Friday was a really sad day, as I had to have our beloved cat, Nellie, euthanized. It was the right thing to do, but it still felt terrible. She was the sweetest and friendliest cat I think I've ever known, and also our third feline friend to die this year. Only Goldie, my sister's cat who we adopted last year, remains.
When I am feeling sad, two things will help with the blues - beautiful music and good times in the lovely outdoors. Saturday morning, I put my pack together, got in the car, slipped some Haydn (almost always cheerful) and Schumann (somewhat melancholy but heroic at the same time) symphonies into the CD player, and headed for Shenandoah National Park. Destination: Rocky Mount.
One of my guidebooks said "Do not attempt the Rocky Mount hike unless you are in excellent shape." Well, I don't think I am in excellent shape, but I am in decent shape. Note that I am not qualifying that, for example, with "for a 61 year old man." Because Mother Nature is indifferent. She does not care about your age. It is not like she will say, "Well, you are 61, and you are tired, and this trail is pretty steep. You've done well for a man of your age, so I will cut you a break by giving you an escalator to ride up the slope." Nope, it doesn't work that way. You are either in shape or you are not. The place I hiked Saturday was tough, and you can either do it or you cannot. You can either keep going when you are tired or you can spend the night in the mountains, sans tent and sleeping bag. I imagine there are 21 year olds that can't, and there are 81 year olds who can. Someday, in 20 years, I hope to be one of the latter. But let me tell you, the guide book was not far off, because this was a very strenuous hike. Total elevation gain and loss was about 3,200 feet over nearly 10 miles. Quad tiring, lung busting uphills, and knee straining long downhills. I hiked with my trekking poles and was glad that I did.
The hike is a combination of an out and back and a loop. You hike more than two miles to get to the loop, hike around the loop another five miles or so, and then it is back to the trail you started on, and you head back. The total distance is just under 10 miles, but call it 10 by the time you walk to and from the parking area. You can hike the loop clockwise as I did, and subject your knees to especially long downhill grades, or you can do it counter clockwise, and do a long, long climb. Either way, you will lose and gain 3,200 feet so what difference does it really make? Here is the topo map for the route, with arrows drawn in to show my direction (starting from the bottom of the map):
And here is the elevation profile - remind you of a roller coaster? The car on the Skyline Drive is at about 2,700 feet, the same as the peak at Rocky Mount, so on the way back, you know you have a long way to climb to get there - as you can see:
Little Wilson Creek Wilderness a week ago.
updated my Mount Rogers posts, and hit the sack by 10:15. I slept like a log.
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