The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All with black dog and orange mushrooms, and taking a respite from chigger dismay.
Va. 614 from Appalachian Trail crossing to Little Cove Mountain Trail to AT back to 614 at Jennings Creek. 7.8 miles. (Our total for the day was about 9.3, given a foolish 1.5-mile detour.)
We've been hiking in these Virginia woods a long long time now. Long enough to know all about the basics of weather, trail conventions, insects, you name it.
Every once in a while, though, we seem to just dumb down for a day.
We didn't start out this day that way, however. We parked along Solitude Road off of Va. 614, intending to to the Sprouts Run-Wilson Mountain loop. While we were unpacking, a red pickup stopped right behind us and two young fellas got out their hunting dog antenna and pointed it up the hill where we were headed. Gail asked if I'd heard a shot and I said no. We made our way over the style that lets you into the private property stretch of the trail that leads to National Forest land. We walked maybe a hundred steps and this time I did hear the shot. And Gail said hey, let's not walk here today.
And so we didn't.
We headed back out to 614 along Jennings Creek until we got to where the AT crosses. We parked there and decided to do the Little Cove-AT loop in the direction that gets the little stretch of 614 out of the way first. And part of that mile we did as a creekwhack, making our way up the relatively low streambed so the dog could splash around and wreck life for a few small fish on her way up to the trail.
Across the bridge and on the trail, you soon come to a fork, with the leftward trail heading along the stream and the rightward one heading up the mountain we've climbed before.
"Who's gonna put a trail up the mountain if it's not the trail up the mountain," was my logic to The Day Hiker, who bought it. And it was at least half a mile later that I wondered aloud at why they hadn't blazed this trail, forest service trail that it was. And maybe another quarter mile before The Day Hiker opined as how they ID the trails with blaze color on the National Geographic map going to complete waste in the back of my back; and maybe we should check it.
"Blue," she said, followed by at least symbolic forehead slaps of self from both of us before we turned around and headed back to just about where we started from the road.
Once we'd been on the blue-blazed trail for a mile or so and were heading up the mountain we'd already half-climbed on another trail, The Day Hiker had her little epiphany: Her ankles were feeling a little itchy and this was, after all, Cove Mountain we were climbing, site of our first, worst and at least one other Chigger Attack. So we stopped and did some ankle-spraying.
Well, I got some ankle-spraying. The Day Hiker went considerably farther up and around her body, and we continued on our pretty-merry way.
Until, suddenly, at just about the point where the Little Cove Mountain Trail crosses the forest road, Gail decided she'd been
infested anyway and semi-frantically sat down to tear off her shoes and socks to verify... SHE'D BEEN ATTACKED ONCE AGAIN!
She sprayed some more and followed that with some furious wet-wiping and rubbing and slapping, followed by wailing about how stupid can we be?
We got through lunch at that spot with only occasional additional ruing of how dumb we'd been. Followed by the debate about whether to make the rest of the mile-or-so climb to the AT intersection of just head back down the way we came.
The climb is of course worth it, both because it avoids backtracking and walking the road again, and because that stretch of the AT – from near the Cove Mountain summit down to Jennings Creek – is pretty, and all gently downhill. A nice easy stretch where we didn't do anything dumb at all, though the dog did go a little nuts when she found a turtle.
How to get there: From I-81, the Arcadia exit (168) onto 614 eastward to the trail crossing.
Hike: August 21, 2010