Kurt, and one of the remnants of old mountain homes visible along the trail.
Rock Castle Gorge loop hike. 10.8 miles.
Maybe the dog's reaction to the early part of this strenuous, hot-day hike should have been a caution to us.
And actually, it was, at least to The Greatest Dayhiker Of Them All, whose suggestion it was to get the parkway-paralleling, open, sunny part of the hike over first, by starting out to the right from across the parkway at the Rocky Knob Campground.
Less than a mile into that roughly three-mile stretch, black-dog Cookie began a pattern of heading into the shade and lying down every time she saw a chunk of shade suitable for her purpose.
Conversation, several times over, was some version of this:
"I'm really worried about her out here in the sun, Kurt. Look at her pleading with her eyes."
"Get up, dog. And besides, Gail, just wait till we're down along the streams, she'll be as nuts as ever."
A couple of stops-to-give-the-dog-water later, we were within sight of the forest and within sound of the Floyd Fandango event over on the next ridge as we started our decent out of the sun.
The dog and The Dayhiker tied for most-pleased-to-see-the-stream, and the dog's energy returned in direct proportion to how far she ran through it, paralleling the trail and running back up to check on us every few feet.
At the low point of the southern descent of the trail – where it meets Rock Castle Creek – we met up with a family playing in the water by the bridge. As we headed on from that point – having met the family's little dog – Gail suddenly missed hers, turned to look and saw Cookie running as fast as she can back away from the bridge and up the trail from where we'd come, apparently not seeing us ahead and concluding that we'd turned back and left her.
Free comedy ensued as Gail took off back up the trail, running and calling the dog's name until Cookie at last realized her error and returned. Gail, always wary that the dog will take off after a deer and never return, was at last reassured that her dog wants nothing less than to lose her mistress. Well, aside from food.
Along the easy, stream-side part of this walk – just under three miles – the dog was indeed as frisky as ever, and none the worse for her sun sortee. We ate beside the stream as several sets of hikers walked on by.
Then came the dreaded 1,700-foot climb back up to the parkway and the open-sun heat. At the little parking spot just away from the campground ranger station, the ranger came bounding out to greet us, appearing relieved and reassured the the old fools in the heat and their wacky black dog really had made it back up.
How to get there: Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 167.1.
July 4, 2010 Hike