Through Virginia horse and wine country (every time I come through there’s a new winery offering tastings) to the big Park straddling the Blue Ridge, with a pause for this wonderful combination of wayfinder signs using “Freeway Gothic” and Clearview together.
I devised a bowtie circuit starting from the Hawksbill Gap parking area: up the steadily steep trail to the Hawksbill Mountain summit, down the Salamander Trail to the Appalachian Trail, the AT north to the stables at Skyand, returning via the bridle path, Limberlost Trail, and Crescent Rocks Trail, with a quick side trip to my special place on the Ridge, Betty’s Rock. I’m estimating the mileage at 8.0; I went around in 4:20, and made the 680-foot climb of the mountain in about 25 minutes. Yay me.
Except for the climb, the trails are fairly level, and the AT is not too rocky, at least mostly. Fall colors are still developing: I saw yellows and golds stirred into the pale green, with the occasional maple or sumac or poison ivy to provide a shot of red. Ravens and juncos constituted most of the bird life. One mixed flock of songbirds with a mystery warbler—perhaps a parula. A nuthatch calling very fast, in a ank-ank/ank-ank/ank-ank rhythm. Ground squirrels were very conspicuous, though they tried not to be.
On the northwest side of the ridge, thriving in the poor soils of the talus fields, I found several stands of Mountain-ash, probably American (Sorbus americana), though the fruits are definitely red, not orange (per Petrides).