Apple Orchard Falls
On a warm February day there was still plenty of ice at Apple Orchard Falls.
Some Valentine's Day anniversaries of our first weekly hike (Feb. 14, 2004) are better than others. On this, our eighth return to the scene of the original crime, the day was warm enough to walk with two layers and no gloves or ear cover (well, me anyway, and Gail lots of the time).
But there were still ample signs of winter to be found, including plenty of ice on the walk's signature attraction, Apple Orchard Falls. And the fact that there were no cars in the lot when we arrived, and over the hours and miles of walking we saw only one other person, a runner on his way up the Apple Orchard Trail. And then the breeze at Black Rock overlook was strong enough that we didn't perch ourselves out on the big rocks of the formation, but instead tucked behind them, in the limited-view seats.
Still, with a few buds on the trees and only a few patches of snow and ice as we walked, there was a feeling of spring being not too far away.
And maybe one more sign of something being in the air… something that beckons to a boy to think about the person he struggles to keep up with in the woods, week after week after even-wintertime week. And how, through the cold, through the possibility of Raynaud's whitening her fingers (tho' they've been much better this winter), through getting out of the car into below-20 temps some days, through bare trails with no wildflowers, she tromps through the cold forest when most everybody else is inside and warm. When, as she is wont to point out now and again, how many other girls would do this, Kurt?!
Gail is many other wonderful things, but there is not a scintilla of hyperbole in making mention, now and again – and what better time than Valentine's time – that she is, literally, consistently, gloriously, without any real challenge I'm aware of, The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All.
Apple Orchard Falls Trail to Appalachian Trail to Black Rocks overlook, back on AT to Cornelius Creek Trail and down to parking lot. 8.3 miles.
How to get there: Exit 168 from I-81; Va 614 to FR 59 to the parking area.