Monday, April 14, 2014

McAfee Knob Hike

After a noisy night listening to the trucks engage their jake brakes and they coasted down the hill right outside my window, we were up early to head to the McAfee Knob Trailhead, trying to stay ahead of the rain and cold temperatures that were on their way.

McAfee Knob is an iconic spot on the Appalachian Trail. Nearly every hiker has had their picture taken on the rocks there!  The way the rocks are it looks like you are standing on a ledge out in the middle of nothing!   I wanted to see the spot and get my picture taken there!  I’m glad my dad was with me because otherwise getting the picture would have been a challenge! 

We left Gander Mountain at 7:30 and arrived at the trailhead before 8!  The trailhead parking lot was huge, next time I come down here I’m going to park there overnight rather than the Gander Mountain!

The trail up was fairly easy, some up and down but mostly up and not very steep.  There are 2 trails that go up to the knob – the AT and the fire road.  The distance is about the same, although the fire road is a bit shorter.  We went up the AT and it snaked along the side of the mountain, past 2 shelters.  It was a nice section with some views of the valley.  Luckily, the leaves were still off the trees and we could see the views. Also, luckily, it was overcast today and it wasn’t so crazy hot as yesterday!   It was a bit breezy in places, but mostly the mountain blocked the wind. 



We kept a steady 2 mph pace and made it to the Knob by 10:00!  The view was nice despite the clouds and the swarms of gnats!  The clouds were high and we could see farms in the valley & mountains in the distance!  The rock platforms stuck out the the whole way around and were able to walk around and see the view at different angles.

We of course took the requisite pictures at *the* platform that is featured in all the AT pictures:


P1080716I didn’t have the nerve to sit down on the ledge and dangle my feet over like I’ve seen in other pictures. 

Some other shots of the views:




 P1080721The view was nice and we’d beat the rain, however, the gnats were a force to contend with!  Every time you stopped the gnats would descend. They weren’t biting, just flying all around you.  Once we reached the end of the overlook we got out of gnats and started the walk back. 

On the way back we walked the fire road – neither of us were too excited about walking the fire road as they are usually boring, but we were racing the rain (the fire road route is shorter) and why walk back the same way we came?  The fire road was actually very nice!  It was along the ridge and there were views to both sides!  It was breezy and cool, but no rain!   We saw more people coming than we’d seen on the AT, but it was also mid-morning when most people get out and get moving. 

We arrived back at the car just before noon! We studied the map and noticed that the trailhead for Dragon’s Tooth, also on the AT, was only 4 miles down the road, so we went to check that out.  That hike is only 5 miles RT, but it’s a lot more rugged – you have to climb iron ladders and stuff. Next time! 

We headed back to Gander Mountain to retrieve our RVs and do some shopping. Dad needed to return his new boots and I found a performance jacket I was looking for.  It was almost 3 before hit the road to head to Wal-Mart in Marion, VA. 

Let’s talk for a moment about I-81.  I-81 is such an amazing contrast to I-95!  I-95 is the worst road ever – with minor exceptions of northern Maine and most of Florida and Georgia, the whole interstate is just a disaster of traffic, congestion and construction.  There’s no scenery, truck stops/diesel is harder to find, free overnight parking options are limited, and rest areas are few and far between.  I-81 is the exact opposite!  It cuts down the Shenandoah Valley with farms close by and mountains in the distance!  It’s only 2 lanes, but there are fewer people out here so it works.  Most of the traffic is truckers, which are much easier to drive with, I think.  Almost every exit has a big truck stop with diesel fuel! There are plenty of rest areas and lots of Wal-marts, Cracker Barrels and such to spend free nights on the road!  I’m trying to figure out how I can only travel places where I can get to via I-81. 

My dad hit a bird while he was driving!  Rather, the bird hit him.  It was a bit traumatic, for everyone involved.  I was right behind him and I saw an explosion of feathers and a bird cartwheeling through the air and saw it smack down in the middle of the left lane of traffic.  After getting over the shock of seeing the bird killed in front of me, it struck me as hilarious that Dad hit a bird while driving…that’s hard to do!  When we got to Wal-Mart I asked Dad if he knew he’d hit a bird and he said “Heck, yes!”  He’d seen the bird flying toward the window and he ducked (LOL!). The bird nailed the RV above the windshield with a huge “THUNK”.  It left a large mark on the top of the RV! 

It started raining a little on the way, but when we got to Marion it stopped and it hasn’t started again! Tomorrow is still looking yucky, but not as bad.  Still going to be very cold tomorrow night.   Supposed to start raining overnight, hopefully it will be heavy and loud and block out the Wal-Mart noises!  There’s been a group of 20-somethings hanging out in their cars all evening right around our RVs. They don’t seem to be up to trouble, but they have been here all night.   If I was here alone I probably wouldn’t have stayed (no idea where I would go, there aren’t many options) – there’s just something about them that makes me uneasy – although I don’t think they are causing trouble or have any interest in me, it just seems weird.   This is the 1st time that I’ve felt “iffy” about an overnight location! 

(edited: Dad and I went on a late night (9:00!) scouting mission in Roxy and when we returned I parked next to him away from the kids.  Almost as soon as we got back the rain started and the kids left!)

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