Monday, March 28, 2016

Southbound on the Appalachian Trail 2015: Virginia (part 2)

James River
Halfway through Virginia, autumn began to kick into high gear. Nights were chilly, days cool and sunny. It was a memorable time to be on the trail. Crickets still chirped at night, but not as loud, a sign that the forest would soon be transitioning into the silence of winter. As Camo and I slowly made our way south, other southbound thru hikers would continue to catch up and pass us, several I had not seen since Maine including Muffin Man, Smiles Davis, Pabst, and a trio of 18 year old guys who were doing 8 mile days when I last saw them in the 100 mile wilderness two and a half months ago. I guess they had found their hiking legs.
Sunset from Dragon's Tooth

The Guillotine
Camo and I would enjoy the hiking company of a solo hiker named Rocky, a big dude who wore a cut off American flag shirt from Wal Mart and other colorful clothes, and Georgia, a young guy with a thick Georgian accent who had to hike 20 miles a day, (we didn't see him too long.) We would cross paths with Rocky from time to time all the way into North Carolina.
Wall below the Blue Ridge Parkway

Highlights were hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Tinker Cliffs and McAfee Knob, and camping under the Dragon's Tooth. Southerly hawk migration was taking place as we hiked the trail alongside the Blue ridge Parkway. Is was a neat realization to be migrating south underneath the hawks as they too traveled towards warmer climates.
Tinker Cliffs

Camo inspecting a rock wall

One of the AT's most iconic spots: McAfee Knob
The day Camo and hiked over Tinker Cliffs and McAffee Knob was a cold one, a foreshadowing of weather to come. The views that day were fantastic. The trail was busy and congested in places from day hikers as McAffee knob is a popular hiking destination. The day would be capped off with one of my favorite campsites of the hike. Camo and I camped under the Dragon's Tooth as we arrived at the summit right at sunset. The spot is popular with Virginia college students but thankfully there was just three other campers who arrived later that night. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and looking up at the huge jagged rocks surrounded by a night sky filled with stars. There definitely was a spiritual feel to the spot. Camo and I woke up to giddy students reaching the summit before the sun came up to witness the sunrise from the top of the Dragon's Tooth. Not the best way to wake up, but the sunrise was worth it.
Dragon's Tooth

Keffer Oak

Leaves really began to change colors

Apple Tree
Leaves were turning colors quickly as the temperatures dropped. Throughout the day, we would often travel through forest where it seemed leaves had reached peak color, and then travel out of those zones into other places where peak leaf season was still several days away. As I mentioned before, it was a great time to be on trail!

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