4 Wheelin’ it to Barney’s Wall

Typically when my friend Karen organizes a hike, it is the walking in the woods and the view at the end that provides the memories.

Barney’s Wall provided that, for sure, but getting there was the adventure!  We all piled into my truck and hit the road for the trailhead.  And what a road it was!

What was initially a lovely ride through the trees,

turned into a challenge for my 4 Wheel Drive skills.

We made sure our seatbelts were locked in place and the windows up.

I took my time and drove carefully … until we saw these huge puddles.

I mean, what fun is a puddle if you can’t make a big splash?

What a fun mess!

After a bit of searching (see Karen’s post for the story) we found the trailhead.

And what a beautiful trail it was!

We’d not gone far when we learned that it was the 1st Day of Rifle Season.  You’d think that the sound of gunfire in the distance would have cued us in, but it was not until we saw hunters coming towards us that we realized the significance of the day.

We perservered and it was not long until we received our reward.

The drop off was severe and soon enough we were scrambling around on the ledge.

As always, we were thrilled with the view, and with the comraderie and friendship.

Sometimes the hike is long. Sometimes not so much.  No matter the length of the walk, the memories will last a lifetime.

Anatomy of a Bridge

** This is a scheduled post  from a ride one week ago. As you read, I am in full Get Out The Vote mode! **

Another Sunday Ride. Another Old Bridge.

Something is definitely right in my world when I get to ride the bike two weekends in a row.  The rides haven’t been long but during this busy time in my life, I’m thrilled just to be riding on our beautifully curvy Southwest Virginia roads.

We were also able to explore another old bridge.  With this one no longer in use, we were able to take our time checking it out.

I thought of Joe as I photographed all of the rust, and as we looked at the many parts of the bridge, I couldn’t help but wish that I knew more about civil engineering.

 

I also loved the contrast between the man made structure and the natural world.

Soon enough we were back on the bikes and enjoying the wind in our faces.

As always, we ended the ride with a cold craft beer and this time, a brick oven pizza.

It was the perfect way way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Ride: Bent Mountain

It’s fall but it still feels like summer, the earth still rotates on it’s axis, despite the political and weather related turmoil, and I am still posting on WP, even if not as much as in the past.  Election Day is in just 16 days, and with so much on the line here in Virginia, it’s hard to think of anything else.  My home is being used as base of operations for several candidates, and there’s lots going on.

In a nice change of pace, I’ve been home for the last two weekends, and I’m happy to report that I’ve spent some time on the bike, and a little time hiking in the mountains.   Mornings have been quiet and misty and lovely.

It doesn’t take long for the mist to burn away, revealing perfect ride days.  The leaves are changing and they fall down around us as we ride.  The many curves of our Southwest Virginia roads make for challenging and incredibly fun riding and the views are breathtaking.  And then there are the bridges.

We love to explore the detail of the old bridges that we come upon, and always hope to find the plaque that reveals the date that the bridge was built

 

It was less than a 200 mile day, but it was a much needed distraction from the woes of the world.

After enjoying a delicious lunch and a cold beer, we headed back to reality.

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.

********

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.