Return to section hiking! Return to the big mountains in Virginia!
First, it is a tragedy that the only time teachers, like me, get to go on vacation is during the hot-ass summer. It is beastly hiking weather, but here we are!
In Mother Nature’s favor, it was blissfully not hot for most of our weekend and I gave thanks many times over for that. But hiking up 2000 feet after driving 3.5 hours to meet my hiking gal pals, including Akela with her trusty hike-tastic mini-van, then taking said van another 45 minutes down the road to the trailhead, was a hard day’s work.
I was excited! It has been a while since we had all hiked together. I was ready for a weekend of releasing all the toxic crap that has been weighing me down. Yes, a complete reset would do. So, up the mountain we plodded leaving Long Mountain Wayside behind. WAIT…is that what the mountain was called…Long Mountain? That would be on point!
On the way up I pulled my motivation from first day excitement. That was about to completely deplete when we stumbled onto Cole (Cold) Mountain. Oh my goodness…total replenishment!!!!!!!!!! Those views, that meadow, the wildflowers! Oh! Oh! Oh! What a treasure!
After that it was all downhill, literally speaking, not figuratively! 😏 We camped at Hog Camp Gap, a lovely meadow with old apple trees and oak trees. The water source was excellent and not many campers on Friday night which surprised and delighted me! Honestly, that whole dig a cat hole thing to go to the bathroom can be a little tricky in a crowded camp. Yeah, I know you can feel me here! 😀 😀
The next day we started with a climb out of the gap and it was up and down all day! This section does not mess around!
There were more rewards for our hard work …and blessed trail creators, thank you for the interspersed moments of pure trail bliss along this trek! The wildflowers were in bloom, gentle cool breezes lifted the stray hair out of my eyes, and the buzz of bees was the white noise I didn’t know I needed.
We pulled into the Seeley-Woodworth shelter early. I found a nice spot under an oak tree and proceeded to put up the tent, get water, and cook dinner…and 2:30 pm! The spring here is still flowing and we didn’t have any trouble gathering water regardless of our type of filter.
There was a boisterous group of college age folks…and I am guessing they were in an outdoor club as there were many of them. We had passed them earlier, spotting them on top of a huge boulder, and I thought, “awe, look at them out here laughing, loving, and enjoying life!” They finally pooped out around 11 pm like a bunch of worn out puppies. They were a cute bunch and I found them quite amusing…until I passed a bowl with remains of the their food in it right beside the trail the next morning as we hiked out. Little feckers! Be Bear AWARE!!
Day 3 started with another gorgeous meadow walk with views for miles. Then it was up, up, up to Spy Rock…and no picture I took does that place justice! You need to hike up there yourself!!
Back to bears…I spotted one on our way up to The Priest. I loved that! No pics, but what a beautiful site! 🐻
Of course, I would’ve missed the bear if that hill had been easy. Third day on the elevation profile looked not so bad. In reality, it was a “head-down, one foot in front of the other, every woman for herself” kind of day. 😂 A very long uphill to the Priest. The “processional” it was dubbed by one of my hiking companions. 😄 and Whew…the heat and humidity was on. We arrived at the shelter and had just enough time to get our tents up before it started raining. Not a deluge of rain, but always nice to be able to stay mostly dry while backpacking! The camp area is a fairy landscape and goes back forever. A mossy creek, rhododendron bushes, big boulders, and fog rolling through periodically created a magical space.
Summary of day 3: I fail at photos, but win at persistence and sheer grit. 🥵 No privy at The Priest and water source is low, but scoopable…if you use a pump you won’t have any issues. If you scoop, you should be fine, as well, as there are some small pools.
The last day we hiked up for a little bit, inhaling and exhaling deeply at the Priest summit as we were above a sea of active morning fog with sun rise lending some extra sparkle.
Then, back on the trail, it was down. And down. And down. I really wanted to ask Akela how much farther (long before it made any sense to do so). 😄 So, I held it in until my feet and thighs were screaming, ASK HER YOU IDIOT! 😂😂😂 I asked. She asked if I wanted the truth.
Nice one Akela…real smooth. 😂
Answer – 0.4 miles more…I pushed on. I did it. I can still walk today. Huzzah! Hike on!