Tinker Mountain, a little nub of Brushy Mountain just above the skinny end of Carvins Cove, Tinker Mountain again after its turn westward, Read Mountain and – against the skyline –the Peaks of Otter.
This great walk seems to come up for us around New Year's and on July 4, which got me to wondering how many times, since Valentine's Day 2004 when we began the hiking oddity, we've done it.
This cold, some-parts-snowy occasion turns out to be the 16th time. And, as The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All pointed out on this day, it gets shorter and easier every time – for her anyway. 'Course we did hop onto the forest road coming back down, which really does avoid some rocks and climbs, but which on this day had some good, deep-drifted-snow spots along it.
On the walk up – all AT – we saw hardly anyone, despite Gail's pre-arrival dead-on guess that there would be 24 cars in the Catawba Mountain lot. Well, technically there were only 23, as we became the 24th.
But up on the rocks of the Knob, there were people as nearly always – talking, taking pictures, eating, pointing and looking at all the cool things to see in every direction, in nearly all of which nothing at all was changing or moving – just mountains, valleys, farther-away mountains. And also the Roanoke Regional Airport, where in a little over an hour as we lingered for lunch, we saw, um, nothing move.
As we walked down into quickly lengthening shadows, there were still people headed up to this great spot – people who would be treasuring the snowy stretches on their way down, highlighting the walking path as snow magically does in the darkness.
Hike: December 31, 2010.
McAfee Knob via the Appalachian Trail up and the AT and forest road down. 7.4 miles.
How to get there: Va. 311 west from Salem to the parking lot atop Catawba Mountain.