The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All, December 26, 2011.
What better time than Christmas Day afternoon to make our fourth attempt to find the trailhead to get up Fort Lewis Mountain near Salem. This time, equipped with info from a Roanoke AT Club guy who was to lead a hike there the next week, we found it!
We'd been at the right spot before, but hadn't attempted to cross the creek, thinking that if this were the place to start, there'd be a bridge or a better crossing method than wading. This time, we crawled/butt-scooted across a fallen tree, which seemed to have been cut off at the end and de-branched for just that purpose.
The trail itself begins mildly, meandering a little not far from the creek, but then takes off straight up the mountainside, with angles rivaling the steepest parts of the Andy Lane Trail, and for much longer stretches. Maybe the positive side of that is that you're at the top in 2.1 miles.
For maybe the first time ever, we carried neither water nor lunch, what with this walk being viewed, from back at home, as a little Christmas Day leg stretcher. Once on top, we bemoaned the lack of lunch, and asked each other several times on the way up and back down, who had the daggone water.
Next day we walked on the AT to parallel to Fort Lewis Mountain, as if to look over there and feel proud we'd finally walked on that mountain we never had before. The AT was pretty empty going the "wrong" way from the 311 parking lot. We ate at the point where the trail turns to go down the mountain, gazing over at the mountain we'd climbed the day before, as if it, you know, had new meaning now. Actually that was just me; Gail just ate her lunch like usual.
Hikes: December 25. Fort Lewis Mountain Trail up and back. 4.2 miles; December 26. Appalachian Trail south from Va. 311 to crest of Catawba Mountain. 6.4 miles.
How to get there: Out Va. 311 from Salem. For Fort Lewis, left onto Bradshaw Road and four miles to parking lot. For AT crossing, continue up the mountain the the AT-crossing lot at the road's highest point on Catawba Mountain.