I was looking forward to this section that overlooks Burkes Garden because
I'd read about the scenic valley and heard other hikers talking about it.
So I wasn't real happy when it was still raining this morning when Jim and I
got out of bed.
I've been very fortunate that most days since I started this adventure have
been sunny. And I was fortunate again today that the sun started shining through
the mist about 11 AM, in time for me to see much of the ten-mile-long
agricultural haven, surrounded on all sides by mountains.
Archeological evidence suggests that Indians lived here as long as 7,000
years ago. The AT Guide to Southwest Virginia says the lush valley was an
important hunting ground for the Cherokee and Shawnee. The first Euro-American,
James Burke, discovered it in the 1740s. German settlers coveted the rich land
and drove the Indians out.
Today, many of the landowners are direct descendants of the original
settlers. Burkes Garden is inhabited by about 300 people, primarily farmers.
Running on the ridge east of the valley, I could hear cattle mooing in the
fields far below.
I couldn't see them though. There were few views with the leaves on the
trees. To really see Burkes Garden, either run the ridge before the leaves are
out or drive down VA 623 into the valley itself.
TOUGH BUT FUN A.T. INITIATION
Let's say you're a runner who lives at sea level in Texas and there aren't
any trails or hills nearby to train on. But you've run the Hawaiian trails where
the HURT 100-miler is run, and dream of doing that race in a couple years.
You're trying very hard to get back in shape and increase your mileage with that
goal in mind.
Then you're on Stan Jensen's web site (www.run100s.com)
looking for information about 100-mile races and find a link to the site of a
woman who's thru-running the Appalachian Trail. That sounds pretty cool! You
realize she's currently running near I-81, which you're driving in a couple days
on your way from Texas to Virginia Beach.
So you e-mail this woman and say you'd like to join her for a run on
Thursday. She agrees.
At 7:45 AM, John Alexander and I left Rich Valley at VA 42 and started the
500-foot ascent to Brushy Mountain. We went down 700 feet to the Knot Maul
shelter and Lynn Camp Creek, then up 600 feet to the top of Lynn Camp Mountain.
All that got John's attention, since he's a flatlander.
But what really got his attention was the 2,100-foot climb to 4,400
foot Chestnut Ridge. He lives at sea level, remember? But he climbed up, up, up
for 4 1/2 miles to the top. He enjoyed chatting with "Okie Girl," "Tony Danza,"
and a section-hiker with a golden retriever who were at the interesting stone Chestnut
Ridge shelter, below. It is located high up and is one of very few shelters with a fourth wall and door - and a
swing inside! "Tony" is on the swing:
John got to experience a varied Appalachian Trail adventure today. He got
about thirteen miles of smooth trails through beautiful woods and meadows, then
four miles of rocky ridges over Garden Mountain. He went past a spring-fed pond,
creeks, two shelters, and cliffs with sheer drop-offs. And he got to see
glimpses of Burkes Garden.
He was one tired puppy at the end of his 17 miles, but still smiling happily
when I saw him later in the afternoon (I did another 8+ miles beyond that). He's
determined to train harder this summer and join me again in Maine. He's been
bitten by the AT bug.
John told me going up the first hill that I'm an inspiration to him.
Thanks, John. You're an inspiration to other runners, too - you are
determined to get back into the shape you were in when you ran 20 marathons and
a 50-miler, and I do believe you'll be an active trail ultra runner one of these
WORLD'S BEST CREW GETS MORE POINTS
How lucky can a gal get?
After Jim fixed the camper brakes and ran errands this morning, he decided to
meet me at the road crossing at 17.3 miles - with hot chicken noodle soup! That
was yummy. He ran in on the Trail about a mile with Cody to greet me first.
Cody ran the last 8.4 miles with me. He had fun splashing in the numerous
creeks in this section, which took me longer to run than anticipated. First were
the rocks, then nice smooth trail for a couple miles, then four miles of the
worst trail I've seen in over 500 miles out here!
The AT guide warns hikers that the Trail crosses Little Wolf Creek twelve
times (had to be more than that!!) and the bridges wash out every spring so the
creeks might have to be forded. No problem. Wet feet and shoes don't bother me,
and Cody would have fun.
Lemme tell ya, this is the wettest, muddiest, rootiest place in the world!
Progress was exceedingly slow. I was slipping all around even with grippy-soled
shoes, both in the mud pits between the creek crossings and on the slick rocks
in the creek.
Cody, being a Lab, was in heaven.
I kept thinking, if ever a section of the AT needs to be relocated, this
is the place!!
Right before I got to the end, I saw a blue-blazed high-water trail. The joke
was on me. There is the equivalent of a "relo" here, and I'd missed the
other end of it. I saw it clearly on the map when I got back to the camper.
Gotta pay more attention to those maps!! (Jim has them during the day to
navigate the back roads.)
And what did my crew have for me when I got done? A chocolate milkshake from
Dairy Queen!! Perfect end to the day. Thanks, honey.