Hiking The Appalachian Trail From Elk Gardens to Creek Junction (And Then Some)
Early Saturday morning, Martha, her brother Ed, his son Ed Jr, Wayne, and I, headed out to eat a quick breakfast before our section hike on the Appalachian Trail. The only “restaurant” along the drive from our bunk house to the trail-head where we’d be leaving our shuttle vehicle, was at the Marathon gas station in the town of Whitetop. Our cook/waitress was a spry, little 90 year old lady that we’ve nicknamed Granny. She is quite the character, and apparently not someone to be lightly trifled with.
After breakfast, we shuttled our vehicle and then began our hike. Our intentions were to do the 10.3 miles from Elk Gardens to Creek Junction. Our hike began with a 2.5 mile continuous climb up towards Whitetop Mountain.
This is a look back on the trail after we had finished our climb. Here we had exited the forest and entered into a nice open field.
From our viewpoint in the field, we could see a little side trail, or perhaps a game trail that went up higher towards the ridge-line.
Just a little further along, we had some very nice views of distant mountains.
These images are of Buzzard Rock. Buzzard Rock is a unique and impressive looking rock formation, mostly because it stands out so much compared to the surrounding terrain. The Appalachian Trail takes you directly up to it, and if you look closely you can see the white blaze painted on the face of the rock, way to the far left.
This was one of our views from Buzzard Rock. The thick grass was inviting and I laid down in it for a few moments before we moved on.
Here, the trail had gone through a stile before crossing a nice green pasture.
After maybe another mile or so, we decided to stop for lunch, which for me consisted of a tuna salad sandwich. We took twenty or thirty minutes to eat and then resumed our hike. Within a tenth of a mile, we crossed state road 58 and began a climb up to the Lost Mountain shelter. From there, the A.T. would soon begin a descent down to the Virginia Creeper Trail, where we had ridden bikes just the day before.
These are a couple of the critters that we saw on our hike; a frog and a nice little Garter snake.
Okay, being the speedsters that we are, Ed Jr, Wayne, and I had hiked on ahead of Martha and her brother. After joining the Creeper Trail for about a half a mile, the A.T. turns right and climbs as it heads back into the woods. What I didn’t know, however, was that we weren’t supposed to turn right. We had walked past our LEFT turn which would have lead us to a spur trail and shortly thereafter, to our vehicle. When we were certain that we had gone too far, it was too late to turn back. When we got to the junction for the Beartree Gap Trail, we took that back to state road 58. We hiked on the winding mountain road (which was at least down hill) for 1.8 miles. There was not much of a shoulder, so we were very close to the occasional traffic. Based on their stares, I’m sure that some of the drivers must have thought that we were crazy. After that, we hiked for 1 mile on the gravel road that finally led us back to our vehicle and to Martha and Ed Sr who by now had been waiting on us for about an hour. So much for being speedy, our error had added 5 miles more to our total for the day.
In the evening, all safe and sound, we had a delicious dinner at Cindi, Pati, and Pam’s cabin, then headed back to the bunk house, where we made another fire. As with the first night, it took us a while to get it going, but once we did, we had a nice, big, roaring fire to warm ourselves by.
For day two, the motto could have been, ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.