My sister, Nancy, sent us this e-mail a few days ago, and we got a good laugh
out of it. A friend in Montana also sent us a web link to the story. We had already read the whole article in our Sunday paper.
Believe it or not, neither of us had ever heard of this trail before!
The Powers, a retired couple, have also hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest
Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail since 2000, making this story even more
remarkable. There aren't a whole lot of folks who have done the "Triple Crown"
(AT, PCT, and CDT), let alone ones who are in their 50s or 60s.
I replied to Nancy that no, we weren't planning to do this trail . . .
. . . until after the PCT and CDT.
[Don't tell Jim. I'm waiting to mention those trails to him after his
selective memory forgets the bad parts of our AT Adventure Run!]
MY TOP TEN FAVORITE SCENIC PLACES
How can anyone choose only ten "most scenic places" along a 2,175-mile
It's not easy, but here are my top picks if you want incredible views on a
good-weather day. They are listed south to north, as it's impossible for me to
rank them. Most are at higher elevations with expansive views because that's
just my bias. I love feeling "on top of the world."
Post #10 in a few days for new photos that I
haven't shown previously of several of the places below (from my database of
over 3,000 photos this summer on the AT)..
1. THE SMOKIES, NC/TN - seventy miles of remote trail at the highest
elevations along the entire AT. The views are best from the balds (e.g., one in
the photo below) south of Clingman's Dome and the other 6,000-foot mountains north-bound on
the way to Davenport Gap.
Unfortunately, two of the three days I ran/hiked here
the magnificent views were obscured by rain and fog. But I know the views are
impressive from reports of others who have been there in good weather. See
Post #6 for trail descriptions and other photos of the Great Smoky Mountains
2. THE SOUTHERN BALDS IN NC, TN, AND VA - The ones I like the best are
Max Patch, The Humps, and the balds in Mt. Rogers National Recreational Area
Grayson Highlands State Park. Most are in the 5,000- to 6,000-foot range and
have been kept "mowed" by people or grazing animals to preserve the beautiful views of
surrounding mountains and lush valleys.
Any of these are worthy of a day or
section hike. Although you can see farther on a clear day, the mountains are
interesting when you're looking down at clouds or fog in the valley below you
after a storm. Some of these mountains have interesting rock formations and all
are loaded with flowers in the spring. The ones at higher elevations have
fragrant pine forests and
sub-alpine ecological zones. See
for examples of fine Southern balds.
3. CATAWBA VALLEY, VA - For about thirty miles from Dragon's Tooth
north to Daleville, the AT mostly rides the ridges and affords great views down
into the Catawba and Roanoke Valleys and Carvin's Cove (a large reservoir). As
with most ridges below tree line, the views are more expansive when the leaves
are down. But at any time of year on a clear day you can see far and wide from Dragon's Tooth,
McAfee Knob, Tinker Cliffs (below), and other high ledges in this section. Yes, I'm
prejudiced - we live near here! And these views are one reason why we chose to
move here. See
Days 42 and
4. THE SHENANDOAH MOUNTAINS, VA - approximately 100 miles of mostly-runnable
trail with the best road access of any comparable section on the entire AT.
After the leaves are out there are more views from Skyline Drive than the
Trail, but you can still see a lot of great views at pull-outs when the AT
crosses the road, from the summit of Blackrock Mountain, and from ledges on
Stony Man Mountain, Hawksbill, The Pinnacle, and Mary's Rock. See
5. THE POCHUCK SWAMP, NJ - I threw this one in for a little diversity!
The one-mile boardwalk through this beautiful swamp fascinated me with its
expansive views of
grasses and flowers at eye level and mountains in the background. Although there
wasn't much water on Day 92
in the summer it was still close to paradise early on a sunny morning when the
temperature was cool. Birds and butterflies were prolific. And if you keep going northbound on the AT you'll soon
come to the intriguing puddingstone rock ledges on the mountain above Greenwood
Lake near the New Jersey-New York state line. See another photo in
6. SAGES RAVINE, CT/MA - there are lots of pretty places along the AT
in Connecticut but this was my favorite, another low elevation section of extraordinary
scenic beauty. Boisterous Sawmill Branch flows through this cool, deep green
ravine for about one-half mile, giving hikers the opportunity to relax by a
waterfall or soak in a quiet pool of water. I loved walking through the lush
ferns and stately, fragrant pine trees just before crossing the creek into
Day 100 and
photos of this ravine.
7. BAKER PEAK, VT - since I couldn't just put "all of Vermont" here, I
chose this mountain as being representative of the beauty I found in this state.
Although Baker is less than 3,000 feet tall, the 240-degree view I had to the south, west,
and north from the top reminded me
of some expansive views I've seen in the Rockies. I loved looking at other
nearby pine-covered mountains and large valleys with a patchwork-quilt of farms.
8. FRANCONIA RIDGE, NH - the mountains in the southern part of the
Whites (Little Haystack, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Lafayette) have some of the most
panoramic views on the entire AT along an exposed two-mile long ridge that is
above tree line. I felt like I was in the Rockies. If I was ranking these
vistas, this would be my choice for the second-best ridge for scenic views in this list. See
118 and at the top of this page
for other photos.
9. THE PRESIDENTIAL RANGE, NH - eleven presidents, er, mountains,
in nineteen miles, with almost all of the Trail above tree line = better do this
on a good-weather day!
The views are the best, in my opinion, of the entire AT.
I prefer the southern end of the range (Mt. Webster to Mt. Washington) because
the Trail is more user-friendly than the boulder piles north of Washington; the
photo below is from Mt. Webster. However,
the views are downright awesome along the entire range. You'll feel like you're
out West, but won't be sucking air nearly as badly. It doesn't get any better
than this in the East. See
10. THE BIGELOWS, ME - great views of large lakes and high mountains
from Bigelow's four peaks and from Little Bigelow. The Trail is rugged and the
elevation gain and loss are substantial, but the views are worth the effort. This
area of Maine is chock-full of big and little lakes. On a clear day you can see south to the
Presidentials and north to Katahdin.- and beyond.
11. MT. KATAHDIN, ME - OK, I lied. I can't limit myself to just ten
"best views." How can I leave out the highest summit in Maine, the point for
which I aimed for over four months?
With two thousand feet of the peak above
tree line you've got unobstructed views for 40% of the climb up
and down Katahdin. On a clear day, you'll think you can see forever. Jim
joked that he could see Springer Mountain in Georgia from the top! For certain,
you'll see numerous lakes and other mountains and you'll be amply rewarded for
the hard work getting up there. See
148 and our page on
Writing this entry makes be homesick for these beautiful places. Some are
close enough for us to visit again soon. I wonder how long it will be before we
can travel again to northern New England?? Next year we are likely to
spend quite a bit of time out West at races, so we'll get our "mountain
fix" out there.
We hope you can visit some of these sections along the Trail and enjoy them
as much as we have.