When I opened my eyes this morning, there was a chicken staring at me through the screen of my tent. It didn’t have quite the impact of a killer cow sneaking up behind me, but it was still a little disconcerting. Joe has dozens of chickens and guinea fowl running around his property, and offers free eggs to anyone who wants to gather them and cook them. Having received the sign of the chicken, I knew it was going to be a special day.
After devouring a frosted honey bun for breakfast (did you know those things are 500 calories each?), I started the 0.3 mile road walk back to the trail, knowing that Boo Boo would catch me soon. The trail started out climbing through a lovely pasture, and before I got to the top and entered the woods, Boo Boo, the British Invasion, and everyone else who stayed at the hostel had passed me. What followed for the next seven miles was some of the nicest, and mostly level, trail that I have experienced in a while. There were even some pretty nice views!
Our first highlight today was the iconic McAfee Knob, the most photographed spot on the A.T. It is the most photographed, not only because of the magnificent view, but also because it is an easy 3.7 day hike (each way) from a huge parking lot on VA 311, near Catawba, VA. The parking lot was packed, and so was the trail. The climb up started with several dozen stairs, and I amusingly noted that at the top of the stairs there was a slightly overweight woman already arguing with her husband that she couldn’t go any further.
During the climb up, I passed dozens of hikers of all nationalities coming down and thought that maybe I would have the place to myself when I arrived. I knew that Boo Boo was well ahead of me and hoped that he would hang around until I got there so that he could take my picture. When I finally stepped out to where I could see that breathtaking view, there were around 35 people there including Boo Boo, the British Invasion, and dozens of day hikers.
Everyone who has ever walked, or dreamed of walking the A.T., has seen pictures of McAfee Knob. It was a very emotional moment to actually be there and the whole gang lingered there to eat lunch. Although it was crowded, everyone, including the day hikers, was very good about getting their picture taken and then clearing out to let the next person have their turn. Boo Boo is an excellent photographer, and I was so happy that he was there to take my “money shot” when it was my turn. It was an epic lunch break that will long be remembered, but soon it was time to see what other wonders awaited us around the next corner.
After five miles of easy walking, I discovered that the next wonder was the Tinker Cliffs. For a half mile, the trail is routed along the very edge of these rock cliffs, with never ending views along the way. You could even see back towards McAfee Knob! The wind was blowing so hard that there was no danger of falling off the cliffs. I believe that if you had stumbled over the edge, the wind would have picked you up and slapped you right back on top of the rocks. McAfee Knob was great, but these cliffs were even better. It was almost too much to take in during a single day.
Following a short walk downhill, I joined the British Invasion at the Lambert’s Meadow Campsite. Everyone was still excited about the events of the day, and we sat around the campfire talking as we ate supper. While I was there, Wild Thing was kind enough to give me an iMovie tutorial and get me started on my Mother’s Day video. I was a perfect ending to a picture perfect day.