Sunday, November 20, 2011

Austin and Trayfoot Mountain Trip: Day 3

I woke up about 6AM on Sunday, November 20. It was still dark, so I decided to just lie peacefully in my comfortable sleeping bag and listen to Paine Run gurgling along just below our tents. When it got lighter, I boiled water with my Jetboil stove and cleaned out my bowl from the previous night with the hot water. Then I brewed a mug of Irish Breakfast tea, - yes, I am a tea fiend - added some honey, and sat on the ground enjoying the tea. When Chris got up, I made some Glade oats and pecans for breakfast, using another recipe out of Backpacker Magazine. I also mixed up a cup of instant milk for our oatmeal. Then, we struck our tents, packed up our gear, and were ready to hit the trail by 9:15.

Here, marked in red, is our route for the day, leaving our campsite in the southwest part of the map and reaching Brown's Gap in the northeast part of the map:
We had a minimum elevation of 1,495 feet, climbed most of the first two thirds of the hike to a high of 3,094 feet at Black Rocks, and then descended to my car at Brown's Gap. Along the way, we would gain a total of 2,117 feet and descend 1,026 feet. Here is the elevation profile of the day's 6.8 mile hike. Black Rocks is the high point about four miles in.
The first mile or so of the day's hike was easy and pleasant, but we could see where we were heading looming above us:
A piliated woodpecker did quite a job on this snag:
Here I am, crossing Paine Run again as the trail crosses it:
From this point, the trail began to climb steadily out of the Paine Run Valley, reaching Black Rock Gap on the Skyline Drive after a total of about three miles. After leaving Black Rocks Gap, the hike up the Appalachian Trail to Black Rocks is continuous uphill and often steep. It gains about 800 feet in about 1.3 miles.
As you climb higher and higher up the AT, some nice views of the Blue Ridge start coming into sight:
Black Rocks is a pretty cool area, one that I had not been to in nine years. I think it formed when a cliff collapsed eons ago. I arrived about a half hour ahead of Chris, who had a painful calf cramp during the steep hike up. I explored a bit and ate some trail mix, took photos, and climbed over the rocks, hoping in vain to find a snake on the cool, windy summit. Here are some of the photos:

Black Rocks:
Trayfoot Mountain is only a mile or so away by direct trail from Black Rocks, but the way we took was nearly 10 miles:
Deep down in this valley, behind the low mountain just right of center and to the left of the mountain (Horsehead Mountain) tucked behind that mountain, is where we camped last night:
Mountains in the distance beyond Black Rocks:
I asked a couple of women to snap this photo of me on top of Black Rocks:
A cave I found in the rocks:
Chris at the bottom of Black Rocks:
After Black Rocks, our hike ended with a gradual descent for about 2.5 miles along the Appalachian Trail back to my car at Brown's Gap. It had been a great trip, despite the lack of wildlife sightings, but now it was time to get home and get a hot shower!

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