My Adventure Story
-- Marion Va Area - Partnership Shelter to Va 610 --
The farthest northbound I made it last year was to Partnership
Shelter just outside Marion Va at the Mt Rogers NRA Headquarters.
This trip picks up from there and heads 21 miles northbound to
the VA 610 road crossing. I hiked this trip with Bruce M, (FedExMan)
my hiking partner from the Winston-Salem NC area.
Friday night, I drove up to where the trail crosses under I-81
at exit 53? near Atkins/Groseclose and stayed at the Relax Inn.
Thru-hikers coming through this section often mention staying
at the RI. There's nothing fancy about the place, but it's a
decent place to rest up for a decent price. Next to it is the
Village Truck Stop with a deli and convenience store fare.
Around the corner is an Exxon station with a good short order
grill, supplies and 2 computers for hikers to use. Catty-corner
to all this is a country cookin' place, The Barn. The AT crosses
the road in front of the Relax and passes in front of the
Exxon station and continues on under I-81. This is the best
layover and resupply stop since Damascus about 75 miles back.
Troutdale is about 2 miles off trail at Dickey Gap about 25 miles
before here and has a small diner/grocery with hiker goods and
a church hostel. Atkins is about 3 miles away from the Relax Inn
and has a grocery store. Just some logistics notes for anyone
moving through here.
Day 1 (4/24/2010)
Bruce met me at the Relax Inn early and we shuttled cars across
Little Brushy Mtn and Walker Mtn using the back roads. The drive
on Nebo Mtn Rd up over Walker/Nebo Mtn offered some great views.
At the top of Nebo Mtn, it looks like you could easily bushwack
8-10 miles east and hit the A.T. where it crosses Walker Mtn just
prior to Va 610. The open forest up there and ridgewalk would make
for a great trail. Anyway, we left a car down in the valley at
Va 610 and drove back over to the Mt Rogers NRA HQ south of Marion.
While we were getting packs ready, we chatted a bit with 2 thru-hikers
who were hitching into Marion for supplies. We should have drove
them in as a favor but it was getting late, so we started off uphill
to get our hike started.
We had a pretty easy climb up several hundred feet to the Brushy Mtn
ridgeline. The forest here, as in much of this area, is hardwoods
and has an open, airy feel. Not much foliage was in bloom but some
wildflowers were out. Before we got halfway to the top, a big, tall
hiker with long blondish hair blew by. He was carrying a pack that
looked just enormous. Some hikers we ran into later said his trailname
is Sonic as in sonic boom. He's a fast mover. We moved on through
the wake turbulence this fellow left behind and really enjoyed the
ridgetop walk. The temp was perfect - upper 60's and sunny.
We spent early afternoon crossing several miles of ridgeline and moved
through some gaps. All of it was great walking with some views through
the trees to the surrounding valley. On top of Glade Mtn, above the
Chatfield Shelter, we moved into some rhododhendron lined trail and
reached a rock outcropping which gave great views of I-81 and the
Great Valley area. Visibility was unlimited and we could see way up
into Virginia and across the ridge systems we'd walk for the remainder
of the trip.
From here, we dropped down off the ridge and re-entered thicker
forest and rhododhendron patches. The preceeding ridges and gaps
were bone dry. Here, we crossed a number of steams before finally
reaching the Chatfield Shelter. Shortly before I got to the shelter,
I could hear some cracking and popping off in the woods behind me.
I turned around in time to see a big old dead tree give way and
fall into the forest. Sometimes you hear some deadfall like this,
but I've never seen one go down before. Pretty cool.
The Chatfield Shelter had one hiker already there and after Bruce
caught up to me, several other hikers showed up. Some were spending
the night. Others were heading on. We met a Scottish hiker named
Tup and a fellow from Quebec named Antoine. We chatted a bit but
We still had a lot of miles to cover, so we headed on after taking
a short break.
Chatfield is about 4 miles out from the I-81 crossing. We hurried
down the mountain through mostly rhodo forest. At the bottom, we
ran into the edge of some farmland. Just before we got to the SW
Virginia Settlers Museum, we crossed a high tension line cable cut.
These were the biggest transmission towers I've ever seen and the
lines made a scary loud crackle, pop, humming sound. We hurried
through here quick and back into the woods.
We passed by the Settlers Museum and weaved for a mile or two through
some old fields and orchards before we finally popped out onto the
highway across from the Relax Inn. It was about 5 and some weather
was moving in behind us. Our destination for the night was the Davis
Path Shelter. Actually, the shelter is gone and just a tent camp site
remains. We decided to take a break at the Exxon station and get beer
and burgers from the diner. The food was good and a beer always tastes
great after a walk in the woods. We finished up and headed on under
the Interstate and into some rolling fields on the other side.
We hiked through 2 or 3 miles of fields and pasture land and picked
up some water below Davis Path. About 30 minutes out from the tent
site, the rain really cut loose. We stayed reasonably dry in rain
gear, but when we got to the Davis Path tent site, we got pretty
wet putting up tents in the rain. I used a backpacker towel to mop
up the water inside my tent and settled in for the night. Getting
dinner out of the way back at the Exxon station was the best idea
of the trip. My tent is actually just the poles, fly and fitted floor.
This saves 2 lbs but drips a little in a heavy rain. The tent sprinkled
me some before the rain quit, but wasn't much to worry with.
Day 2 (4/25/2010)
I woke up the next morning before sun-up and kinda half dozed
for a bit. The Davis Path Shelter site snugs up to a steep hillside
below a ridgeline. I heard something that sounded big start crashing
through the woods up above and lay there listening to it roll toward
me. Probably a rock and no bigger than a basketball, but laying there,
it sounded like a Volkswagen coming my way. Whatever it was, it
rolled all the way through our camp and sounded like it passed about
20 feet away from my feet. Pretty weird. We took our time getting
going. The weather blew through overnight and we woke up to a clear
blue sky. We were walking before 9 and headed up the trail toward
The trail through here is ridgetop walking with some good views
out into the surrounding valleys. We could see back toward I-81
from the west side and way up some valley to the east. We motored
on and enjoyed the morning walk - took a break at the top of
Gullion Mtn before descending through the Crawfish Valley. We
passed through a campsite and I said good morning to a fellow
standing there in front of his tent. The trail through this low
lying rhodo patch wasn't obvious so I asked him which way to go.
Without looking at me he smiled and said something like "I imagine
it's the way you're heading". I thought that was an odd response
but motored on. A short way up the trail, I ran into a guy with
a movie cam and discovered that I'd just run across Mike Hanson,
the blind fellow who is hiking the trail this year. Boy, did I feel
stupid. It made me think a lot about what his trail experience
is like compared to mine and how much of it can come from the
other senses. I spent the rest of the day a lot more in tune with
the sound and feel of the trail beneath my boots, the feel of
a cool morning breeze across my arms and the warm sun on my face.
Not to mention birds singing and the smell of the forest.
Bruce and I made it to the top of the Walker Mtn ridge, which for
some reason, is called Tilson Gap. Never seen the top of a ridge
called a gap before. We ran into a thru-hiker named Cob and his
son taking a break and chatted for a bit before moving on down
the mountain. The trail descends into the Va 610 valley which is
a really beautiful place. Fittingly enough, we ended a great trip
passing through a scenic pasture and a farm and ended up at Bruce's
car by the road.
We dropped our packs and had the ceremonial drinking of the
beer to end the trip. Cob and his son passed by and joined us
for beers. Luckily, Bruce brings a lot. Tup, the Scottish fellow
we met the day before, showed up too. We jokingly apologized for
just having thin American beer to offer instead of something
substantial like the Scottish beer SkullSplitter. Nonetheless,
we all enjoyed our thin American beer - it tasted great. Some
of the hikers we met back at Chatfield showed up - Antoine and
another fellow. And the last folks to show up were the 2 thru-hikers
we met at the start of the trip who were hitching into Marion.
Well, they made it, resupplied, got back out to the trail and
caught us all in about 26 hours and 21 miles.
Everybody had a good time talking, but all good times come
to an end. We ended this trip watching the thru-hikers we met
spread out on the trail up the hillside across the road. On to
Knot's Maul Branch shelter or Burke's Garden - or to God knows where.
Good luck to them all on their journey to Maine...
- Shooting Star (Apr 2010)