Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Looking Towards the AT: Virgina Blues, Part 2 (Atkins to Daleville)

Section: Virginia, from Atkins to Troutville 
Region: South
Miles of trail: 181.3
Highlights: Dragonstooth, Audie Murphy Monument, Keffer Oak

Some of the sections of this feature almost write themselves. This is because of our familiarity with the section (The Smokies), a particularly interesting stretch of trail (Damascus to Atkins), or the importance of being first or last (Georgia). Other sections, however, are tougher to write about. The second segment of the Virginia portion of the AT, Atkins to Troutville, is one of those sections.

I've never walked on a portion of the trail in this section. I've only traveled across the trail in this segment one, maybe two times. Looking at my trail guidebooks, it does have some interesting sites, such as the Dragonstooth rock formation, and the Keffer Oak, the largest oak tree along the AT in the Southern Appalachians. It also has a interesting piece of history in the Audie Murphy Monument, which commemorates the spot where the WWII hero died in a plane crash not too far from the trail. Beyond those places of interest, it appears to be a pretty routine piece of hiking along the Blue Ridge. To be fair, a routine hike along the Blue Ridge is still a good way to spend your time.

For the through hiker, one of the most interesting portions of this segment is its end. Although the trail really doesn't go through the main portion of the town of Troutville, it does go through the commercial area just off Interstate 81. Here a hiker can walk right off the trail to a motel, a gas station convenience mart, or a fast food restaurant and be back on the trail in minutes. For a hiker who has had to figure out ways to get to a small grocery store many miles away from the trail so they can eat for another week or so, this is a very valuable thing.

One out of every four miles along the trail are in Virginia, and this second segment puts you pretty much square in the middle of the state's run. However, you do spend a few miles along this section in West Virginia, barely crossing the border along a relatively short loop on the west side of I-81. Oftentimes it is this section of the trail where the "Virginia Blues" creep in, as hikers get restless with spending so many days slowly creeping up the deceptively large expanse of the Old Dominion.  It is here where those who truly enjoy through hiking and those who have gotten all they can get from the experience are separated. After all, it's easy to keep your attention to the task at hand when you have places like Grayson Highlands, Roan High Knob, or Charlie's Bunion to look forwards to in your daily hike. It's a different matter altogether when travelling through a seemingly endless tunnel of green somewhere near a town called Bland.

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