Kurt and Gail Rheinheimer
Wilson Mountain/Sprouts Run trails loop. 7.4 miles.
We'd done the Sprouts Run section of this walk as an out-and-back a few weeks back, having failed to find the connection of the Wilson Mountain Trail; so this time, we went up the Wilson Mountain Trail with hopes of completing the loop in that direction.
The start of this walk – to get to either trail – is across private property, and on this day we came across both the friendly owner (moving earth on a big machine) and his even-friendlier big dog Red, who had to be led away by the collar to keep him from fulfilling his wish to head up the mountain with us.
After perhaps a quarter mile into the woods, the trails diverge, with Wilson Mountain heading up on what is at first a rocky path with switchbacks. The trail then makes its way along the ridge, heading primarily in the opposite direction of the Sprouts Run Trail, creating doubt in the minds of walkers without a map that the two trails do indeed form a loop. But after 3.6 miles, the Wilson Mountain Trail ends at a forest road; and while it can be said that most all Virginia forest roads look alike, we chose to believe that this was another part of the same one onto which the Sprouts Run Trail emerges.
Sure 'nuff, after about a half mile of road walk, we came to the point where we turned around the last time, and began our way down the Sprouts Run Trail. We stopped for lunch as soon as the trail reached the creek. While we ate, we were visited by the loudest, closest firing of a gun that we have ever heard in the woods, rendering us all the more glad that we were wearing our nifty new, if distinctly unstylish, blaze-orange caps. The national forest, on relatively mild Saturday in December, is indeed a land of many uses, and we were pleased when we saw two vehicles up on the horizon, moving along the forest road we'd descended from. We decided the vehicles carried the hunters, that they'd gotten their prey and were headed out of the forest. This hope, along with our bright orange heads and the easy, down-the-pretty-stream nature of the trail, made for an easy and enjoyable walk back out of the woods.
Until... until the very last of the eight or 10 stream crossings, when, as is her tendency, The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All paused, as a sort of signal for me to show her the best way across the various rock-hop possibilities. And I, over these many years, have always been fully equal to the task. It is, after all, pretty much the only realm where I am lead dog in the woods. But on this day, a quarter mile or so from the car, I found myself suddenly sitting in the stream, with my feet and my pack also dipping into the cold flow. I was up in a hurry of course, making light and talking about once every five years not being too bad a rock-hop record.
The Day Hiker, ever kind and gracious, offered through ill-stifled laughter that it was also, BY FAR, the best total wipe-out for either of us over that time.