The Saturday of Dan and Fred
Left: It's not often they put in a giant pipe to show you where the trail goes. Right: Fred Eaglesmith: The Greatest Hardly Known Songwriter in North America, And Very Nearly of All.
Pinnacles of Dan up and back (?). About 5 miles.
After we climbed Grandfather Mountain a couple of years back and found it to be as difficult as anything we'd done, we put out a call, in Blue Ridge Country magazine, for views from hikers on if there were rougher trails in the Blue Ridge region.
Six-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker and guidebook author Leonard Adkins suggested the Pinnacles of Dan as a particularly tough hike.
And with our favorite live performer Fred Eaglesmith booked for a Saturday night concert in Chapel Hill, the geography, geology and gee-it's-Fred began to come together: Start out early from Roanoke headed southeast, stop off near the state line to walk the Pinnacles trail, come back out and cruise on the rest of the way into Carolina to see Fred.
Which was working out great till we got to the gate at the end of Va. 602 in Patrick County and found it padlocked. A call to the number on the permit we'd gotten the day before (it's the Danville water supply you're walking in the vicinity of) brought a question about the combination at the bottom of the form. Oh, yeah, now I see it.
The walk starts with a .7-mile descent down a narrow paved road to the dam, which is old-looking and maybe concrete. Then you hang a right to walk along the giant blue-green pipe for about a mile, as it carries water out from behind the dam and on toward Danville, I reckon.
At the point where the pipe goes into the mountain, the trail turns left and becomes much less of a trail. At least on this hot summer day (well, two days short of actual summer) when the B&W were so grown up as to get capital letters (bushes and weeds, of course.) Primary among them was a stretch of rampant, unavoidable poison ivy, the true bane of The Day HIker, who began a series of pretty high-pitched statements about turning around right now.
"It's not just the poison ivy, Kurt, but the rocks underneath – you know there are snakes down there."
I did know that, especially since we had just seen one – we guessed a tiny rattler – all curled up in the sun. Sleeping or coiling for strike?
"Lemme just go a little further to see if we get back into the woods," I tried.
Which we did. After which it was The Day Hiker's killer pace up up up that made me have to bite my tongue about turning around: It was hot as Danville in the summertime, there were no blazes, and the hike description in "Trails of Virginia" seemed to relate to where we were only occasionally.
For maybe half an hour there, it was as close as we've come to quitting on a hike.
And then who knows (not us) if we actually ended up on the Pinnacles of Dan. There was a seeming high-point. And a gate. And some signs about the old route of the Appalachian Trail (which we'd lost on the way up), but who knows (not us). We certainly didn't see any spectacular views. Input most welcome. I hope we get back that way someday if we missed the real deal, but definitely in a non-green, non-snake-sunning season.
What we did know is that we had to get on back down to continue on the twisty little two-lanes into North Carolina toward Chapel Hill and an entity you can always count on to deliver what's promised: Mister Fred Eaglesmith. The venue was a country club clubhouse, a most-unlikely Fred venue. But many if not most of the 150 or so people crammed inside were Fredheads, as we are; Fred has played for the organizing group six times over recent years in the general Carrboro/Chapel Hill area, somebody said. The couple we sat next to had been following him all around the Southeast in recent weeks, as Fredheads are wont to do.
The show was the usual blend of great songs, great stories and the occasional philosophical musing. The star also took a moment to take his audience 10 years down the road, when its gray-haired fate will be to hear the now-50-ish Fred singing Barry Manilow as his fans collectively gum: "He'sh jusht not as good as he ushed to be."
Overall a great, full day, though Fred busted Dan all to pieces.
June 19, 2010 hike.