lucky and arrived just as someone was pulling out. The climb next to the formation remains as direct and challenging as ever, but after that, the Belfast Trail evens out a bit as it takes you to the ridgeline and the Gunter Ridge Trail to the AT, which we walked to its intersection with the forest road that provides a nice view down onto the James River—a favorite spot for lunch.
March 11. Star Trail, Loop Trail and city blocks to Athens Grill and back. 8 miles.
When your lunch is going to be at one of your favorite restaurants, the walk is a little easier; and this trek over the top of Mill Mountain and past the star is not all that tough anyway. ‘Course when you’re ordering a bottle of wine with lunch at 12:30, you have to explain to the former neighbors and another acquaintance couple that, you know, you walked over the mountain to get here, and you’re going to walk back over it after lunch . . .
March 12. Appalachian Trail from U.S. 220 in Daleville to “Hey” Rock and back. 5.6 miles.
It’s been awhile since we undertook two hikes in the same weekend, at least locally, but then maybe The Day Hiker is working to get “The Greatest” in front of that designation and “Of Them All,” behind it, as it was her suggestion to get back out on Sunday, for one of our favorite lunch spots—looking down on Carvins Cove from where the ridge-line section of the trail pops out onto a rock. The recent trail reroutings on this section make it even more enjoyable than in the past.
March 17. Stuart Knob Trails at Fairy Stone State Park. About 4 miles.
Our plan this day, for the afternoon prior to going to see Tom Rush at the Harvester in Rocky Mount in the evening, was to walk the trails of Jamison Mill Park. But the whole entrance was blocked off, and fronted with signs about closed till further notice. We overcame that bummer by heading on to nearby Fairy Stone State Park, trail of which would also be new to us. The Stuart Knob trails at Fairy Stone are not too long and not too demanding, but provide glimpses into the old iron mines of the region. We had plenty of time to get back to Rocky Mount, get something to eat and then watch Rush, accompanied by the hyper-talented Matt Nakoa on piano, backup vocals, guitar and the occasional solo.
March 18. Appalachian Trail from Va. 621 south to Eastern Continental Divide on Sinking Creek Mountain and back. 8 miles.
The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All has us out for a second day in a row for the second time in the month, with this 1,800-foot climb of Sinking Creek Mountain, which is never particularly steep, but in exchange goes on with faux approach after faux approach before finally reaching the sign that announces the spot where the rain on one side flows toward the Mississippi and on the other side to the Atlantic.
March 25. Appalachian Trail from U.S. 60 south to Pedlar Lake area and back. 9 miles.
This relatively flat stretch of the AT takes you through the remnants of the old freedmen’s community along Brown Mountain Creek, which is interesting to walkers for its old ruins, and to the dog for her non-stop water play.