View is from McAfee Knob
View is from McAfee Knob toward Tinker Cliffs (to right, at the end of the ridge). Rainbow in foreground courtesy of light drizzle out of a pretty nice day.
Appalachian Trail from Va. 311 to McAfee Knob, back via AT and forest road. About 7 miles.
We learned something brand new and sort of dangerous-to-real-hiking on our way back down from lunch on McAfee Knob on this afternoon punctuated by occasional mild drizzle to light showers: Back down the trail about a mile and a half, where it crosses the forest road, The Day Hiker said hey, let's try something we've never done before and take the forest road.
She's never a fan of forest road walks, but my theory about why she suggested this one came hugely true: The road is not only gentle-surfaced and almost completely all downhill (unlike the pesky AT, which has these daggone rocks and wooden bridges with steps, and even pesky ascents to it coming back down), but is also without doubt shorter. In fact, it took us an hour and 55 minutes to get up to the rock formation (hey, it was a good day for wildflowers despite Gail's pre-hike assertion that there was "nothing" along that section, and so we did stop and look quite a bit, especially on the first two miles or so), and only an hour and a half back down.
One of the showery periods came along as we ate lunch, which provided some free comedy of the dog and her mistress getting their leash tangled around packs and dog bowls and lunch items while drops splashed lightly in a clear puddle on the rocks. And also a nice rainbow arching in the foreground of the view over the Catawba Valley.
How to get there: Va. 311 west from Salem to parking lot where the road crosses its high point on Catawba Mountain. First-timers: McAfee is in the direction that takes you across the road and onto the AT.
April 25, 2010