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…

 

What a Difference a Week Makes

Last week I wandered into the woods on my favorite local running trail for a practice hike. While it was passable, it was still snow stacked on ice. A week later, it was a completely different trail, thanks to warming temperatures and a couple of short rain events.

The pictures aren’t nearly as dramatic in portraying the differences as actual foot-on-terrain time was.

In just seven days time, a tiptoe trek atop the snow and ice transitioned to a slog through slush, soft snowpack, mud and mini lakes. Several times I postholed in snow nearly to my knees, only to go ankle deep in mud and water just a few feet later. It was a good and enjoyable workout, thanks in part to my usual load in the Kestrel.

Even the weather was markedly different. The previous week’s tramp through the trees featured temps in the mid-30s with wind chills ten degrees colder. Seven days later? 60 degrees. And both hikes started at 10:00AM and peppered me with similar 10-20MPH winds, so the compare/contrast is pretty accurate. Last week I was buried under my typical multi-layer cold weather wear. This week I hiked in shorts. I always enjoy hiking in shorts while walking on/through snow. It’s such a surreal and fun experience, especially after a long winter.

The AT out of Monson gets more snow than we do, and has more substantial tree cover than this trail. Translation? It will be a few more weeks before I can launch a day hike on that significantly more difficult terrain. But I am so looking forward to it. I think it’s safe to say that, after a seemingly endless five months, my spring hiking season has nearly arrived!