Daleville, Revisited

Last week I remarked how a quick hike up Sharp Top had ignited the fire in me to get out into more of the Virginia woods. Well, true to my word, I found myself on Tuesday revisiting the Appalachian Trial by way of Daleville in a longer repeat of the quick out-and-back I did a few days before Christmas last year. It looked a bit different this time around:

And this quick six mile out-and-back (my hiking partner had an important meeting later in the day, so we kept it short) also served as the shakeout cruise for my new Deuter Airlite 22 daypack. More on that in next week’s post.

I was impressed during my last trip southbound out of Daleville with the comparative ease of the terrain in relation to that of my home state, Maine. And doubling the mileage this trip didn’t change my impressions. I’m sure that not all of Virginia will treat me as kindly, but the first three miles out featured a handful of switchbacks and very hiker-friendly terrain during the roughly thirteen hundred feet of elevation gained. Once we peaked a little less than three miles out, we stopped to take a few money shots:

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And spoiled the landscape with a few self-involved shots too:

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It was a truly nice morning, a bit humid with temps in the mid-70s at the start. We took it easy, enjoying the surprising amount of solitude on a stretch of the AT that, during peak thru-hiking times and on the weekends, is a heavily traveled section of the trail in Virginia. We ran into a father/daughter duo from Michigan on our way back that was hiking from Daleville to Dragon’s Tooth, a 57 mile out-and-back hike they hoped to conquer by the weekend. Other than that, we had the trees and track to ourselves.

Passing the sign announcing the distance to Tinker Cliffs got us chatting about our plan to do an overnight there and back over Thanksgiving weekend:

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But there are a lot of trails and weeks between now and then, so here’s to spending more (hopefully longer!) days like this one in the woods…

Sharp Top Hike, Round One

Well, I finally made it out into the woods of Virginia after five weeks of running on concrete and asphalt and itching to put on a pack. Ironically, the mountain I hiked teased me for those five weeks as I could see it from practically every place I went around the Lynchburg area. As I posted last week, the destination was Sharp Top Mountain, a nice little trek that ends in terrific views.

The start looked pretty pedestrian, if you’ll excuse the pun:

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It quickly turned into a decent workout once we were in the woods a few hundred yards, and the rock and step-studded trail began to take on elevation. Sadly, in a first for me, I was so totally engrossed in the hike and in breathing the fresh air that I neglected to take a single picture of the actual trail! Hence my labeling this trip “Round One”. I’m anxious to go back in the fall and check out the foliage from 3875 feet, as well as take a few shots of the trail itself.

Anyway, I found the jaunt up the 1.5 mile trail with its 1243-foot elevation gain to be a nice workout. We went on Saturday morning, so it was a bit too crowded for my isolationist tastes, but people were friendly and seemed to be enjoying the camaraderie inherent in conquering an objective with random strangers.

The views were perfect. I especially enjoyed the clouds, which added some drama and mood to my casual phone shots:

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And my daughter, she of the Snapchat ilk, begged for a photo of her, my son-in-law and intrepid canine explorer Sadie next to the sign:

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One hiking site lamented the lack of wildlife seen on the trail, but we had just started back down when, about a hundred feet below the summit, we happened upon this hungry buck enjoying some foliage:

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Sadie gave him a quick look then totally lost interest, as did another dog just below us on the switchback. The deer peeked at the group of ten or so of us for several minutes while he ate, before slipping off among the trees. Such grace in movement!

In my previous post, I debated whether or not to carry my Kestrel 28. Well, I did, but even cinched down it was pretty serious overkill for this hike. So much so that it has me thinking about getting a smaller capacity hydration/daypack for these half day or shorter hikes, even the 6-8 mile quickies I do on the Appalachian Trail when I need to escape the concrete jungle.

And here’s my take on the difficulty, a topic that has gotten some discussion online: While it’s not a very technical hike, I would rate it as moderate overall due to the elevation gain over the distance, terrain and occasional steep sections. But I saw people from age five to sixty-five making the climb, so I feel it could be mastered by anyone in decent physical health who isn’t allergic to the notion of stopping to catch their breath.

It was perfect weather, good cardio exercise and amazing views. A nice three-mile introduction to the mountains of Virginia. And more importantly, it lit the fire under me to drive over to Daleville in the (very!) near future and get myself back on the AT…

 

First Virginia Hike, Planned

Thirty miles from where I sit typing this post lies a 1243-foot incline known around these parts as Sharp Top. It’s a 2.7 mile round trip hike, according to AllTrails.com, and ranges from easy to strenuous depending on which hiker you ask. My daughter and son-in-law are anxious to take me there this weekend, and I’m looking forward to my first foray into the trees of Virginia, albeit (for me) a brief one.

Given that it’s a short jaunt, I’m faced with a dilemma: Do I toss twenty or so pounds into my trusty Kestrel 28, grab my trekking poles and use it as a weighted practice hike, or just strap on my running bottle carrier, leave the poles and pack at home and enjoy the day? The motivated AT section hiker in me wants to do the former. But the dad and father-in-law says kick back and enjoy the ride, uh, hike.

I guess I’ll wait and see how the planning stage goes tomorrow. They’re in NYC right now, enjoying a brief vacation. They might be too tired of walking the streets of The Apple to want to exert themselves too much this weekend, which means dad might end up bringing his daypack filled with snacks and water bottles for all, which would add a third and ultimately final option to the above list.

I guess I’ll know for sure Saturday morning. However it plays out, I’m looking forward to some quality family time among the rocks and trees…