Posts filed under ‘Kelly’s Knob’

Henry’s Valley Forge

A few years ago, my boss Larry and I were on a business trip in Pennsylvania with some extra time. We decided to stop by Valley Forge on our way to the airport. As we made our way to the National Park, Larry and I rambled on as we tend to do and we both talked about all the things we remembered about Valley Forge. When we arrived, we were dumbfounded at how consistently inaccurate our recollections were. For example, the men did not in fact leave Valley Forge to sail across the Delaware River to win the war.

But, one thing I DID remember correctly was the bloody footprints. During the winter to 1777-1778, the men were ill-clothed and if they had shoes, they weren’t up to the winter weather. Ice and snow were not kind to the soldier’s exposed feet. They cracked and bled and left souvenirs in the snow. In a letter to Congress, George Washington wrote, “marches might be tracked by the blood from their feet.”

The most treacherous part for the humans on our snowy Kelly’s Knob hike was our drive back down icy VA-601. For Henry, it was the snow itself. All seemed well at first. Henry was having a good ole time and was as happy as I was to be reunited with the Appalachian Trail.

Kelly's Knob - Henry the Trailblazer
Happy Henry

Then suddenly, history in action. We started to notice blood in the snow. The footprints got bloodier and bloodier. We didn’t have a Martha Washington on hand to knit some socks for Henry. But we did have a Ryan Somma. Henry soldiered on for as long as he could. Finally, he acquiesced and let Ryan carry him the rest of the way.

Kelly's Knob - Henry's Paws (Cropped)
Bloody footed Henry is carried down by Ryan

In a few days, Henry’s paws were as good as new.

At least, that’s how I recall it now.

January 11, 2011 at 1:00 am 3 comments

Kelly’s Knob in the Snow

Greetings everyone! I hope you had a happy and healthy holiday season. The weekend before Christmas, Ryan Somma and I headed to my old stomping grounds in Blacksburg, Virginia for a five day visit. There I got one of the best early Christmas presents a girl could hope for– a reunion with the mountains! : )

On Sunday, December 19th, we got to hit the Appalachian Trail with the dogs and our friends Tony and Meredith. We went from the Rocky Gap/VA-601 trailhead up to Kelly’s Knob. It’s about a 3.8 mile round trip. It starts off steep with a roughly 500-600 foot ascent in the first half mile (Source: Elevation Map from weaselworks). Don’t let the beginning fool you though, once you make it up to the intersection of the John’s Creek Mountain Trail, it is all ridgeline and smooth sailing.

I’ve done Kelly’s Knob a number of times (see my other Kelly’s Knob posts), but this time was by far the snowiest. When we started our hike, there was a lone set of footprints already in the snow. Apparently that hiker was fooled by the steep beginning because surprisingly soon the footprints disappeared. That left us with fresh snow to hike in.

Kelly's Knob - Pristine Trail
Appalachian Trail En Route to Kelly’s Knob

The top was as gorgeous as usual. As I have written before, you can see the Virginia Tech campus from Kelly’s Knob. That particular day, we didn’t take advantage of it. None of us were courageous/foolish enough to climb out onto the snow-covered rocks. Luckily, what we could see from the security of the trail was quite striking.

Kelly's Knob - Blue Sky and Frosted Tree Tops
Frosted Tree Tops

Kelly's Knob - Snow Covered Rocks and View (Far)
Snow Covered Rocks at Kelly’s Knob

Kelly's Knob - Snow Covered Rocks and Ridges
Rocks and Ridges at Kelly’s Knob

Kelly's Knob - Tree Hole and Ridgeline
The Knotty Kelly’s Knob Tree and Ridges

I didn’t see any American chestnut trees as we hiked (there are a whole bunch of them south of Rocky Gap) but I did spy an American Chestnut leaf in the snow!

Kelly's Knob - Possible Chestnut Leaf in Snow
American Chestnut Leaf in the Snow

The most trecherous part of our journey (for the humans) was actually driving home. With intentions I’m certain were good, someone had attempted to plow the gravel VA-601. Unfortunately the efforts had produced a formidable sheet of ice. We had 1.5 miles back down to paved and cleared road. 1.5 miles of a steep icy road with particularly unnerving dropoffs in lieu of shoulders. Ryan, Meredith and I all agreed Tony would be the most qualified to get us off the mountain. He did not let us down! In 4WD low and in first gear, with occassional brake pumping and steering the vehicle onto exposed gravel or loose snow, he slowly but surely got us down.

My heater in my car was broken which proved to be advantageous to our trusted driver.

“It’s a good thing [the heat’s broken]” Tony pointed out. “Otherwise, I’d be sweating balls right now.” : )

Thanks to Tony’s patient driving, we all got to go home with untainted memories of another great adventure.

Kelly's Knob - Jimmie, Tony, Henry, Meredith, Vicky on Trail
Jimmie, Tony (The Hero!), Henry, Meredith and Vicky

Kelly's Knob - Henry, Jimmie and Ryan Descend
Ryan Descends with Henry and Jimmie

More pictures of our hike to Kelly’s Knob can be found on my Flickr site.

Rocky Gap to Kelly’s Knob
(Appalachian Trail from VA-601 to Kelly’s Knob and back)

Mileage: 3.8 miles round trip

Elevation Difference: Est. 800 feet

4WD Requirements: The last 1.5 miles of VA-601 is a gravel hill, but it is well maintained and I have seen non-4WD vehicles make it up in non-icy conditions.

Trailhead Parking: The VA-601 trailhead has a small parking area to the left. On busy days, cars park on the side of the gravel road.

Driving Directions:
(from Blacksburg, Virginia)
Take 460 West and turn right on VA-42.
Bear right to stay on VA-42
Shortly afterwards, turn left on VA-601
When VA-601 turns to gravel, you have about 1.5 miles to the top.
Once there, AT Southbound is to your left and AT Northbound is on your right.

Along the way, you’ll pass by Sinking Creek Bridge, a covered bridge built in 1916.

January 10, 2011 at 1:00 am 5 comments

Kelly’s Knob Tree – Not Dead

One of the trees I highlighted in the Cavity Filling post was a tree right at the top of Kelly’s Knob. That tree is so hollow and so riddled with holes that when I placed the “Kelly’s Knob Cache” geocache at the top, I strongly considered putting it in THAT tree.

Furthermore, most of the time I went up there, it was winter or early spring, before the leaves were out. I had just assumed the tree was dead. But August 2007 I was up there and lo and behold! That tree is very much alive.

How I usually see the tree – April 21, 2007

That tree has leaves! – August 18, 2007

More pictures of Kelly’s Knob from various visits are available on my Flickr site.

October 24, 2008 at 8:00 am 7 comments

Rocky Gap

I am very lucky to live in an area with numerous A.T. trailheads. One of the most convenient to me is the VA-601 crossing. At that trailhead, a vast majority of recreational hikers will travel northbound to take in the views at Kelly’s Knob. But, I also recommend traveling southbound. Going down to VA-632 and back is a 4 mile round trip that you can fit in after work or even a weekend day before other obligations. On the down side, this does mean you can hike and still have ample time to do household chores.

This section may not have the overlook that Kelly’s Knob has, but it is beautiful in its own right. The rocky trail is lined with moss and ferns and when the time is right– blooming mayapples and azaleas. As far as exercise goes, your legs get more of a climb than they would to Kelly’s Knob. VA-632 to VA-601 has an elevation gain of 1184 feet, whereas Kelly’s Knob is only 478 feet higher than VA-601 (though that first hill makes it feel a heck of a lot worse!).

Know what else Rocky Gap has? Baby American Chestnut trees!

(Even though these trees will eventually succumb to the blight, if you hurt them then I’m going to go the Steve Sillett route and never ever pointing them out again.)

Henry on the rocky trail.

Blooming Azaleas

Log silhouette and Rocky Gap greenery.

Ferns and their shadows

Baby American Chestnut Tree

More pictures of my recent outings to Rocky Gap can be found on my Flickr site. And by request:

Rocky Gap
(Appalachian Trail from VA-601 to VA-632 and back)

Mileage: 4 miles round trip

Elevation Difference: 1184 feet

4WD Requirements: The last 1.5 miles of VA-601 is a gravel hill, but it is well maintained and I have seen non-4WD vehicles make it up.

Trailhead Parking: The VA-601 trailhead has a small parking area to the left. On busy days, cars park on the side of the gravel road.

Driving Directions:
(from Blacksburg, Virginia)
Take 460 West and turn right on VA-42.
Bear right to stay on VA-42
Shortly afterwards, turn left on VA-601
When VA-601 turns to gravel, you have about 1.5 miles to the top.
Once there, AT Southbound is to your left and AT Northbound is on your right.

Along the way, you’ll pass by Sinking Creek Bridge, a covered bridge built in 1916.

May 17, 2008 at 12:00 am 4 comments

ISO: Fireworks From a Hike

I realized this week that I’m going to be in town on the 4th of July!  I’m on a mission– This year I would like to camp and watch fireworks from an overlook.  Last night I came up with some possible contenders. 

Please note these are all speculations at the moment.  I can not confirm fireworks can be seen from these spots:

Kelly’s Knob (Appalachian Trail)
From Kelly’s Knob you can see Blacksburg and Virginia Tech…. so it makes sense you would be able to see fireworks above Blacksburg.  The area has plenty of room for camping and some existing fire rings. 

McAfee’s Knob (Appalachian Trail)
From McAfee’s Knob you can see Roanoke Airport as well as plenty of valleys.  With its 270 degree view and its vicinity to Roanoke, it seems like a good candidate to see fireworks somewhere.

Angel’s Rest (Appalachian Trail)
This one I think is iffy.  You can see quaint Pearisburg and Narrows from the overlook– but a portion of Pearisburg is not in sight.  I couldn’t find any information on Pearisburg’s celebration plans.  Not knowing where the fireworks are being launched from (I highly doubt it is from the supermarket directly ahead of the knob), it’s a bit of a risk.

This morning I consulted my original hiking buddy and New River Valley sherpa, Tony Airaghi.  Turns out he was already working on similiar plans.  He brought a new candidate to the table, which is our tentative winner:

Butt Mountain Overlook
Butt Mountain is not off of the Appalachian Trail, but it does provide expansive views of Pearisburg, Narrows, Pembroke and Newport.  Tony believes we may even be able to see Blacksburg fireworks from that spot as well.  If all goes right, we’ll be able to watch multiple communities celebrate in one sitting.  And the thing that really gave Butt Mountain the edge– you can drive pretty darn close to the overlook with 4WD.  This is a plus as Tony sprained his ankle this past week.

Welp, I’ll be sure to report back next week.  In the meantime, if you have any other candidates or any details on these locales– let me know!

July 4, 2007 Edit:
The Roanoke Times introduced another contender in their July Fourth celebrations article– Sharp Top to watch the Peaks of Otter display:

Fourth of July at Peaks of Otter

National Park Service rangers lead the annual walk up to Sharp Top to view the fireworks. Bring sturdy shoes and a flashlight for the 6-mile round-trip hike. 7 p.m. Wednesday. Nature Center, Peaks of Otter. 586-4496.

July 1, 2007 at 1:13 am 2 comments

Quick Trip, Quick Post

I worked in Roanoke again today, but still managed to get outside before dark.  The dogs and I did just the ascent from VA-601 towards Kelly’s Knob.  I am horribly slow on the uphills, so I targetted this section because it had the best ratio of steepness to driving distance.  My intent was pure practice, but I ended up taking lots of pictures on the way back down.  Some shots:

Jimmie off the AT

Some ferns off the AT

A Fence Post off of VA-601

Blooming Season – Azaleas, Mountain Laurel and Rhodos

If  I recall correctly, azaleas usually bloom first, then mountain laurel and then finally my favorite of all evergreens (suck it, Christmas Tree!)–  the wild* rhododendron.  I saw some azaleas already blooming (pink and orange varieties) and the mountain laurel was getting poised.  Before we know it, Southwest Virginia is going to be in its prime rhodo season.  Rhodos are pretty prevalent on the trail around here, but I would rank Angel’s Rest (Pearisburg, VA), Dragon’s Tooth (Catawba, VA) and, of course, famous Rhododendron Gap (Marion, VA) as some of the better spots.

Pink Azaleas Blooming

Mountain Laurel at Sunset

All my pictures from our John’s Creek Mountain Outing can be found on my Flickr site.

*I have a distinct distain for cultivated rhododendrons.  I’ll have to save that for another post on another day.

May 17, 2007 at 11:21 pm 1 comment

Appalachian Trail: Four State Challenge

Here is an excerpt from the blog of the two thru-hikers Lud and I met on Kelly’s Knob.  From their Half Way post:

And, maybe the coolest part yet – The Traveler invented the quad-state challenge. The quad-state challenge involves walking from the Virginia/West Virginia border, doing all of West Virginia and all of Maryland and ending up in Pennsylvania – in ONE day. It’s a total of about 43.5 miles. Stash was so inspired by meeting this guy that he decided to try it. Remix decided to walk all of Maryland (still over 41 miles).

So, after eating dinner with The Traveler, Stash hiked backwards to the border of VA/WV during the night. After a restless night of sleep, he awoke at 2:45 and started hiking at 3:04 am. An hour later, when he reached Remix, he woke him up and kept going. After 40+ miles of hiking, Stash got to the Mason-Dixon line (the Maryland/PA border) at 6:04 pm – 15 hours of hiking. Remix had left an hour after Stash that morning and showed up right around 7:00 pm. Mission accomplished.

Wha-wha-what?!?  43.5 miles in one day?  43.5 miles in one day!!!  I’m just astonished and impressed.  I don’t know what else to say.

May 17, 2007 at 6:31 am 5 comments

Season Comparison: Kelly’s Knob

I stumbled on another season comparison today (Other comparisons at Something The Thru Hikers Miss).

View from a Sunny Spring Day (2007)

View from a Overcast Summer Day (2003)

April 22, 2007 at 12:32 am Leave a comment

Kelly’s Knob – View of VT From the AT

Tomorrow I fly to Kansas, but today I hiked my mountains.  Lud, Jimmie and Henry and I headed to Kelly’s Knob.  Kelly’s Knob is just 120 yards off the Appalachian Trail on John’s Creek Mountain.  It isn’t the best view on the RATC-maintained trail, but it has a special distinction — you can see the the Virginia Tech campus (and my neighborhood) from the knob.   After the tragedy this week, it seemed the most fitting destination on the entire Appalachian Trail.

Lane Stadium and Cassell Colliseum from Kelly’s Knob

Lud and I took this opportunity to hang a VT flag at the knob.  We chose to wrap it around a tree trunk to help it better survive any wind.  The tree we selected is a blazed tree right next to the connector trail back to the AT.  In a way, it is a blaze back to Blacksburg, a blaze back home.

Blaze back home

We did have one mishap.  Henry was unsupervised long enough to roll in poo.  We don’t know what kind of poo (perhaps I should have paid more attention to the scat display at the Vail Nature Center), but Lud told Sean, “It’s definitely not domestic and if it is, I don’t want to know what it’s from!”

When we arrived at the knob, Henry’s smelly presence was not embraced by the other hikers.  A few of them actually fled!  As a result, Henry was banned from the rock outcropping.  I tied him up to a tree far away from any people.  Here is a quick shot of outcast Henry.   He was so shunned, even the camera felt it unfit to focus on him (you should be thankful– now you can’t see all detailed stains on his coat).

Can you find the outcast?

On a side note, we encountered two thru-hikers who have already made it this far into Virginia!  Their trailblog is at

We had a beautiful weather and beautiful views.  It was a great hike and I found it to be therapeutic.  Mountains are my favorite Mass. 

More pictures from our Kelly’s Knob hike are available on my Flickr site.

April 22, 2007 at 12:25 am 8 comments

John’s Creek Mountain Trail – A Tale of Trees

The Saturday before skiing, the dogs and I finally checked out John’s Creek Mountain Trail.  John’s Creek Mountain Trail intersects the Appalachian Trail south of Kelly’s Knob, so I’ve passed it a lot in the past but never laid a foot on it.  Turns out it is a pretty nice trail that goes about four miles one way from VA-658 to the Appalachian Trail.  Most of the time you are hiking on a ridge, so I got to sneak a lot views between the bare trees.  However, it is the trees themselves that will be the most memorable part of this hike.

Giant Tree Tumor
First off, shortly after the VA-658 trailhead, I encountered the biggest tree tumor I’ve ever seen!  I stopped as I initially approached the tree and took a picture thinking, “Wow, what a big tumor.”  Little did I know, I was only looking at the tip of the iceberg!  For a size comparison, Jimmie is present in both pictures.  He weighs 56 pounds.

Think this tree tumor is big?  Bah!  You haven’t seen big!

Now *that’s* big!

Magical Mountain Laurel
At one point, the dogs and I hit a thick patch of mountain laurel.  Some of the leaves were angled just right so that the sun reflected right off of them.  As you moved, the angles changed and different leaves would reflect differently.  So as we progressed through the section, it was as if we were wandering through a twinkling wonderland. 

In his earlier work, Ansel Adams felt that his pictures did not fully capture just how majestic the sites of Yosemite were.  Even as I held up my camera, I knew my pictures would not do this section justice.  But, that didn’t stop me from trying  🙂

Twinkling Mountain Laurel Wonderland

Metal vs. Painted Blazes
In 1924, Major William A. Welch and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy designed this diamond-shaped metal marker which was used to blaze the AT:

Replicas of the AT Metal Markers can be purchased at Sun Dog Outfitters

The use of the metal markers has been largely discontinued and the 2″ by 6″ white paint blaze is now the standard.  I may have seen one reason why that shift was made. 

About halfway between VA-658 and the Appalachian Trail, I ran into this tree.  Just like the tree I saw at Bottom Creek Gorge, this tree had devoured a foreign object in its path.  The metal blaze was almost entirely absorbed by the tree.  Meanwhile, the painted blaze remained in tact:

This tree has devoured the metal blaze

I thought I was looking at a unique occurence, much like the giant tree tumor, but I found numerous trees rebelling against the metal blazes in the same manner.  Some were ever so slowly prying the nail out of their trunks:

Trees Eating Metal Blazes

Of course, no blaze is perfect.  The painted blazes have their downfalls too.  Just off the top of my head, lichen can grow on them and obscure the mark:

Yellow Blaze Being Eaten By Something Else– Lichen

More pictures from my John’s Creek Mountain Trail hike are available on my Flickr site.

April 1, 2007 at 8:18 pm 2 comments

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