Saturday, December 12, 2015

Appalachian Trail (AT) in the Winter in Central             Virginia

     Several times a year a group of Christian friends from nearby churches go on a backpacking adventure.  A few of the men want to complete the Virginia portion of the AT,  while others like me just want to bask in the beauty of God's creation. The miracle of God's divine design in every plant and animal living along the trail makes me want to loudly sing with joy like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music.  But if I want to see any wildlife at all I try to keep my singing to a whisper. 
     Our backpacking trip began on the AT just north of the Apple Orchard Falls Trail and ended crossing the James River, a distance of approximately fifteen miles.  At the beginning of the hike along Thunder Hill a German balloonist crashed his balloon while in an international race in 1928.   We camped at the halfway mark at Marble Springs, a spot where an old shelter  had once been located.  Our water supply was a spring located a few hundred yards down the mountain.   
     The first day we passed through portions of the 2,344 acre Thunder Ridge Wilderness.   Just before Marble Springs the trail passed through Petites Gap named after John Poteet a settler in 1740.   Between 1850 and 1875 the lower forested area was harvested and the wood used to generate charcoal for the production of pig iron.  Much of the rock in the area consists of hard, granite-like, igneous rocks.   Years of continued erosion has produced a form of very fertile soils as evidenced by the luxuriant trees and thickets of mountain laurels and rhododendrons.  From a distance along Arnold Valley you can see the Devil's Marble yard, an eight-acre field of fractured quartzite metamorphic rocks that contain fossil wormholes.  
     The second day we crossed through a gap known by locals as Archie's Notch named after Archibald "Bear" Tolley, a well known bear hunter.   Another area we crossed was Highcock Knob, named after a man who owned a cabin nearby and two roosters that would go high on an oak tree and that area became known as "High Cock Knob."   
     At the conclusion of the hike we crossed the James River.  The James River is estimated to be 160 million years old and the longest waterway in Virginia, flowing 450 miles from the Allegheny Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay.   The river is crossed by a 625 foot long foot bridge constructed in 2000 on piers from a 1881 railroad bridge.

An Appalachian Trail marker along the Blue ridge Parkway at mile post 76.3.

Along the trail there are many switch backs indicated by a double white blaze marker.

Coyotes have become very common along the trail and leave scat filled with rabbit and squirrel hair.

The night time temperatures in December are in the 20's, creating heavy frost along the trail in the morning.

In many areas the trail is marked with posted signs instead of white blazes to help preserve the natural feel of the surrounding wilderness.

The James River can be seen from the top of the ridge covered with a freezing fog.

James River Foot Bridge is 625 foot long.

The foot bridge was constructed on old train trestle pilings.

Isaiah 2:3  "And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; ..........."

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