Annie Dilliard Country: Tinker Cliffs
We traversed the Tinker Cliffs. Above McAfee and the Dragon's Tooth, they are the crown jewel of the Catawba Valley. We sat and watched the turkey vultures ride the thermals before descending to Lamberts Meadow for the night.
We joined Bird and a section hiker at the shelter. I enjoyed a delicious meal of refried bean burritos supplemented with homegrown spinach and organic zucchini thanks to the folks. We crashed out early after supper.
The next morning, we had a rocky nine mile walk into Daleville. We dropped down into a vernal paradise. A variety of wildflowers are having another go of it: irises, violets, trilliums, azaleas, phlox...
After four cheese enchiladas and three dos equis, I was muy contento. We picked up a few provisions at a gas station and staggered on past I-81 up, up, up out of the valley into the dry piney ridges.
The next day was mostly overcast, a welcome change. We slogged through the humidity and were soon joined by El Train. We hiked with the Chicago native for a while before stopping early at Bobblets Gap shelter.
I had another great meal here: wraps filled with sauteed garlic, dried maitake mushrooms in couscous and instant mashed potato seasoned with miso soup. It may sound strange, but it's delicious. Bird hiked in to join us for the evening. We also met Stash and Remix.
The next day, Uwharrie and I opted to try something a little different. We left the AT and road walked the BRP to the impressively gnarley Peaks of Otter. I got a ticket for trying to hitch on the parkway. I forgot it's illegal.
We arrived to the Peaks of Otter restaurant in time for a late breakfast. I enjoyed a massive cheese omelette, hashbrowns, fried apples and coffee. The nice waitress even brought me extra biscuits! It was delicious. Poor Uwharrie missed out, but she did get her beef jerky strip treat. Oh yeah!
Charged up on breakfast, we tackled Sharp Top, a three mile round-trip hike. This is one of the most stunning Appalachian summits I've ever set foot on, which is really no surprise given the peak's jagged profile.
Sharp Top from Abbot Lake
One of the summit boulders was used in the construction of the Washington Monument in DC. At the time, the builders thought they were taking a rock from Virginia's highest peak. Given the 360 degree panorama, it's easy to asssume Sharp Top is the state's loftiest perch.
Back down we dropped only to climb another Ottari (Cherokee for high place) peak: Flat Top. This summit is actually a few feet higher than Sharp Top. The climb was much more difficult as well. It was hot and humid after leaving the cooling waters of Big Spring. By the time we dropped down on the other side to the parkway, Uwharrie and I were ready to call it a day.
Another four miles of road walking brought us to a spur trail leading to Cornelius Creek. We joined Bird at the shelter and recounted experiences from our seperate journeys before bedtime. The mice were out of control in the lean-to. I didn't get a good night's rest at all.
The next day was mostly overcast and windy. We climbed up over Apple Orchard mountain and passed through a forest floor covered with gorgeous trilliums. On the high ridges, only the herbacious layer is leafing in, the canopy is still mostly dormant.
What an intense change it was to descend into the bright green gorge of the James River! All the trees are leafing in, the dogwoods are in full bloom. More amazing still, Uwharrie and I passed several blooming rhododendron. It's not even May yet! It's a new world down in the valley where songbirds rejoice.
We were joined at Matts Creek shelter by No Joke and Bacon. I found the dinnertime conversation dull compared to our vivacious surroundings. Many thru-hikers we've met so far walk and talk as if this trail was an interstate, or worse yet, a nascar course.
By no means am I immune to such a mindset. I rather avoid it like an infectious plague. Nor am I alone in observing the peace of mind that can come with a simple task such as walking. To hell with all that multi-tasking nonsense fraying our nerves! Simplify, simplify. Good stuff.
Uwharrie and I packed and left early. We crossed the footbridge over the foggy James River and got a hitch into Glasgow. As we slid around in the pick-up bed, I wanted to disappear forever into the moment, it was a perfect memory.
We met up with El Train, Stash, Remix and Bird at the Tired Feet Cafe. After breakfast, the dog and I ran our errands. We'll soon be headed over the mountain to greet friends at the Promise Land 50K trail run this weekend. Maybe we'll snarf some aid station goodies while no one's looking!