So I had a crazy idea. I wanted to hike on the AT while there is still a lot of snow on the ground. With the holidays over and going back to work on Monday, today was the day, 01-02-10. I wanted to get a nice lond hike, so I woke up at 6:30, had breakfast and coffee, and was out the door by 7:15. It was 25 degrees when I left the house. I arrived at the James River Foot Bridge at 8:00, grabbed my pack and hiking staff and was off, heading South. The Foot Bridge spans 665 feet across the James River. It's usually windy because of the gorge funneling air along the river. Today it was especially strong. Almost enough to knock you down and COLD!
After getting to the other side, I was fairly protected from the wind by trees. It's about a mile along the river before turning left and following Matt's Creek and slowly climbing. Another mile and I arrived at the Matt's Creek shelter. It's a wooden three sided shelter, about 15 feet wide, there for any hikers who want a dry, elevated place to sleep. There was a group of 6 people just waking up. I talked to one, who said they would be hiking up to the Marbleyard later. I crossed Matt's Creek and started a long, steady climb. About 2/3 of the way up, the trail and surrounding area became completely snow covered and would be for the rest of the hike. Most of the trail above this point had 6 to 12 inches of snow on it. It was frozen so I was able to walk right on top of it.
After following the spine of a ridge for a while, the trail cut along the side of a steep slope that went straight down to the river, about a thousand feet below. Kinda scary at points, when you don"t have much grip. The trail turned downward and over another creek before rising steeply again to cross Sulfer Springs Trail. In the next section I came across two hunters, possible father and son, who were using dogs for bear hunting. Great, just what I need, hungry bears in the area. Maybe they like granola, doubt it.
After I passed the connector for Belfast Trail, I went another quarter mile or so and found a nice big rock to have lunch on. Now most hikers would be content with a sandwich and water. Not me, I had to bring everthing I needed to make espresso! Sterno, collapsable Sterno wind breaker, Italian 1 cup Mocha (like a mini purcolator made for espresso), espresso cup and spoon, Illy espresso, and sugar. After hiking for 3 and a half hours in below freezing weather, there is nothing better than a hot espresso. Now I was recharged for the hike back.
The return hike was pretty uneventful. I saw the hunters again and passed the 6 hikers on their way to the Marbleyard. Then I found a vine hanging beside the trail, attached to a tree about 40 feet up. It was about 1.5 inches in diameter and would support my weight. So of course I spent the next 15 minutes swinging. By the time I got back to the Foot Bridge, I was getting pretty tired. I was glad to get in my warm car.
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