Appalachian Trail in VA Project – 5/25/13 – Punchbowl Mountain Overlook to U.S. 60 – 10.9 Miles
A confession: I cannot find my notes of this hike and I have only a few photographs. This will be a short blog post. Some of you will be relieved.
The day started where yesterday ended, at a pull-off on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Other hikers were assembled there but they headed trail south while I set off all by my lonesome going trail north. A short hike today with a U-shaped elevation profile, going downhill, then flat, then uphill to end at U.S. 60.
Remember yesterday’s wind worries? A good example across the trail
Pedlar River Bridge
The AT passes near the Lynchburg Reservoir
The interesting part of this hike is along Brown Mountain Creek. Several benches and sign boards relating the history of the Brown Mountain Creek community, a freedman's village established after the Civil War, are spaced along a 1.5-mile section. I wish I had read up on this area before my hike (I did afterwards). The stories are fascinating.
A summary from the Appalachian Trail Guide to Central Virginia: “Brown Mountain Creek Valley was farmed by slave labor from around 1800 to the end of the Civil War. In 1868, a former slave purchased the land and built a series of cabins, the remains of which are still evident. He rented the cabins to former slaves who sharecropped the land.” This means that they compensated for the use of the land by paying the owner ¼ of the proceeds from their crop each year. Descendants lived in the valley until the land was purchased by the Forest Service in 1920.
A long winding rock wall follows the creek, built to provide protection against flooding. The valley is small and narrow and I could easily picture the modest fields of corn and small gardens. At this time of year vegetation was lush, but with a little exploration the foundations of houses and outbuildings could be found. I saw a beautiful rock walled spring but vegetation obscured it so I couldn’t get a good photo.
Winter would be an excellent time to visit this area. It reminds me very much of the Old Settlers Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park where rambling rock walls, stone foundations and towering chimneys evoke bygone days of robust communities living that simple but hard life.
Here is an interview with Taft Hughes, a former resident of the Brown Mountain Creek community, taken 20 years ago as part of an oral history project. So glad that his words have been preserved!
Brown Mountain Creek flows on down the valley and past a shelter named after it. I stopped at the shelter for my last break since my ending point at Highway 60 was only two miles away. I caught the last 10 minutes of quiet for the weekend there – as I got closer to the road, I passed a strung-out group of Boy Scouts, troop leaders, and parents heading to the shelter. Isn’t it great to see people getting outside?
“Observe as you walk. Be aware that history surrounds you. Keep your eyes and mind open to explore the secrets held by the land.” ~Sign board at Brown Mountain Creek, Appalachian Trail, VA