On December 31st I lamented at length in this space about my lack of hiking miles for 2018. I was given the opportunity 24 hours later to start my 2019 on the highest of notes. I mean, how could I waste a 60-degree, breezy New Year’s Day on running?
The original plan was to drive out to the Punchbowl turnout on the Blue Ridge Parkway and hike in to visit the Punchbowl Shelter on the way to Bluff Mountain. Well, this novice Virginian didn’t realize the BRP is closed to vehicle traffic this time of year, so the only way to access the AT and hike that section involved some pretty odd and lengthy rerouting on isolated roads. Jace and I scrapped that plan, and opted instead to go to my favorite local spot, the James River trailhead in Big Island, and hike out to and beyond Matts Creek (my writer brain so wants to add that “silent” apostrophe!) Shelter for a 6-mile round trip hike to start the year. Jace had never been out to the shelter, and I had never been more than a half-mile beyond it, so we would both get to see some new trail.
It was, given the record-setting rainfall in 2018, wet and spongy on this section. In fact, I saw water flowing in places I’d never seen water before.
The dreary-ish winter landscape did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for this trip through the trees. I was so excited to start the year on the AT! We made quick work of the two miles out to the shelter, then crossed over the swollen creek and began to climb.
The ascent to the ridge was a decent cardio workout, and the crest provided us with some nice views of the James and surrounding mountains.
We made the turn at three miles, and pounded back down the ridge for a quick break at the shelter. I found a nice rock along the creek and sat for a few peaceful minutes, enjoying the rush of the water and silence of the woods. I’ll have to go back on a warmer day with a sandwich and a good book and stay there for a bit.
We headed back towards the car, passing two pairs of fellow hikers, and one solo trekker out for a hike and a smoke. We had a good chuckle about that one as we neared the bridge and the end of our journey.
It was a great morning for a trip to the woods, and we made the most of our New Year’s Day. As an added bonus, I’ve already hiked almost 20% of the miles I did in 2018, and this year is one day old…