Monday, June 8, 2009

Hitting the Appalachain Trail

I want to take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the mountains, forests, and rivers surrounding Blacksburg this summer. This weekend, I did a one-night backpacking trip with some students along a section of the Appalachian Trail. It turned out to be a great trip, with good feelings of exploration, friendship, exercise, and wonder.

It felt like it rained all week last week, so even though the forecast was calling for it to clear up Friday afternoon, we were having second thoughts about going due to the wet and muddy conditions. It did stop raining, so we loaded up our gear and hit the road even under the cloudy skies. It was about a 30-minute drive out 460 West to the place where the AT crosses a side road outside of Pearisburg, VA. I've driven by there many times in my life, having never realized the trail came so close. The first half of our 5-mile hike to the shelter at Rice Fields was exceptionally steep - more than any of us had expected. The second half was much more manageable for us, and we reached the shelter well before dark.

Being up that high, we were pretty much in a cloud the entire time. It was eerie to hike through the mist and growing darkness as our visibility was quickly reduced. Although I don't think it ever rained, the cloud condensing and the wind blowing made it feel like we were in a constant drizzle. We weren't able to get a fire going, so we warmed our food over camp stoves, played some cards by flashlight, and went to sleep. Coming down the next morning was a much easier experience, and we were back in Blacksburg by lunch time.

The coolest part of the trip for me was Saturday morning as I woke up earlier than the rest of the group and felt the sun breaking through the mist. I walked out to a place where the mountain overlooked the valley and was treated to a view of clouds filling the valley and being slowly blown back up onto our peak. As my visibility and the sunlight went in and out as clouds blew through, I had a great chance to enjoy the beauty and peace of the place. I'm hoping I get the chance to enjoy more of the AT, New River, and other beautiful places around me this summer.

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