37th Birthday Hike – Appalachian Trail VA-55 to Jim and Molly Denton Shelter
This year for my annual birthday hike, Ryan Somma and I introduced eight-month old Sagan to the Appalachian Trail! After some research, I found there was an AT crossing just an hour away from our home! The trail crosses VA-55 and under I-66 in Linden, Virginia. We hiked from the VA-55 trailhead southbound in Manassas Gap to the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter and then turned around for a six mile round trip.
The trailhead at VA-55 is well marked with a nice prominent sign announcing it is the Appalachian Trail. You cross over Goose Creek on a bridge and then you have a nice wooden walkway to keep your feet dry during flooding season. Almost immediately you cross over some railroad tracks and then you begin a pleasant ascent. I say pleasant because I found the grade and the switchbacks to all be quite manageable, even carrying an eight month old. There are rocky portions, but nothing too severe or trecherous. The trail starts to flatten out and you enter a large field reminiscent of Grayson Highlands.
The trail reenters the woods, passes close to the homes of some individuals I now envy dearly and crosses over Fiery Run Road. There are some slight ups and downs and a couple of creek crossings before you hit upon the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter. This shelter is nicknamed “The Hiker’s Hilton” and with good cause. It is quite a fancy shelter, featuring large adirondack chairs… and a rain barrell shower!
I’m sorry to report that I didn’t pay that much attention to the dormant trees we were passing. I know from the Virginia Hiking, Manassas Gap South video that this section homes Sassafras and the field has remnants of an old Apple Orchard. We did document the first spring activity of a couple of trees and were surprised by one lone daffodil who made a home in the middle of the woods.
Although we saw a hawk on our drive to the trailhead, fauna sightings were pretty scarce this hike. Ryan did catch a shot of a frog at a creek crossing south of Firey Run Road. Finally, like my 35th Birthday Hike we were serenaded by spring peepers near the end of our journey.
When I lived in Blacksburg, Virginia, I had many nearby Appalachian Trailheads to choose from. My options are more limited here in Occoquan Virginia, but I have to say the trailhead closest to me is most satisfying. There is a whole lot to see in just three miles.
More pictures of our Appalachian Trail Hike from VA-55 to Denton Shelter can be found on my Flickr site.
|Appalachian Trail – VA-55 to Jim & Molly Denton Shelter
Length: 6 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: ~500 feet
Directions from I-66 West Bound
From I-66, take Exit 13
Turn left off the ramp
Turn left onto VA-55 East
In roughly 2.5 miles there is a parking lot to your right (at the intersection of VA-725)