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Appalachian Trail – Ashby Gap to Rod Hollow Shelter

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Hike Summary

There are times when hikes are dreary and brown and grey, and I wonder sometimes why I’m out there. Things seem so bland, but I push myself because I’m getting some pretty vistas, or at the very least I am getting out of the house and getting exercise. Those endorphins are what seem to keep my depression at bay.

Then, there are times and hikes that are all worth it. They’re worth the rain and the mud. They’re worth the drive.

I was a little bit worried this particular morning when I went out. The sky was grey and threatening to rain, but it was also pretty warm. In the past, I probably would have made an excuse to stay inside instead of going out. This time, I just took my rain jacket with me and figured that if it rained, it would rain.

The trailhead for this particular trail is very well hidden, and I drove past it the first time, forcing myself to have to turn around and then negotiate a very steep turn to get there. Some of the reviews of this hike on Hiking Upward said that it wasn’t really that memorable of a trail and there wasn’t much to see.

In springtime, that couldn’t be more wrong. Sure, there are no sweeping vistas, no steep gullies. But I found myself stopping almost every 5-10 feet as I saw something new to take a picture of.

It started out small, just a couple of small white flowers by the path, and the everpresent Eastern Redbud. Soon though, there were flowers everywhere. The paths would be lined with Blue Violets, and then that would give way to Yellow Violets. There would be more Wild Geranium, and a patch of Virginia Bluebells off to the side. Everywhere I looked, the forest was coming alive.

Rain fell, soaking myself and my dog. It didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, although it wasn’t a driving rain. As I continued along the trail, I came upon a section that was lined with bluebells. It was like something out of a fairy tale or a fantasy game. Around the curve was a sea of blue and green dotted with white. It was sublime, and almost overwhelming. Just that subtle presence of nature around everything, the world waking up from winter.

I continued on and made my way to my destination, the Rod Hollow Shelter along the Appalachian trail. This is one of many such shelters that exist for people making long (or short) treks along the trail. For many thru and section hikers, it comes at the end of a section referred to lovingly as the roller coaster, for the many ups and downs that one has to hike along it. I’ve hiked a couple of sections of it now and can see that it’s a pretty challenging section.

It’s a very well maintained shelter and campground, and I can imagine it’s pretty busy as the year goes along. Today, it was deserted, except for some beer cans and other ephemera of hikers. I put my own little blurb in the logbook, and left behind an unopened Clif Bar as an offering to the next person along.

On the return trip, I made my way up a side trail to a ridge. Here, there were far fewer wildflowers, and no views to speak of. The trail itself was pretty difficult to follow, there being a lot of down trees. I’m sure the PATC will be along at some point to fix those problems.

I also took another side trip and stopped at the Myron Glaser cabin, also owned by the PATC. It was locked (you have to be a member to rent it,) but the porch was accessible, and I rested a while and sat on the porch swing and listened to the wind.

On my way home after the hike, I thought to make a side trip to a bakery, but it was unfortunately closed. Instead, I went to my old reliable backup, Cupcake Heaven, for a salted caramel-chocolate cupcake. It was a sweet ending to a wonderful day.

AT Ashby Gap
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