December 15: From Parkway Milepost 101.5: FR 191 to AT to Fullhart Knob Shelter and back. 8.0 miles
This is a pretty easy and convenient-to-Roanoke way to get in 8 miles, and with a good mid-point in the shelter, which has a good fire pit, though we did not use it on this day. We saw no one on the trail on this pretty-cold Saturday.
December 23: Read Mountain Trail up and back with Aden and Matthew. 3.8 miles
With family members beginning to build in for Christmas, we signed up the 10-year-old grandsons for this easy walk. Both had their moments on the way up--Aden threatening to fall out on the trail and wait till we came back down, and Matthew experiencing some dizziness--but these minor protests were overcome fairly easily, especially when The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All (Especially With Grandsons) trotted out the alphabet game of things found in the woods. The woods got expanded a little to Africa and all, but the last half of the climb went by in a hurry.
The fellas were a little disappointed that there was no buzzard on Buzzard Rocks, especially after we'd told them that the last time we were up there, there had been two hanging out in the pines by the rocks.
This was a pretty quick go-and-do hike, and so the rare one where we didn't eat lunch at the mid-point.
And of course the way back down was far quicker than the way up.
December 31: Woodthrush Trail to Ridgeline Trail to top of Mill Mountain and down the Star Trail. About 5 miles.
We arrived at the parking lot along Bennington exactly concurrent with two other vehicles unloading walkers and dogs, so we let them get a head start, with hopes that they'd stay on the Star Trail so that The Day Hiker would not run them down in a hurry as she does most hikers. And, sure 'nuff they did, as we hung a left by the water tank to take the Woodthrush Trail, blazes for which, we wondered why, have been obliterated for the last quarter mile or so before the trail reaches the spur road (which--also unexplained--was closed just beyond the Mill Mountain Spur, as our first choice had been the Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail, rendered inaccessible by the blockade).
Once across the road and on the Ridge Line Trail, we encountered our first sets of other walkers since we'd left the parking lot.
On top of the mountain, things were breezy and cool, but lunch was good.
And the way down was easy.