We snatched a few days from the jaws of routine this week and found ourselves back on the Appalachian Trail for the first time in five years. About an hour’s south of Charlottesville, Virginia, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the trail intersects with a parking lot at Reid’s Gap. Following the suggestions of many others, we parked our car and set out for the Three Ridges loop hike along the AT and Mau-Har Trail. If you live anywhere within the vicinity of central Virginia, I’d highly recommend this popular 14-miler as either a long day hike or leisurely camping trip. Pros: very easy access, no red tape, outstanding views, plenty of camping, waterfalls. Con: immediately makes you wish you had more time in the woods.
Veggie notes, accurately, that there are parts of our brains that only turn on when we’re hiking – habits and quirks that spend most of their time hibernating, but never really diminish. The familiarity we experienced this week was especially spooky. As we walked south along the AT, we wondered if we might get to high-five slightly younger versions of ourselves coming around the bend. I really enjoyed slipping back into our well-worn conventions and was surprised by how quickly I felt transported.
We parked our car as the sun was setting and hustled about a mile into the woods to camp for the night atop a ridge. Though the view was still obscured by leaves, we caught a great breeze. The next day we cruised past the Maupin Field shelter and ascended (sometimes steeply) for some stellar views over the valley. On the south side of Three Ridges, a big, lethargic rattlesnake sat sunning in the trail, and wildflowers were in bloom. We took a quick break to sign the register at the Harper’s Creek shelter before connecting up with the Mau-Har trail until Campbell’s Creek. Contrary to our thru-hiking impulses, we set up camp around 3:00 PM, soaked our feet in the deep (and cold) pools, read our books for about six hours, and went to sleep. Luxurious.
The next morning, we strode up the remainder of the Mau-Har trail, past numerous waterfalls, until we reconnected with the AT. After that, it was an easy jaunt back to the car. We sat in the parking lot for a few minutes while our hiker brains went back into storage.
So long, and see you soon.