Monday, June 6, 2011
The Virginia Creeper Brings Back AT Plans
Yesterday, Bunk and I got up at 6:00 a.m., loaded the bikes, and headed to Virginia to ride the Creeper. We had reservations for the noon shuttle from Adventure Bikes in Damascus, but after looking at the weather forecast the night before, decided we'd try to get there in time to take an earlier shuttle to Whitetop. Even though we stopped for breakfast and then later for coffee, we still made it to Adventure Bikes in time to catch the 10:00 shuttle. We hoped this would put us off the trail before the afternoon thunderstorms that were predicted moved into the region.
The weather was perfect for a bike ride in the mountains--just cool enough to be comfortable even in the shade. And, the mountain laurel were blooming along the way which made it even more beautiful than my previous ride. The trail seemed rockier than before, so we had to be careful to not let a rock or loose gravel throw us. The top of the ride was fairly uneventful, but as we made our way down, we began to notice the creek that that trail crosses numerous times. This creek, it turns out, is Whitetop Laurel Creek and is apparently one of Virginia's best trout streams. We didn't know that at the time, but we kept commenting that it sure looked like there should be lots of fish in that creek! We also noticed several places where the Appalachian Trail crossed over the Creeper trail and even ran together with the trail at one point. All of this together got us to thinking about our desires to hike a section or two of the AT this summer. We had decided back in January when the AT planning began that we wanted to try to hike where there might be an opportunity to fish. I've already purchased a collapsible rod for Bunk's birthday, so now I'll just have to go get one for me! This part of the trail definitely meets that part of our criteria!
As we rode along and after talking to the people at the bike shop when we were done, we began to pull together ideas about how we could hike this part of the AT, including a shuttle to Whitetop Summit which would allow us to park our truck safely in Damascus at the bike shop. It looks like it can easily be done with just one night spent on the trail, which will break us in slowly. According to the 2011 Data Book we purchased in Damascus, we would be hiking Virginia Section 45 beginning at Summit Cut, VA where US 58 crosses the AT. There's a campsite about 5 miles in and Saunders Shelter at 7 miles in. Fishing would be done on Day 2, south of Saunders Shelter during the four miles where the AT and the Creeper Trail run together along the creek. We should probably be prepared to spend a second night on the trail in case we have a really good day fishing and don't make much time. We could fish and camp close to the river and then finish the hike where the AT goes back up and runs along the ridge leaving about 5 miles for Day 3.