Appalachian Trail

In early October, our new friend Sue G. hiked with me from Crabtree Meadows to Spy Rock, looking for an alleged new trail which turned out not to be.  A lovely hike anyway.


Holly’s friend Cate and I hiked the old Hotel Trail in the George Washington National Forest in Amherst County, which loops around through abandoned  orchards and then first ascends Cold Mountain and then gradually descends across the inclined plateau with gorgeous views in all directions.  Early fall colors were in evidence.











click on images above for panorama views along the summit plateau

In late September, German visitor and hiking companion Hasse and I climbed both Spy Rock and Humpback Rocks in a single half day!






On a separate early fall hike, I joined a friend for 15 or so miles who was at the end of the day just 20 miles short of completing the entire Appalachian Trail (which is 2200 miles long)!  The forest colors and views were beautiful, but the highlight of the day was when we encountered a mother bear and her cub, who promptly scampered up a tree.  Mom kept a careful eye on us, but was not aggressive.

It was interesting to see my friend, who has hiked the AT in sections over several years, keep running into AT through hikers that he had met months earlier.

It’s been an unusually wet spring, but with enough sun to make flowering plants very happy, it seems.  And several different hikes this month have offered varying vistas and plant varieties.  Early in the month, Holly’s sister-in-law Lonni (and her two dogs) and I hiked along the Appalachian Trail a ways up The Priest, and found, as we had hoped, Mountain Laurel in bloom.  (As always on this blog, click on individual pictures for a larger image.)

Shortly afterwards, I hiked the Fortune Cove trail on the other side of the county with a new friend, Jim, where beautiful stands of mountain laurel were likewise in bloom.

With almost perfect timing in the third week of May, our friend Sue and I hiked up Spy Rock, with  great views and with a quite extraordinary abundance of wildflowers along the trailside on the way up.

Click here for pictures of some of the wildflowers along the trail

At the foot of the rock dome, the Flaming Azalea were spectacular, with Rhododendron just beginning to bloom:

As always, the challenge of climbing Spy Rock was rewarded with fabulous vistas.








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In early October, our friend Sue Rucker and I took my favorite hike in the area: up Spy Rock, with its incredible 360 degree view.  I never tire of this amazing place, and it always saddens me how the great majority of Appalachian Trail through-hikers choose to bypass this brief side trip, apparently obsessed with logging as many miles as possible on a given day.  Since it was fall, the majority of through-hikers were coming from the north, having begun their end-to-end trek on Mt. Katahdin in Maine.  We had a pleasant conversation with one hiker who took the trouble to climb the rocky knob, but the rest that morning were nowhere to be seen.  The view, as always, was spectacular.


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In mid-October, my friend Bob Abbott and I climbed Old Rag Mountain, an “eastern outpost” of the Blue Ridge.  I had climbed it years ago on a quite lengthy day-hike from the  Blue Ridge Parkway and back.  Our climb, though shorter, was surprisingly demanding, with a variety of deep crevasses, narrow rock passageways, and a variety of other challenges unique to this impressive peak.  It had its challenging moments, but Bob and I had a great time and completed the nine mile circuit that leads up and over the summit and then down the other side.  The weather was perfect and the views breathtaking.


For more pictures of our hike, click here

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Readers of this blog may have recognized that Spy Rock is my favorite Nelson County hike.  I can’t remember how many times I’ve climbed it to enjoy its incredible 360 degree view, mostly of Blue Ridge wilderness.  This was my second time with Holly.  A lovely October day.


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After extensive rains before and during Hurricane Joaquim, we ventured out to check out the Tye River, which was certainly the highest I’ve seen it since moving here.  At the AT suspension bridge over the river, we were surprised and impressed to see a group of kayakers who’d come up from the Tidewater area negotiating the raging river with apparent ease.  Inside at Silver Creek orchards, we stocked up on apples.  The sun returned the next day.  We were fortunate not to have the kind of extensive flooding that occurred in South Carolina.




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Cold Mountain, in neighboring Amherst County, has a long sloping meadow plateau extending north from its 4022 foot summit, which often reminds hikers of a similar scene in the play and movie, Sound of Music.  I’ve hiked it several times before, but this was the first time with Holly.  Despite its magisterial views, it is a fairly easy hike just over a mile from the north along the Appalachian Trail from a forest service road.  A great place for a leisurely picnic!

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Along the Blue Ridge Parkway in late May

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Flaming Azalea and Rhododendron along AT on The Priest

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Lunch on the deck and cooking for Thankful Thursday dinner at Grace

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Picking Strawberries at Seaman’s orchards with an incredible view

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Along the Blue Ridge Parkway in late April

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It was a winter that seemed like it would never end.  And of course it was the winter of Monika’s gradual and then dramatic decline and death, and subsequent months of deep mourning and loneliness.  So the belated arrival of spring, with its promise of renewal and rebirth, its virtual explosion of color and sense of new possibilities, has been most welcome.  And it has given a new direction to my life through my serendipitous meeting of Holly at a Sierra Club meeting in Charlottesville, where a brief conversation alerted us to a quite extraordinary congruence of interests and passions, which has only increased as we’ve gotten to know each other more.

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My wonderfully perceptive and supportive sister Eleanor has captured these developments beautifully:  “I’m delighted that you found someone like Holly who shares your love of nature, hiking — and that the two of you enjoy each other’s company.  That pix of the two of you is adorable.  It never hurts to remind ourselves that we have only one life to live; I’m impressed (as I’ve been many times) with how much you accomplish and how fully you enjoy life.  That you’re sharing your life now with a sympathetic, attractive person is good news indeed.  (And, as you say, it does not in any way diminish your wonderful years with Monika nor your fond memories.)”


I haven’t gotten much hiking in this summer, but on this beautiful early fall day I hiked up The Priest, the highest mountain in our region.  For the first time I climbed it via the Appalachian Trail from the Tye River, a route that gains over 3000 feet in elevation.  A demanding but perfect day.

more pictures available here


I think our chickens enjoy my sister Eleanor’s visits as much as we do.  Incredible TLC from NYC, including twice-daily poop removal service–our Chicken Hilton really lives up to its name when Eleanor is here!  It’s been really fun watching them together on this recent visit.  We mostly stayed close to home, but did take some local walks, including a visit to the Appalachian Trail suspension bridge over the Tye River.



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