Sunday, November 5, 2017

Hungry for a Hike!

On Wednesday, I drove over 300 miles for a work meeting in Bristol and left for home on Friday.  Being down in the Southwest Virginia mountains in the fall, it seemed logical to take some vacation time and take a hike.  After all this time inside and in a car, I was hungry for a hike, and my "50 Hikes in Southern Virginia" guidebook had just the one: Molly's Knob in Hungry Mother State Park.  I'd never been, and found myself asking "Why?"

Hungry Mother SP is about 50 miles from Tennessee by I-81 near Marion, VA.  On a clear day, one would have a view of Mount Rogers, indicated with a red star, from a high point such as Molly's Knob.  This is where I backpacked a month ago.  The map below shows the location of Hungry Mother with the light blue triangle.


Long ago, a woman named Molly Marley and her little daughter escaped from their Indian captors in the wilderness of this part of Virginia.  They wandered through the forest with only a few berries to eat until Molly collapsed.  The child continued, found a creek, and eventually reached a settler's cabin.  The only words she could say were "Hungry.  Mother."  A search party found Molly, but she had died.  She had wandered over much of the land which is now the park.  In the 1930's, the Civilian Conservation Corps built trails and cabins here, and dammed the creek to form the lake.

My hike was a beautiful seven mile loop, starting and ending at the red star, and traveling clockwise.  I hiked on four separate and well marked trails: Molly's Knob, Molly's Knob Vista, CCC, and Lake.  The purple / yellow star marks the summit of Molly's Knob.

Last weekend in Vermont, I had missed the foliage, but I hit it here.  Colors were at their peak, except for higher up on the mountains.  It was spectacular.  The hike itself involves a fair amount of climbing and descending.  Molly's Knob is over 3,200 feet, and the hike included over 1,700 feet of elevation gain and loss.  It is rarely super steep, but I knew that I was getting a great workout!

At the start of the hike, there is a view over the lake.  The park headquarters are directly across the lake, and there is a swimming beach towards the right.


After about 0.8 miles, I got my first view of Molly's Knob looming above.  It looked like a long ways up there.  I think it was well over 1,000 feet of climbing from the parking area to the top.

As I hiked along, I stopped over and over to admire, and to photograph, the wonderful fall colors.



The trail continued to climb up, up, up.

 Once or twice, I got some partial views but mostly I was in the woods.

When I reached the Vista Trail, I knew I had only 0.4 miles to the top of the knob, along with about 350 more feet of climbing.  I stopped to talk with two park rangers.  They had been told of a large tree down across the trail, and had driven their four-wheelers up to clear it.  The final 0.3 miles had to be on foot, as the trail was too narrow and steep to ride up.  Glad that they were out there doing a good job.

From the summit of Molly's Knob, 3,270 feet, there are great views to the south and east.



 From that point, I hiked a couple of miles through the woods, where I stopped continually in awe of the foliage.





There were also some great sections of the trail going through thick rhododendrons, which would be amazing in June, as the trail descended towards the lake.





Eventually, the trail reached the lake, and for the last couple of miles, it wove in and out of the lake shore and the forest.







What a wonderful hike this was! Can anyone tell me why, after living in Virginia for over two decades, I'd never hiked down here before?  This hike was great, and the foliage was the frosting on the cake.  It left me hungry for more!

Vermont Country Store Nature Trail

After returning from my Lowell Lake hike, I had a bit of time in the afternoon, so I walked over to the Vermont Country Store from our Bed and Breakfast, and took a half mile walk on their nice nature trail.  They had a brochure with about 10 interpretive points showing different aspects of the northern forest.  Here are a few photos from this short, but lovely, walk.

Deep Vermont pine forest...

Old field that will succeed to forest if not kept mowed...

View of distant mountain through the trees...

Open pine woods....

Fallen leaves on pine needles...

Pileated woodpecker snack bar....

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Lowell Lake in Southern Vermont

We made a short trip to Vermont to visit my wife's sister, who came over from Boston, and to see the Vermont Country Store in Weston.  I gave the ladies some time to themselves by getting in a nice, gentle hike in nearby Lowell Lake State Park, which was a real treat.  Plus it gave me time to work off my disappointment about the town of Weston being out of ice cream!  How does a town in Vermont run out of ice cream?  For months, I have been lusting after the maple ice cream that my spouse told me that the Vermont Country Store is famous for.

The park is in the southern (skinny) part of the Green Mountain State.  The map below marks the location with a red star.

And this image shows my track and direction of travel (counter clockwise).  For some reason, my inReach didn't capture the first quarter mile of so of my route, so I drew it in.  The total distance of the hike was about 3.8 miles.  Note the large wetlands at the northern and southern end of the lakes.  The starting and ending point of the hike is marked by the star at the top of the image.

Much of the forest along the hike was conifers, but there were also many areas of deciduous trees.  Vermont's legendary foliage must have peaked about a week before.  It was quite lovely in New York on the drive up towards Albany.  There were patches of color along the hike, but the sugar maples were all bare.  The trail along the west side of the lake was more of a woods road, and was very easy to walk.


Before long, I had my first views of Lowell Lake.  Can you imagine what this hill would have looked like at peak color?  I guess I need to come back to see for sure.


The trail along the southern and eastern sides of the lake was a traditional narrow foot path, going through a mixture of deciduous

and coniferous forests.

My favorite tree is the white (paper) birch.  Despite the temptation, never peel the bark of a life birch, as it will girdle and kill the tree.  You wouldn't like having your skin peeled off, would you?  Didn't think so!

Along the southern end of the lake is a large wetland area.

Much of the path along the east side of the lake had water views.  The lake also has three islands, as you can see on the photo of the track.

Those colorful leaves end up as Mother Nature's new fall carpet.

As I walked along to the north, I saw this group of five women out kayaking.  I could hear them chatting about their lives, and those of their friends, as I hiked along through the woods.

Near the end of the hike, I turned to the west to head back to my car through the forest.

I liked visiting the Vermont Country Store - although I still can't believe that I missed out on maple ice cream - but I really enjoyed getting away from stores for a couple of hours to enjoy a lovely hike.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pre-Picnic Hike

A week ago Sunday, the Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club (ODATC) had our annual picnic at Powhatan State Park on the James River.  Before the picnic, about 20 of us got together for a 5.7 mile hike on a warm October day.  This park is a great resource.  In addition to the river and lots of hiking trails, there are campgrounds and a special canoe campground.  It is also a good place to see wildlife, although with 20 of us tromping along, spotting elusive wild creatures was a long shot.

Here is the route of our hike, starting and ending at the star on the left.  You can see that the park is a mixture of fields and mostly deciduous forest, with a lot of edge.


I snapped a few photos as we hiked along, beginning with the James River at the start of the hike.  Our post-hike picnic was right along the river.


We moved out through heavy forest along the river.

I imagine that this was once someone's home.  I wonder what their life was like?

You can see that there were enough of us that we got strung out over quite a distance.

Walking isn't the only way to move along in this park.

Here is a view across one of the fields.

For a hiking group, what could be better before a delicious picnic than a hike?  This one was a lot of fun.