Kurt's Hikes: January 2014
Aw, lookit, a selfie . . . along the AT near Groseclose 1/12/14.
Our January 2014 hikes were all made in some deference to the weather, with two aimed at an Appalachian Trail in case we needed to build a fire, another built on several urban stops along the way, and the other on a rare day when it was warmer up on the ridge than down at the low starting point.
January 4. Salt Pond Road to Appalachian Trail to Fullhart Knob Shelter and back. 7.6 miles
OK, so you set out on a cold day toward a shelter so you can build a fire for lunch, one of the things you might consider is checking the lighter you are taking along, to assure its ability to start the daggone fire.
Well, we did station ourselves in the corner of the shelter that caught much more sun than wind, and ended up with a fairly comfortable lunch.
And this hike – the "back door" way to Fullhart Knob Shelter – does go by a lot more quickly than coming up from Troutville does. It's pretty much an easy walk for a mile up the road, and then a ridge walk the rest of the way.
How to get there: Park at gated Salt Pond Road, at milepost 101.5 of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
January 12. Appalachian Trail north from its crossing of I-81 to Brushy Mountain crest and back. 6.6 miles
This surprisingly nice section, undertaken for only our second time, began with a cold, vicious-feeling wind in Groseclose, where the AT crosses I-81 (Exit 54). We were here because we had been lucky enough to spend the previous evening in Abingdon, first to watch the estimable Iris Dement in live performance at the Barter Theatre, and then to spend the might across the street at The Martha. This AT section begins with open fields, enters the forest and then climbs gently up to the ridgeline of Brushy Mountain, the achievement of which we of course debated a big, and then further about the best place to spread out lunch. We settled on a sunny, south-facing mild slope. The warmest outdoor lunch of the month.
How to get there: I-81 Exit 54 to small parking area by the stile, on the west side of the highway.
January 19. Andy Lane and Appalachian Trail to Lambert Meadows Shelter and back. 7.6 miles
The Greatest Day Hiker and I often debate, on this walk, when we get to the intersection of the Andy Lane Trail and the Appalachian Trail at Scorched Earth Gap, whether we'll indeed go on up to the usual destination of Tinker Cliffs, or weenie out for a reason of rain or wind or cold, and slide on down to the cozy (well, relatively speaking) confines of the Lambert's Meadow Shelter.
On this very cold and windy day, the debate took the form of respective nods and a collective left turn and down the other side of the mountain for those long six tenths. Yes, the wind was nearly nothing on the east side of the mountain, but the sun remained intermittent, with just enough frequency that we decided we didn't really need a fire. (Though I'm sure The Day Hiker would opine that well, he coulda built one and nobody would have objected.)
The parking lot was pretty empty by the time we got back to the bottom of the Andy Lane.
How to get there: Mid-point of Va. 779 from either Va. 311 west of Salem or U.S. 220 north of Roanoke, to ample parking area.
January 25. Out the front door to downtown Roanoke and back. About 7.5 miles
So, you hike most of the month in the cold, you earn an urban hike with ample stops for amber beverages? Well, that was our theory for this, yet another fuhreeezing day in the semi-mountains of Southwest Virginia. In fact, our first stop was a daggone half a mile from home, at the 1906 Ale House that is pretty much right in our neighborhood. From there, we hardied up all the way to the Wasena Tap Room and Grill, a whole 'nother mile down the Roanoke River Greenway. And then we got even tougher, with the two-mile stretch all the way into downtown Roanoke, where we paused at Blue Ridge Outfitters to look at possible new packs for The Day Hiker. From there it was back out of town and on toward the always-delicious Wildflower Cafe in Towers Shopping Center, where we had no temptation at all to build a fire as they had the place all nice and warmed up for us for dinner.
The 1.25 back home seemed a little longer than usual, walking into the wind, and have already done a pretty good set of miles on hard surfaces.
How to get there: Go out your own front door with your own plan for a big ol' loop with good stops along the way.