Blackwater Creek Trail

A few miles from where I live there’s a cancer awareness garden that occupies the area surrounding one of the entrances to the Blackwater Creek Trail. I’ve been to the garden on a handful of occasions but had never checked out the trail, an asphalt path that, from this particular spot, runs a touch over two miles down to the James River and the city proper. So I decided to check it out one afternoon when I happened to be nearby.

After a stop in the Awareness Garden to remember my dear friend Erik who died of brain cancer in March of last year, I set off.

Awareness Sign

It was lightly trafficked as I made my way into the woods. I felt odd taking a brisk walk in jeans, a polo shirt and half-laced running shoes, but spur of the moment activities require sacrifices. I did want to limit my miles to three, so I downloaded the RunKeeper app onto my phone (in lieu of my trusty Garmin) before hitting the trail. I needn’t have worried about tracking it myself; as it turns out, the trail is populated with distance markers:

Mile Marker

It was a stunning fall day, with bright sun, mid-60s temps and a nice breeze. I was glad for that breeze, wearing jeans and all! I was intrigued to see this sign along the route:

Trail Sign

Seriously, anything with a backpacker logo is a magnet to my attention now. I vowed both to research this when I got home, and to come back another time and see where it goes. (Later, I found that it simply follows the actual creek for a short distance before rejoining the asphalt trail. I will hike it soon, as I’m fond of any excuse to leave tar and tread upon dirt!)

I hit the 1.5 mile mark at a point sandwiched between two small cliffs (a perfect choke point for an ambush, my study of military history reminded me) and made the turn for home. It was nice to be alone in the woods on a pleasant walk without the aforementioned Garmin and running shoes, or my backpack and trekking poles:

Nice Trail Day

A technical trail for running or hiking it isn’t, but it is a great place within city limits to get that away-from-it-all feel. I saw both kids and seniors availing themselves of its charm, so it’s very family friendly. In addition, when snow and ice require abandoning the higher elevations in the area, this would be a good spot for weighted practice hikes to keep my hips and shoulders ready for attacking sections of the AT in the spring…

 

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And The Hike That Was

Finally got the car issues straightened out and made the trip over to Thunder Ridge Overlook to hammer out a few quick miles on the AT. This hike featured a perfect morning with bright yellow leaves above and below us, and a temperate sixty degrees at the start. An ideal setting for my son-in-law to break in his new Merrells.

We headed out with light packs, planning on a quick five mile round tripper. The leaves on the trail made for a satisfying fall crunch as we trekked our way north. A mile in we passed a trio doing a SOBO section hike, and stopped for a quick chat. A short while later a solo young lady was coming down the trail towards us with a fully outfitted pack (she would be followed a moment later by her hiking partner, a young man similarly outfitted). Turns out they were SOBO thru-hikers, and after talking to them and getting some details of their hike, we cut them loose to continue on their way. I really dislike holding up thru-hikers with idle chatter, knowing that they’re mission minded with planned daily miles. We passed three other SOBO hikers a few minutes later but left those hardy souls alone to carry on.

I was struck by the stark contrast of this bare tree about 1.5 miles in and stopped to grab a quick shot:

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We marched on, traversing a series of short up-and-downs to the planned turnaround (we actually got to talking and went to 2.75 miles, so wound up with 5.5 total), stopped for a quick hydration break, then did a one-eighty and headed for home.

We passed a couple on our way back who were doing a section from Dragon’s Tooth to the James River Foot Bridge (about 85 miles). Turns out they were brother and sister, he in his early sixties, she close to seventy. They seemed to be having the time of their lives out on the trail. And that’s the point, isn’t it? I’m sure when I do my first multi-day section hike I’ll be thrilled to be out there too!

We pushed up the final hill to the Overlook, and I went for the cheesy hiker shot:

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I actually considered standing on the rim, but didn’t want to risk becoming part of a news story containing the phrase, “and fell several hundred feet to his death.”

It was good to be back out there. We’re planning a trip by month’s end down to Daleville to do a ten mile out-and-back to the Fullhardt Knob Shelter. In the meantime, I’m scouting out my next solo hike…

The Hike That Should Have Been

…but wasn’t, thanks in part to Kia Motors Finance and their desire to make registering our leased car in a new state a ridiculous, ongoing ordeal. Long story, short version? Our shiny 2017 Sportage has been sitting unregistered in the driveway for five days now. How does that relate to hiking and backpacking? Well, it eliminates it, that’s how.

I had hoped to return to Thunder Ridge Overlook and dance a few miles down and back on the AT both north and south, and post pictures and a hike report. But it’s a fifty minute drive from here which, without a car, becomes a thirty mile hike of its own.

But I’m also a fan of self-realized perspective. And placed in the context of events this week, I’m not going to rant endlessly about missing a hike. I’ve spent the days leading up to this post grieving with those affected by the Las Vegas massacre, and lamenting the loss of one of the musical heroes of my youth, the late, great Tom Petty. Those things do make a protracted battle with Kia Finance and a missed hike seem awfully small.

So, to those dealing with unbearable loss post-Vegas shootings, I’m standing with you. To Kia? As Tom Petty so adroitly put it, “I won’t back down. You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.”