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:

Kids and Sadie

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…

The First (But Not Last) Time

My first week in Virginia featured little-to-nothing hiking related until my daughter suggested a trip to the Richmond area to shop her favorite HomeGoods store. Well, that would be a five-star yawner for me, except for the fact that HomeGoods shares a parking lot with the Glen Allen location of REI. Where I lived in Maine, the nearest REI was a less-than-leisurely 3.5 hour (traffic permitting, of course) sojourn to (nearby?) Reading, Massachusetts. Given that I had never been in a physical location, and that I had a $9.58 dividend burning a hole in my account pocket, I was thrilled with the invite.

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I was hoping against hope that they might have a Granite Gear Crown 2 in stock so I could set some eyes on one. It was a longshot, for sure; even Granite Gear has been out of them for weeks. And my now-local REI didn’t disappoint. Nary a Crown 2 to be seen anywhere.

Still, they had a pretty solid array of packs, about half of which are represented in this photo:

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I was able to strap on the 48L version of my trusty Kestrel 28, and give consideration to a few others. But by the end of my hour-long trip through the backpacker’s candy store, all I walked away with was some GU hydration tablets which, after my staggeringly huge $9.58 dividend, set me back a grand total of $3.75.

Still, it was great to spend some time in an actual REI store rather than burning through page after page on their website. And I enjoyed the experience of proudly whipping out my membership card when asked if I had one…