The Greatest Day Hiker of Them All, on the rare occasions when she will suggest our hike for the weekend, is as likely as not to say, "How about McAfee?"
Which is of course a wonderful suggestion, no matter the season: It has good distance, a good climb, the great lunch spot with the killer views and a bit of other-hiker interaction that she sort of dreads--with regard to the dawg--before we start, and then enjoys once we're out there.
To other hikers: "She's friendly, but she'll lick the little girl's face."
To the dog, once the other hikers have gone on: "Aw, Cookie, you're such a good dog."
To me, just after that: "See, Kurt!" (As if it were I who'd expressed the doggie doubts pre-hike.)
All those fine-hike attributes were in full flower on this not-too-cold day, highlighted, perhaps by two young men who reached the 3,197-foot viewpoint at just about the same time we did. They were maybe 16 and, simply beside themselves in the awesome coolness of the place.
"First time up here?" I asked.
"First hike ever!" they pretty much chorused back, and were soon off to continue an exploration of the formation as frantic and fast-paced as a dog on the track of a deer.
We did slow them down enough to trade photos of their first hike and our, what, 470th? And maybe 20th of McAfee?
Did I mention that it's a pleasure every time, McAfee Knob?
Appalachian Trail from Va. 311 to McAfee Knob and back. 7.4 miles.
How to get there: Va 311 west from Salem to parking lot at the high point on Catawba Mountain.