A”maze”ing Channels

We knew that we’d have a great hike and incredible views when we visited The Channels Natural Area Preserve, and we even knew that there would be some interesting sandstone formations to explore.  What we didn’t know was just how very cool those formations would be.  We simply could not help ourselves and kept exclaiming out loud with every turn.  As Karen said, the place brought out the inner child in all of us.

According to several online sources, the sandstone outcroppings were formed 400 million years ago.

Geologists conclude that the Channels were likely formed while the high elevation sandstone cap was under the influence of permafrost and ice wedging during the last ice age.

 The expanding ice fractured the sandstone and water slowly spread and smoothed the breaks over millions of years.

“What is left is a labyrinth of slots and crevices through the rocks. The pathways range from 20 to nearly 40 feet deep and wind their way through damp, moss-covered walls of stone” (https://virginiatrailguide.com/2016/10/23/great-channels).

Aren’t the colors incredible?

Check out the way these tree roots are stretching for moisture,

and the ferns growing amidst the cracks in the rocks.

We laughed and exclaimed and explored and were utterly happy with the experience.

For more information about The Channels, visit the previous two posts.

Haytors Knob Fire Tower

Once a Wildland Firefigher, Always a Wildland Firefigher.

At least that’s how we feel in our hearts, and I’ve written about this in a previous post.

It’s been over 30 years since I worked a fireline, but when I saw this fire tower at the halfway point of our 6 mile hike to The Channels, I felt that old firefighter excitement deep inside.   The tower, built in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, was registered with the National Historic Lookout Registry in 2014.

According to the Registry, the tower construction materials were carried to the construction site on mules and on men’s backs.

When laying underneath, and looking up through the stairs, it truly seemed that the tower was moving against the clouds and sky.

Per the registry, the tower commands a view of over 60 miles on a clear winter day and fewer than six feet when the fog settles over the mountain.  Research did not reveal the height of the tower, but for some reason 100ft seems about right.  Oh, how I wanted to climb it but between the sign that said “No Climbing”, the lack of time, stairs (and probably the lack of muscle), I didn’t get very far.

The tower was in use from 1939 until the spring of 1970, and was the inspiration for a book called Fire Tower by Jack Kestner.  The late author wrote this adventure story in 1960 after serving as a lookout himself at the Hayters Knob fire tower.  “With this book, Jack honored the men and women of the Virginia Division of Forestry (now the Department of Forestry) who work tirelessly to protect lives and property during fire season”.

The tower itself is in much better shape than the cabin once used by the former lookouts.

As we turned to head back down the mountain, I took one last wistful look behind me.

The heart of a firefighter remains.

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See the previous post for more about the hike to the top of The Channels.

The next post will reveal images of the sandstone formations that give The Channels it’s name.

The Channels

If you’ve visited  The Unassuming Hiker this week, you have already been introduced to The Channels, a gorgeous, 721 acre natural preserve in Southwest Virginia.  The Channels Natural Area Preserve is part of a 4,836 acre State Forest that was purchased by the Department of Forestry from The Nature Conservancy in March 2008.  The preserve name is derived from the maze-like system of sandstone crevices and boulders that occur near the 4208ft. summit of Middle Knob on Clinch mountain.

With good friends along for the ride, the 2 hour drive to the trailhead was over before we knew it.  The last 30 minutes will offer an excellent ride when next I return on the bike.  Lots of curves and twisties to thrill a bikers heart!

The 3 mile hike to the top was through a lush, green forest that offered plenty of shade on this sunny, breezy day.

Once on the top, we had views that stretched for miles!  We just could not stop exclaiming about how fortunate we were to be there.

I swear, I want to be a hawk (well, except for their diet).  I want to soar!

Even though it is only early September, the color change has begun.

We were 4 very happy women: Fresh air, exercise, incredible views, and lots of places to explore.

Big thanks to Karen for offering weekend hikes for those who can’t make it during the week.

As you might guess, I took a zillion photos.  The next post will show images of the fire tower (which, or course, I wanted to climb), and the one after that will be about the sandstone channels that, when we explored them, brought out the kid in all of us.

 Choices

It’s been 5 years since I started my WordPress journey, and what an incredible 5 yrs it has been.

Somehow, through all that has happened, a motorcycle wreck, running for political office, opening a business / closing a business / opening another business, and many other things, both positive and challenging, I have managed to post, to respond to comments, and to visit and comment on your posts.

Lately though, I have just not been able to keep up.  Perhaps it’s the new job.  Maybe it’s the hours spent in civic engagement, and the resistance.  Whatever the reason, I’ve just not been able to respond to your comments on my posts.  I have, however, made a commitment to visiting and commenting on  your posts.

Know that I love and read each and every comment, but if I don’t respond in kind it is because for the time being, I’ll be spending my WordPress time visiting and commenting on your posts.  I’ll still be posting though, and hope to have a lighter schedule sometime down the road.

You have become dear friends, and my life is better for it.

♥️

Morning on the River

Just a couple hours on the water.

That’s all it takes to make me breath deeply and smile big.  It’s similar to how I feel on the bike.

Karen encouraged me to set aside the chores for the morning and get out on the river.

We are so fortunate to live on the New River, and can be on the water within 20 minutes of leaving our homes.  The New River is 360 mi (515 km) long and flows through the states of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The part that runs through my little city has just a few Class 1 rapids, but it is often as smooth as glass, offering stunning reflections.

We saw lots of Great Blue Herons, and the fish were jumping right up out of the water.

The roots of this tree reveal evidence of the rise and fall of the water.

When floating this part of the river, you pass under 3 bridges.  The modern day train trestle, the remains of the historic bridge, and in the distance, the new Memorial Bridge.

I’ve posted images of this trestle in the past.  You may remember it.

Despite the risk, it’s hard not to pull out the camera when floating the river.  I keep the camera in a Scuba bag so as to protect it in case the kayak tips over, but even still, I’m always taking a chance when pulling it out of the water safe bag.

It was a perfect morning, and I feel such gratitude for natural wonders and dear friends.

As you read this scheduled post I am enjoying the annual Girls of August (GOA) get together.  You may remembering me telling you about the women that I attended graduate school with over 20 yrs ago.  The Girls Of August have been spending the first week of August together for over 20 years, and it is one of the highlights of the year for all of us.

See you when I get back!

New River Trail: Hiwassee Trestle

The New River Trail is a 57-mile linear park that follows an abandoned railroad right-of-way.  The rail corridor was donated to the state of Virginia by Norfolk Southern Corporation in 1986, and by summer 1987, the trail’s first four miles were opened.

The park parallels the scenic and historic New River for 39 miles and passes through four counties and the city of Galax.  The trail’s gentle slope makes it great for visitors of all ages to hike, bike and ride horseback.

The trail has two tunnels, three major bridges, and nearly 30 smaller bridges and trestles.  These photos, taken one after the other as I moved closer to the center of the bridge, are of the Hiwassee Bridge which is 951 feet in length.

The bridge allows all users to cross over the gorgeous New River.

Multiple access points to the New River Trail make it one of the most popular eco-tourism destinations in Southwest Virginia.  If you are ever in my neck of the woods, I’d love to take you there.  My great friend and fellow blogger Karen, from The Unassuming Hiker, can also show you around.  She and her husband section hiked all 57 miles.

Much of the text of this post was taken from the Department of Conservation and Recreation website, linked above.