Tag Archives: new rock

Old Hotel Trail off the Appalachian Trail

It’s nestled in the 7500 plus acres of the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area and the even larger George Washington & Thomas Jefferson National Forest (about 1.8 MILLION square miles.) It is part of the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Mountains and has miles and miles of trails. So yesterday, I headed to Mount Pleasant trailhead and decided to trod a new trial. Between the Mount Pleasant and AT (Appalachian Trail) is the Little Hotel (aka Old Hotel) Trail. The 3 miles takes you from Hog Gap Parking to Cow Gap right near the open meadows of Cole Mountain. The trail is like a dividing line between Mount Pleasant and the AT part on Cole Mount.

To be clear – I saw no cows and no hogs. I did see dears and bugs and birds – but no farm animals.

The name apparently doesn’t come from any hotel that existed – but from the name of a farmer who many trekkers used his old abandoned house for overnight respites. Even today, the AT has a sleeping hut and privy where the trails connect.

The trail is filled with diversity and beauty. It begins with a mile long, rut-deep, bouncy fire road. This was why I bought the FJ Cruiser in the first place. From the small off the off-road parking spots, you immediately hit the forest filled with acres and acres of ferns that were closing in the wind. This trail seemed to be rarely walked. I guess most enjoy the more picturesque Mt. Pleasant or the shorter route to Cole Mount.

From the dancing ferns, I immediately hit a deep and dark patch of pine trees. I felt like I was in an eerie nightmare. It was more than the pines, it was also the sky. I checked the weather and it was like 4% chance of rain – stupid weather app. For the next mile, it sprinkled ever so lightly … then it gave a solid soaking for about 30 minutes. But 30 minutes was spread out as the now wet trees begin to drip, drip, drip. By the end of the 6 miles, much of me was soaked.

A good point is my new Merrell Moab 3s held up their water resistance and my feet were completely dry. I do love my Merrell’s.

At one point in the trail, I came upon a slew (?), a bushy area filled with swallows. About 20 to 30 swallows took flight and circled me. I knew I was on their turf so I did not linger.

In about half way – I came across a wall – more of a cattle or hog wall – which I know dates back to the days this areas was actually used for cattle and hog drives and containment.

As you get closer to the apex, the trail begins to have a few switchbacks. Now I could’ve gone off trail and cut through but it was the switchbacks that led to the beautiful overlooks – though with the rain and the after rain mist – the view was limited. The lesson here though is we often look for shortcuts but if we do, we might miss some of the best stuff in life.

As you get closer to the apex, the trail begins to have a few switchbacks. Now I could’ve gone off trail and cut through but it was the switchbacks that led to the beautiful overlooks – though with the rain and the after rain mist – the view was limited. The lesson here though is we often look for shortcuts but if we do, we might miss some of the best stuff in life.

The true delight of this hike is Cole Mountain. Cole Mountain has a huge meadow – or heather – and it is the largest mountain top meadow on the east coast that has both an eastern and western side of the mountain. This meadow is astounding and warrants the best and most romantic picnics any outdoors peeps can plan.

After a 1.5 mile trek on the downward slope of the AT, I arrived back at the trusty FJ that was waiting too take me back home.

For the first day of Fall – this was a good day.

Buttermilk Trail – Richmond VA

Last week, I was in Richmond so I took advantage of some of the city’s urban trails. Richmond has some pretty good trails … my personal favorite is Belle Isle. But I headed Southside of the James River and decided to do the Buttermilk Trail/Belle Isle/James River North Bank loop – about a 6+ mile loop categorized as moderate. I took Peg-Leg Pete with me – my trusted sock-monkey who loves adventure.

I’ve done Belle Island several times and have been on Buttermilk – but never done the whole loop. I started early, since I dropped my wife at the airport around 530a. I had a great breakfast at Moore Street Cafe and headed over to the Forest Hills area of Richmond. Very few urban trails in the Richmond area were open so early, so I was glad to find the James River Park having their parking lots available.

The trek started normal – it’s an urban trail, keep that in mind. I was on a well travelled path, it was not very secluded, I could always hear traffic, the railroad tracks ran along the trail and it has a well-graffitied set of rail cars parked on one of the parallel tracks. I pondered if these were there to block the view of the river as well as the city’s building across the river.

The trail was more a trial-bike trail with ups, down, some bridges over a various gully, and more. It has some historical markers to let you know about the area and how it got the name Buttermilk – which was from the Buttermilk Spring where farmers in the 1800’s cooled their milk before market.

I crossed the river portion between the Buttermilk and Belle by hop scotching across the rocks. There was a bridge a little further down – but I choose the rocks. To get there, the city has provided a short pedestrian bridge to cross over the railroad tracks without harm. I say pedestrian, for you had to walk up 3 flights of stairs to get above the rails.

Belle Island was great. You get more of the escapism there (no pun intended since it used to be a prison-of-war camp location during the civil war.)

If you want to know more about Bell Isle, check out Trip Advisor’s page here. Here are some of their pictures …

Now – here’s where my trek took a weird turn. I got to the Belle Isle parking lot. I had dropped some my water along the way (probably during rock jumping) and it was still early morning. BUT the heat index had already hit over 100F. I was drenched, tired and figured I ate too big of a breakfast. SO I checked AllTrails and it said I was less than 2 miles in and over 4 miles to go. Normally six is pretty easy, but I made excuses … food, heat, too long meandering on the rocks and the island itself, new Merrel Moab 3s (I pretended I hadn’t broke them in.) The remainder of the trial was new to me – trees? shade? asphalt? I did something I normally would never do. But since I was on an urban trail, and I could never do this in the Blue Ridge – I called a cab. Yep, was gonna hitch a ride back to my car. Oh the adventurer in me – I told myself I would try a new restaurant to make up for it.

I waited – 10 min … 15 min … 25 min. I surrendered to not having a cab. I decided to walk back over the shorter distance I had already traversed – so I called to cancel the cab. Hey, I had a 25 minute rest period.

I went back – took the bridge and made it back to my car. But it seemed a LOT longer than 2 miles. A LOT LONGER!

Here is why. When using AllTrails as the guide, I didn’t take into account that Buttermilk Trail has about 4 parking areas spread out along Riverside Rd. You can jump into the trail at various points. And I jumped in on the far north point (not the main starting point according to the app.) This walking some on the trail before even getting to the official start of the trail. Thus, on this hike, I HAD walked the majority of the trail – and therefore the shorter conclusion to the hike would’ve been to continue on the loop. But no, I had to go back as an in-and-back, thus making my hike even longer.What a noob move.

At least I didn’t pay for a cab – I did get to walk in shade – and I got to cross the bridge I had missed the first time through.

All in all – I was outside, I was in nature, I hiked. That is a good day.

Jump Rock Trail Highlights

It started in the dark, early hours of the morning. I headed out towards Goshen Natural Preserve. A trail called Jump Rock. But the beauty hit me even before I got there. Once off I-64, I traveled the back roads. Splendid farms, rolling hills, cows, and the sun breaking over the mountain tops.

Then I travelled along the Maury River, there was some awesome shots of nature.

Once I discovered the empty parking lot to the trail head, I parked and headed to the swinging bridge that took pedestrians across the river. I guess the parking lot was empty for there was a sign noting the bridge was closed for repair. It said the Goshen Pass bridge was closed. I wasn’t exactly sure it meant this one, so I gingerly walked across. That’s me, a daredevil. I don’t ever remember walking across a swinging bridge, so across I went.

I had not charged my phone all the way, so I turned it off to save for spot checks and pics at the summit. This meant less pics along the way. Within a mile, I saw deer running away and rabbits leaping across the path. There were signs of bear (that which they left behind), but no bears were spotted today.

It was a pretty step climb. About 2500 feet in about two miles. Few switchbacks and some very sharp angle trail at points.

This is a web photo but shows a great view of the lake.

The leaves were just beginning to turn. Lower altitudes showed lots of yellow; and the higher you go, the leaves were turning red. The trail was marked well at times, but not so well at others. I followed a blaze, but I soon discovered it was not the regular trail. With a Boy Scout reservation near by, I think many short cut trails had formed over the years.

PegLeg Pete and I made it to the summit, (I think, since phone had died, And the blazes stopped, I had to guess at this) and enjoyed the views, a bit of early lunch, and a rest on the rocks.

My early lunch … always try to have beanie weenies at the top. Peg Leg jo Ned me.

These three are shots at the rock outbreaks before the summit, but the spot was perfect for me.

About 8 miles, some good to great views, but pretty steep at times. I saw no one until I got back to the swinging bridge. A family was enjoying water fun in the river.

I did take one summersault tumble on a slippery rock on the trail’s descent, but I almost always take at least one tumble – it’s the way I roll (literally).

On an exciting note, this is the last hike photos on my iPhone 6. My 11 should arrive in two days – longer battery, and much better camera.

I wonder what will be the first trail my iPhone 11 will photoblog?