|Alone Atop Blackrock Summit|
|Lox and Smoked Bluefish Cream Cheese Sandwiches|
Most hikes in SNP start on Skyline Drive. I'm not a fan. Invariably, you head downhill (at the top, there's nowhere to go but down, unless you are ridgewalking the AT or a parallel trail) when you are fresh only to have to climb back to your vehicle at the end of your hike. Much better in my opinion to start at a park boundary, climb to Skyline Drive while you are fresh, and then be left with a downhill walk at the end of your day.
Our hike would take us northeast up Paine's Run to Skyline Drive and the Appalachian Trail. After following the AT north to Blackrock Summit, we would head west towards Furnace Mountain but turn off before getting there to walk along the ridge of Trayfoot Mountain southwest back towards the car. This is not a common hike and so finding maps and trail descriptions was a bit of a struggle.
The weather this winter has been nuts. It is still February; it hit 75 degrees this week; and the daffodils have started blooming. Fortunately for us, a cold front blew through about 1pm on Saturday bringing a little thunder, some gusty winds, black clouds, a few spatters of rain, and thankfully, cooler temperatures. We walked Sunday under bright blue skies with slightly gusty winds with temperatures in the 40s; all in all, a great day to be on the trail.
|Fording Paine's Run|
|Paine's Run is a Beautiful Stream|
|Rock Formations on Trayfoot Mountain|
We might have come to some idea about rebranding the blog, but that will have to wait. As we climbed to about 3000 feet up on the mountain, just below Skyline Drive, our phones got signal and they both started blowing up simultaneously with message after message and voicemail after voicemail. My mother had died suddenly in her sleep.
I suppose if you must get such terrible news, it isn't so bad to get it on a gorgeous day, out on the side of a mountain, all alone except for your best hiking buddy/friend/wife. After a bit of a daze and a phone call to my sister, there was nothing for it except to push on up the hill. Nothing we could do would change what had happened and I needed to walk.
|Blackrock Gap, 700 Feet Below the Summit|
|On the AT Headed to Blackrock Summit|
The higher we climbed the more we could see what looked to be rockslides on the sides of Trayfoot Mountain. These are in truth scree fields made of very large boulders, though that is impossible to tell from a distance. It was only as we climbed to Blackrock Summit, itself a rock scramble of a scree field, that we could gauge the size of the rocks. These appear to be a form of sandstone (NPS says it is quartzite from highly compressed quartz sand) from an old seabed that tends to fracture into blocks. From the rusty color of a lot of blocks, I surmise that there is a fair amount of iron lurking in this stone. As you can see in the photo below, some blocks are nearly as tall as Ann.
|Approaching Blackrock Summit|
|Looking Southwest Down Paine Run; Trayfoot Right|
|Northwest from Blackrock|
|Summit Marker at AT-Trayfoot Spur Junction|
|On the Rockpile|
|Annie Bundled Against the Wind|
After 20 minutes or so on the summit, it was time to get down out of the wind and find a more sheltered spot for lunch. Taking the Trayfoot spur trail west down from the summit through the boulder field, we found a small north-facing cliff face on which to sit and enjoy our lunch of baked orzo with ricotta and salsa bolognese, finished with an almond-fudge cookie. Who says we don't eat well?
Funny story about the pasta. On the way up, just before we got into the thick of our discussion about renaming the blog, we were talking about pasta and when we last had real pasta. Although we love it dearly, we're both still some pounds too heavy (but lots lighter than at this time last year) and it's not on the diet. We both had a good laugh when I asked what the odds were that I brought pasta for lunch: Ann because she knew it was impossible and I because I knew I had small containers of pasta hidden in my pack. With all the calories we are burning, we can eat a bit of pasta now and again. Who would have thought that cold pasta could taste so good?
|Trayfoot Ahead, Taking the Spur|
|Skyline Drive Below in the Distance|
|A White Polypore?|
|Trayfoot Trail Weaves Among the Rocks|
|Three Notch'd Brewing's Industrial Vibe|
|Minute Man New England Style IPA|
|Jack's Java Espresso Stout|
I was so confused by the fresh citrus hop nose and the fresh hops on the palate that I actually went back up to the bartender to ask him how a beer that is less bitter than their stout can have so much hop character and such a wonderful hop nose. The beer is dry hopped after the wort is cooled, giving it a lot of aromatics without the bitterness from boiling the hops. I'm a believer. This beer was awesome.
|Awesome Post Hike Beer Drinking Recliners!|