Autumn on the Appalachian Trail – AAH!

The View from Hazeltop

Four-Mile Section, Milam Gap to Bearfence

The last Friday of October began with a short wait in lane to enter Shenandoah Park. My Senior Pass got me through the booth quickly when it was my turn. Air was clear. Temperatures in 40s and 50s. Gusty wind. Fall color remained on some trees, but mostly covered the ground, opening up views of neighboring mountains and valleys that had been hidden all summer. Oak leaves and acorns everywhere—roller derby conditions for downhill footing on the trail. Nodded hello to about 20 other hikers on the trail, which is a high traffic count compared to other outings. Nearing the end of Fall color, means we are also nearing the end-of-season for many facilities along Skyline Drive. Autumn roams will soon dissolve into winter ways.

My hiking buddy was a woman who had been a Park Ranger for 20 years and knows the lay of the land. As we hiked, she grooved on finding ginger plants and unusual tree formations, and entertained with stories of teaching children about nature. She speaks my language and walks at my pace. We decided we were a good pair.

I’m always ready to be awed by nature and found beauty in fungus and wonder in twisted, aging bark. The rock of windy Hazeltop juts into the air on the diagonal, a sign of the force that pushed the mountain into shape. I could only try to imagine the geologic action that moved the earth—it boggles the mind. I traded my fleece baseball cap for a fleece headband, which kept my ears warm, but freed my hair to fly around and dance in the wind. My hair danced past one dynamic rock formation after another, releasing heat from my body’s effort.

Significant wildlife count for the day was one raven that squawked in the treetops, catching our attention. Hello, Raven, bringer of magic, remind us of the magical side of life.

Most of the passing hikers were young and fit, coming upon us and disappearing out of sight quickly. We silently envied their pace and comfort, but remarked how nice it was to admire the bounty of nature surrounding us, while giving our blister and bunions little rests along the way.

Fungus pattern on tree trunk

Lush moss habitat




7 thoughts on “Autumn on the Appalachian Trail – AAH!

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