Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a monster of a scenic route that stretches 469 miles, connecting Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina with Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Along the way, there are scads of scenic turnouts and opportunities for day hikes. Sharp Top, spot of a previous day hike, is off the Parkway. I decided to jump on in Big Island, VA to check out a couple of places.

First, Otter Creek falls. No hiking involved, and pretty much no falls, either. We’ve enjoyed a beautiful, essentially rain-free summer here, which means that typically rushing water sources are now trickling ones. And when those trickles hit spots that are meant to be falls, well…Otter Creek was pretty dry, a theme that would repeat itself later on.

(Note: When I see low water sources, I immediately think of the difficulty of procuring sufficient drinking water by distance hikers. Yikes)

Next, heading south I stumbled upon the Thunder Ridge Overlook. Stunning view.


Standing on the point with outstretched arms, it was easy to feel a “I’m the king of the world!” moment as the valley spread out beneath me. There was no real hiking here either, but this particular turnoff had one key advantage: the path from the parking lot to the overlook bisected the AT. My wife, a good sport who doesn’t quite share my enthusiasm for spending days lost in the wilderness (especially in snake country) can now lay claim to something her friends cannot: She has hiked a small section of the Appalachian Trail:


From there we moseyed down the Parkway to Fallingwater Cascades. Now, this one features a .75 mile out-and back with some elevation gain on the return trip. Remember how I mentioned a lack of water previously? Well, the same held true at the “falls” we trekked in to visit. Easy/interesting terrain:


But walking the distance without the reward of a crashing water fall at the end was a bit of a letdown. It was so much of a letdown, I’m not even going to post a photo of the waterfall, just one of me crossing the bridge that spans the top of it:


Note the brackish puddle center-left in the above. I should have known that a lack of rushing water at the top would lead to a lack of a waterfall on the trek down to the base.

Regardless, a perfect day for being out-and-about, and a couple of places to revisit after it rains for a bit. Like late spring, maybe? In the meantime, planning my first short solo hike on the AT out of the Big Island area.

But that’s for next week’s post. Happy hiking!




Sometimes You Do Everything Right…

The Trail 3

…and you still perish on the trail. Case in point: another hiker has died on the Maine stretch of the Appalachian Trail.┬áHe was, according to the linked article, an experienced, avid hiker who was more than capable of handling the strenuous effort required of him by the terrain. He suffered a medical event, and spent the last moments of his life in the woods of Franklin County…

Remember my post a couple of weeks back about hiking alone? Well, it’s this sort of thing that sends my family and friends into a tizzy when I mention solo hiking. But here’s the thing I always tell them about an incident like this one: A medical event happens whether you’re traveling in a herd or enjoying your solitude. Thus, on an average hiking day I’ll take the solitude, as I previously discussed.

But this sort of end-of-life occurrence does lead me to a dilemma: On one hand, I would appreciate the chance to bounce off this giant rock while doing something I love instead of withering away from a horrible illness or getting t-boned in my car by some texting…ah, individual. On the other hand, spending my last moments alone staring at the sky might not be my preferred method of leaving those I know and love behind.

I guess it doesn’t really matter as, when my time comes, I’ll go in whatever way and whenever I’m supposed to. Until then, my most sincere thoughts and prayers to this intrepid hiker’s family as they cope with their loss…

One For the Sharks

As I’ve begun accumulating gear I’ve stumbled into a problem: Where to effectively store all my stuff. For now, while living in someone else’s house, I’ve had to be content with jamming and cramming it wherever it will fit. But long term, I’d like to find a nice, tidy storage solution.

As I often do, I’ve bounced from site to online site seeking that perfect-for-me gear locker. So far, I’m unimpressed with what I’ve found. They either flat out won’t work, or the price is, well, prohibitive. There are, admittedly, some acceptable choices out there, but no perfect ones. Which leads me to my next thought…

Maybe I should design one.

Lately, in a fit of evening boredom, I’ve been sucking up copious episodes of Shark Tank, the eight-season hit where budding entrepreneurs stand in front of a panel of five gazillionaires and try to land a financing deal. In fact, it’s so stuck in my brain that last night I actually dreamed about creating a hiker’s gear locker and pitching it to a group of rich people.

I know. Get a life. I’m working on that…

Far sillier things have been created in the history of mankind that turned into multi-million dollar products (are you old enough to remember pet rocks? Mood rings? Or, more recently, Snuggies?) That might be all the impetus I need to create the next great gear locker specific to the needs of hikers/backpackers.

Unless it already exists. If it does, I need one. Soon.