Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Tanawha Trail

MST – Day 34 – 9/28/10 – Beacon Heights to Holloway Road – 11.5 Miles

Rain or shine? Doesn’t matter, we’re hiking anyway. But now the venue moves far away from our cozy cabin alongside Linville Gorge, so we are up early, cleaning up and locking the door and heading towards Grandfather Mountain. Today we will walk right off the NatGeo map on the long-anticipated Tanawha Trail that runs concurrently with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and spend the night in Blowing Rock.

I’ve hiked a short section of the Tanawha previously with my son Brett. Danny is familiar with the entire trail and features a particularly stellar section of it in her book, Hiking North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Heritage, along with a brief history of the trail. Will it be spectacular today or will it be an elusive white-out like Linville Gorge? As we drove to arrange the car shuttle, the wind blew fiercely and clouds shrouded the Parkway. Lynn Cove Viaduct? Couldn’t see a thing. But by the time we arrived back at our starting point (Beacon Heights) the blue sky had broken through. For the first couple of hours on the trail the wind continued to blow hard, pushing the clouds up and over the mountains.  

The Parkway is right above us

 Always take advantage of a restroom. At the Lynn Cove Visitor Center we had a quick snack. They had a copy of Danny’s book so she signed it. A few minutes later a couple came in looking for trail information, so the clerk sold the book to them and Danny personalized it. Timing is everything.  

Walking underneath the viaduct is awesome.

House-sized boulders, lots of scrambling around, but I look a little sleepy

Impressive stone step work by trail builders

Slow going up to Rough Ridge, but the reward for our trail choice – a stellar blue sky with a white cloud outlining Grand- father’s profile.

A classic shot of the Lynn Cove Viaduct and a tinge of fall color - look very closely at the far left and you can see the tower on Grand- mother Mountain

What better place for a “first lunch”? Still windy so we didn’t overstay, but we took the time for photos from different vantage points. We encountered other hikers coming up the approach trail from the Rough Ridge parking area. Even if you’re “not a hiker” the short but steep walk up to Rough Ridge is worth the effort. According to Randy Johnson in his book, Hiking North Carolina: “This may be the easiest Parkway path to an awesome view.” As we started our descent, Danny commented that we will never be at such high elevation again on our Mountains-to-Sea adventure. I was thrilled that we had such spectacular views since we missed so much the day before.

But it’s not over yet. The second half of our hike was mild, an easy trail, and we made up some time. To my surprise, the last mile opened up to pastures and friendly cows. One thing the MST guarantees is variety!
I cannot resist a fun fungi photo

Danny coming through a stile bearing the MST white circle blaze and the Tanawha Trail white feather blaze

Seeing double?

Another admirer for Danny

Once again, timing is everything: as we were putting our stuff into my car at the hike’s end, a car drove by, slowed down, and the woman passenger looked at Danny and exclaimed, “You’re the woman who wrote the book!” She and her husband jumped out, produced their copy of Danny’s book, and chatted up a storm while Danny personalized it. I think I’ll get a badge that says, “I’m With Her” – haha! Seriously, though, I am always pleased to see people that have Danny’s books because they are complimentary and excited – they think her hiking guides are great and I do too.

 Next we searched for the terminus of the following day’s hike, then checked into our Blowing Rock hotel and had dinner at Knight’s On Main. Danny tried to talk to me about future hike plans but I had mentally checked out. I’ve concluded that 3 days, 3 nights is my maximum before thoughts and responsibilities from other aspects of my life creep back in. We’ve got one more hike to go for this leg and then it’s back to everyday life.
Read Danny's blog about the day here.
Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first day...
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's re-creation of the new day ~ Cat Stevens, "Morning Has Broken"

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