One of the best things about living in Roanoke, to me at least (the folks over at Blog Roanoke might have other opinions!), is the fact that a mere 20 minutes (yes, twenty minutes) from my driveway lies the Appalachian Trail. Back in Georgia I used to claim to love hiking and backpacking. The claim was true enough, but I was only able to hit the trails once or twice a year. I was car-free for 3 years so getting to the mountains was a bit difficult. While the AT starts in Georgia–Springer Mountain represent!–I honestly haven’t explored much of it in the six or seven years since I bought my first backpack. Starting today all of that is going to change.

I had hoped to meet some bike folks on the Tuesday Night Beer Ride, but given that the website said that the ride would be canceled if it rained one hour prior to departure, I decided against pedaling down to the Transportation Museum to see what was up. I think I need to get my bike arse back again to begin with anyway. I slacked the last few months in Georgia–public transportation was less stressful for me at the time–so I need some breaking in of certain parts of my body before I do a 15 mile ride.

Anyways, so since I didn’t hit the road last night I decided to hit the sack relatively early and wake up relatively early to go on a 7 or 8 mile hike. The logical choice? McAfee’s Knob, of course! The trail head is literally only 20 minutes from my house, so even though I overslept I managed to start hiking just a little after 8 am. For a Wednesday morning the trail was fairly trafficy–3 folks passed me while I ascended and I passed 3 groups while I hiked down. Maybe classes haven’t started for public schools yet? Maybe people in Roanoke just know how to live the good life? Who knows. But I had a few nice 1 minute chats about the weather and the view though.

Overall I would grade the trail as moderate on a scale of easy to strenuous. There were a few steep climbs, but they were fairly short and spaced out by practically flat stretches. I don’t know if I’m just in ridiculously good shape or if the trail wasn’t all that hard, but I was able to keep a fast clip the whole way.

After crossing the road to get to the northbound section leading to McAfee’s (a difficult crossing given the curve in both directions and the semi trucks barreling around said curves), the trail surges upward away from the road. After a quick ascent the path flattens out until you reach the actual trail head. From that point onward you climb up, then get a flat, climb, then a flat, and so on and so forth. Eventually the trail descends into a nice, cool, shady trough and you can refresh your water bottles a fresh spring if you so desire. After 1/10th of a mile or so you cross a gravel road (wonder where it heads?) and then climb steadily towards the top of the mountain and McAfee’s Knob. Again, however, this ascent is interspersed with slight downhill and flat sections. The final ascent is the steepest and longest, but it’s nothing that would tucker anyone out too much if said person is relatively in shape. The path is also wider and more groomed at this point. The boy scouts and AT Conservancy have really done a good job maintaining the trail. There are wooden walkways built up over rocks to ease passage and the white blazes were obvious and plentiful. It would have been impossible for me to get lost and that’s quite a feat!

And finally, the view at the top. The only thing I could think when I popped out of the trees was “holy crap, I live here?” From the rock ledge (or knob, I suppose) the mountains stretch on for what seems forever. Houses and churches and cows dot the grassy valley and to the left you can see the city of Roanoke. Or maybe just Salem–I’m not super clear on the geography yet. It’s a city and I’m going to call it Roanoke. I reached the knob at 10:15 am, so the view was still clear. I stretched out near the edge of one of the rocks and watched a hawk surf the air for a bit, the climbed around to view other sections of the valley. If nothing else, the cool breeze is worth the August hike–it’s ridiculously muggy here in the valley.

Eventually I had to hike back to the car so I get could get home and theoretically do some work. The work never happened (I took a nap instead), but I’m so glad that I pushed myself out of bed this morning. I’ve decided from here on out that I’m going to hike once a week for as long as possible. I need to take advantage of these crazy things called mountains while I’m here. My plans also include some backpacking in North Carolina in October, but for the most part I’m going to try to stick to Virginia and West Virginia–there’s just so much here!

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