AT Mileage: 5.16 Miles
Total Mileage: 10.3 Miles
Elevation Gain: 810 Feet
Max Elevation: 3199 Feet
Total Calories Burned: 1468
On February 8th, 2019, I set out in the truck to the Appalachian Trail head at Reid’s Gap in Augusta County. My goal was a 5 mile (each way) “hike n bike,” hiking north on the AT for about 5 miles and biking back to the truck about 5 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This was going to be part one of my two day AT trek. The following day I planned to hike the Three Ridges/Mau Har Loop, just to the south of the Thursday hike, using the same Reid’s Gap parking lot.
Upon arrival, I found the Blue Ridge Parkway to be closed from Reid’s Gap to the north for miles, impeding my ability to get my bike to my planned exit point on the parkway. So, I decided that for me to complete my AT goal, I would just need to walk back on either the trail or on the parkway. I opted to walk the highway back, knowing the following day was going to be significantly difficult (indeed I had no idea just how difficult Three Ridges would be).
The beginning of the trail walked me north through a short grassy area, complete with antique farm equipment. That’s when I saw my first white blaze and felt a hint of both nostalgia from hiking the AT in college and excitement. I have read so many books about hiking the trail in the past decade, that seeing the blazes felt like I was seeing a favorite celebrity.
The trail wove through a large amount of deadfall and what looked to be like an area affected by forest fire, which I thought might explain the parkway closure. While walking through the deadfall , a light rain began to fall and would continue for the first 3 miles of the hike. After less than a mile the trail took me over the parkway, the next time the path crossed the parkway, I knew I would be done with the AT and walking back to the truck on the ghost highway.
Walking back into the woods I noticed several white blazes covered by green paint, it seemed like a vandals attempt to get hikers lost. I remembered reading about this in Awol On The Appalachian Trail.
The trail followed the left-hand side of the parkway, but was down the slope far enough that the road was not visible the entire way, there also was zero noise pollution from the road with it being closed.
Overall, I found the hike to be easy to moderate, but that is because I am writing this after hiking the Three Ridges/Mau Har loop on the following day. The trail was extremely rocky at times, and I was glad that I bought poles to add extra support for all the softball sized rocks that caused my ankles to move continuously in ways God probably never intended. The trail crossed several small streams suitable for water refills, but I did not go through the 48-ounce water bladder I brought with me.
About a half mile before the trail head back up to the parkway, I found an awesome overlook to sit at and eat lunch.
The last leg of the trail brought me back through again what seemed to have been deadfall affected by fire. Fog fell on the forest as I climbed out of the trail leaving the last several hundred yards feeling like I was walking through Sleepy Hollow. Between the deadfall and the fog, the area looked slightly eerie but still beautiful, and even though it appeared ghostly, I never felt uneasy.
Possibly the coolest part of this hike was walking back on the barren ghost highway that is the Blue Ridge Parkway. Having multiple overlooks with fantastic views was a really cool experience.