Tuesday, December 02, 2008

It's Snowing on Harkening Hill

It's Snowing on Harkening Hill

I'll skip the details of part of how we filled the day, because it involves shopping--not generally my favorite pasttime. We did the shopping in Bedford, Virginia. Bedford's actually an extremely attractive small town, and I enjoy going there. But this part of the day was for Carole. She likes Bedford even more than I do. She dreams of retiring there. Also, it has a number of antique shops which we visited, although she didn't find anything that she wanted to purchase.

So, after driving around for awhile and hitting some of those shops, we headed back along VA 43 to return to the Peaks of Otter Lodge. Once there, we hung around the lodge for awhile, but I was still pretty fidgety and wanted to get in one more hike.

Carole suggested that I climb up to Flat Top Mountain. I agreed that was a pretty good idea, even if I had summited it before. So I drove to the trailhead. However, after getting there, I realized that the round trip would be over five miles and I didn't want to chance having to hike in the dark. So I decided against the climb to the summit of Flat Top.

Instead, I drove back to the lodge and parked at the Parkway visitor's center across the road. There, I caught the trail to the top of Harkening Hill. This romantically named peak is the one major mountain in the vicinity that I had yet to climb, so it seemed a good idea to bag it. It was roughly 2:30 by the time I hit the trail and I'd have a round trip of a little over three miles. I figured that I had lots of time before sunset.

The hike to the top was a lot steeper than I had anticipated, and there were almost no views to be had at all. Still, it was a very pleasant, if strenuous hike and in short order I was approaching the summit area. Just before the top one comes to a couple of formations called "the Balanced Rock". These are, indeed, classic balanced rocks. I set up my tripod and took self-portraits in front of the larger of these rocks.

After that, I headed on up to the summit. The top of the mountain is, like the other two Peaks of Otter, very rocky. But not as open as its sister summits, Sharp Top and Flat Top. However, Harkening Hill does have some massive boulders on which you can climb to see some very nice views looking to the west.

While setting up my camera for some more shots, I noticed some stray snowflakes. Initially, I thought that I was imagining them, but very soon the air was filled with snowflakes and the forest was loud with the drop of big, heavy flakes. It seemed a fitting addition to a great day of hiking in the Virginia mountains! After taking a few photos I packed up my camera, and headed down.

By five pm I had returned to the lodge where I took a shower, after which we got dressed to head over to the lodge. Having burned about ten zillion calories that day (or so I kept telling myself), I commenced to down a large salad, two beers, a twelve-ounce prime rib, a slab of pecan pie (with ice cream) and two cups of coffee. Satiated, we returned to our room where I climbed into bed and fell into a deep sleep before the strike of eight. I didn't awaken for about ten hours.

Now, that is a great way to spend a day.

If you don't like white-tailed deer, don't go to Peaks of Otter Lodge. They're everywhere. This little fawn was with a group of a half dozen grazing on the lawn above the parking lot.

No comments: