Snowy McAfee's Knob
Left: The view of Catawba Valley. right: Gail and Cookie at McAfee Knob, on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.
Another cold day, but predicted to be not as cold as the ensuing two, which as of this writing on January 11 has turned out to be the ensuing 10 at least – some of the coldest weather in Roanoke in a decade. With big ol' wind. And the snow from December 18-19 sort of turning into mini-glaciers, especially in the mountains.
As we drove, we speculated on how many cars we'd see in the Catawba Mountain lot on this New Year's Day. I guessed 12, The Day Hiker guessed eight. There were six, with two of them arriving just as we did. One emptied out two young couples who started maybe five minutes behind us and by a mile or so in were in distinct hearing distance – the second weekend in a row where The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All had her trail speed challenged a little. But she would have none of it, and after a brief pause, took the hell off. And I, having cajoled us out into the cold, had no real choice but to follow. Once Gail had fully buried the pretenders to her crown (I think she crushed 'em so bad they turned back, as we never saw them again), I was forced to admit that I hadn't breathed as hard on the morning run as I did on the mile and a half or so between the near-catch and the crossing of the forest road, where she let us slow down a little.
Toward the summit, things began to get more glacierish and windy. A woman with her equally thin dog, who had also arrived when we did and had started running up the forest road, crossed us near the summit and admonished that we "be careful up there." Which rendered Gail highly cautious with her dog, who is inclined to climb precipices and go the edge for views. Most of the ice on the McAfee outcrop was in off the very end of the ledge, and Cookie seemed uncharacteristically wary of going too far out.
Lunch, around on the east side away from the worst west winds, was slightly hurried due to the cold, though with her hand warmers busted out at the very onset and used well, Gail experienced no outbreak of Reynaud's, which had never before been the case on a winter hike.
Still, she couldn't bring herself to agree with me that for a winter day up this high, things were as pleasant as could be expected. She was more inclined toward words like… freeeezing!
Or maybe toward the "Beautiful Winter Poem" that circulated in the email world a few days after this hike. Take a moment and savor every word:
Crap… it's cold.
January 1, 2010.