Group Hike: Selection of Tinker Cliffs

September 4, 2006 at 2:22 pm Leave a comment

All our houseguests were interested in going on a hike on Sunday. Not all of them had opinions, but aggregate interviews ended up with three criterias:

  • A distance between 5 – 7 miles round trip
  • Overlooks were preferred to waterfalls
  • No one had an adversion to ascents

Loving the Appalachian Trail and this area the way I do, I wanted to make sure I picked a hike that really showcased both items well. There were plenty of choices to choose from. The struggle was to determine which one. I decided to bounce my thoughts off two of my hiking buddies– Mike E and Tony Airaghi.

“The obvious choice is McAfee’s Knob, ” I told them, “But… I’m thinking Tinker Cliffs.”

McAfee’s Knob is the most photographed point in the Appalachian Trail. I’m certainly a fan of it as well. In fact, here is an excerpt of my journal entry from March 23, 2003 describing the very first time I went up there:

Yesterday the dogs and I finally saw McAffee’s knob.

You know, I’ve hiked a lot of places recently and I’ve been to a lot of overlooks and knobs. But you know what? None of that prepared me for the view at McAffee’s Knob. It was awe-inspiring.

The day was quite clear– so the view was astounding– absolutely astounding.

Usually when I take pictures on a hike it’s easy to narrow down a few pictures that I deem my favorite. That was a tough task with my pictures from yesterday. I made multiple passes trying to narrow down my “Top Five.”

Alas– even after repeatedly viewing the pictures and evaluating view and dog posture– I still had 14!

So why then, would I choose Tinker Cliffs? Here are a couple of the reasons I expressed to Mike and Tony:

  • Crowds – Everyone goes to McAffee’s Knob. Although a lot of people go to Tinker Cliffs– not nearly as many people do. So you have a slightly more unique and less crowded experience.
  • Diversity – I think going up the Andy Layne Trail offers a lot more diversity of scenery than the McAfee’s Knob hike.
    • You start out walking through green pastures and a nice bubbling creek.

      (Phifer hiking in one of the grassy areas)
    • You get to cross over stiles and bridges.
    • You get to see a unique, layered rock face by Catawba Creek

      (Part of the rock face near Catawba Creek)
    • You get to walk through damp forested sections

      (Emily and Cory getting a bite to eat. Look at Jimmie– he is hoping for food)
    • As you near the top, you can to hike by interesting rock formations

      (Kipp, Vicky, Emily, Jimmie, Cory, Phifer, Bret)
    • Finally you get a see a view comparable to McAfee’s Knob and you have enough privacy to enjoy it with just your group.

      (Bret, Kipp and Stacy at the top)
  • Ascent – I think one of the most fulfilling things about a hike is completing a tough ascent and knowing you earned the right to enjoy the view ahead of you. The Tinker Cliffs elevation gain via the Andy Layne Trail is roughly 1700 feet. The climb to McAffee’s Knob is about 1200. Despite the discrepancy, I personally find the Tinker Cliffs ascent a bit easier. You have two big straight-on hills and after that, the switchbacks make the following ascent pretty easy and peaceful.
  • Display of Community – I think the Andy Layne Trail offers a good demonstration of the people and corporations behind the Appalachian Trail. I like that the passage way is named after a long time member of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, honoring his contribution to the trail in the most fitting means possible. I am also touched by the nearby concrete plant which allows the trail to travel through their property. I like how that business committed to given everyone access to enjoy the sights and sounds of the cliffs above.

Mike and Tony (and some complete stranger) all concurred with my thoughts, so Tinker Cliffs it was!

McAfee’s Knob, Angel’s Rest, Dragon’s Tooth and Sinking Creek Mountain – I love you all just as much. But with one chance to expose people to our area’s trails and overlooks– Tinker Cliff’s is the way to go.

Entry filed under: Andy Layne Trail, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, McAfee's Knob, Tinker Cliffs.

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