AT From Interstate 81 to Virginia Rt. 42
14.2 miles, moderate terrain
200 miles from Chsrlottesville
The group met up at the Walmart parking lot in Dublin, Virginia. Dublin is between Pulaski and Radford, just off of Interstate 81. Here the group consolidated into three cars, and I gave my car to another hiker to drive to the end point of my hike on Rt 42. We drove that hiker's car to the beginning point of my hike, on U.S. 11 near Groseclose, Virginia, which was that hiker's end point. We planned to meet up in the middle and exchange keys.
After hiking up U.S. 11 and crossing under the interstate on Route 683 (Windsor Road), we started up the A.T. This is a pretty wet section, as can be seen by the raised walkways and bridges.
We passed into the Jefferson National Forest after 1 mile of walking, and shortly thereafter passed a side trail to the Davis Cemetery. Davis was a name we would see a lot on this hike. At 1.3 miles we crossed the paved Davis Valley Road, with an actual hiker parking lot. And at 3 miles we came to the former site of the Davis Path Shelter.
The Davis Path Campsite, as it is now known, still has a picnic table, privy and the concrete pad from the shelter. Reportedly, the shelter was taken down because it was a party spot. This is a little strange, because the shelter is over a mile-and-a-half from any road. Usually, problem shelters seem to be much closer to civilization. The camp would be a great place to take a Scout Troop, as it requires some effort to get to, but is close enough for the youngest scouts to obtain. Having a privy doesn't hurt, either. The only downside is that there are no springs in the immediate area.
Over the next three miles we had one major climb (550 feet over one mile), walked along a ridge, then started to drop down to Reed Creek from Brushy Mountain. Be careful on the descent if hiking this section northbound, like we were. At about the 6 mile mark, we missed a switchback. The original trail alignment descended straight down the mountain, and we started following that route because none of us saw the switchback. When the original alignment started to get overgrown, we knew we were on the wrong path, and backtracked 50 yards to find the current trail.
We descended a couple more switchbacks before coming to the other members of our group at 6.9 miles, nearly exactly half-way into our 14.2 mile hike. Both groups exchanged pleasantries, and more importantly exchanged car keys, and each went on their way. Our group dropped into the valley and had lunch.
The valley was a little bit of a mystery to me, and I would like to go back sometime. There was ths sign below stating the distance to the nearest road - not something I usually see in the middle of a remote area. And there was no sign indicating an intersection with the Walker Mountain Trail - the old A.T. alignment. I later figured out where this is and would like to go back and check it out.
After lunch we had the big climb for this hike - 940 feet over nearly 2 miles. Much of the trail here uses an old road that predates the A.T. in this area. The post-lunch hike uses a trail that was built in the 1970's to take the A.T. off of Walker Mountain. We crossed Walker Mountain at Tilson Gap, and left the old roadbed to switchback down nearly 900 feet over the next 1.7 miles.
At about the 10.4 mile mark we exited the woods and hiked through pasture, and would see an alternating landscape of woods and pastures for the rest of the hike.
At 12.7 miles we descended next to the North Fork, Holston River, then crossed the river on a low highway bridge. We entered the woods and paralleled the river for a while, with views of deteriorating Tilson Mill.
We finished up the hike by crossing Rt. 42, then staying on the A.T. until it met up with the parking lot access trail I had used a few weeks earlier when hiking past Burke's Garden. There are several campsites just north of Rt. 42, and I remember thinking that they were strangely close to the road when starting out my backpacking trip in September. Now I know why - the tight easements over the previous several miles heading north really restricts camping opportunities along the trail. A flat spot near a stream in the National Forest probably is a welcome sight to a section hiker or thru-hiker heading north when reaching this road near the end of the day.