Peaks of Otter area, VA (AT and Glenwood Horse Trail loop), 2/13

Feb. 1-3, 2013

32 miles

So Bob and I headed up to Virginia for our favorite holiday of the year, Groundhog Day.  We drove up through some pretty serious flurries/light snow as we went over the Blue Ridge to the north entrance to Jennings Creek (FS road 21) and the trail head at the base of the Apple Orchard Falls trail.  Our route is in blue, going clockwise.

Peaks of Otter map

It was cold as hell as we started up the trail in a 1 inch dusting of snow, in the teens for sure.

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We got to the falls and the water was flowing over the walk way and was a bit tricky to cross with all the ice, sure as hell didn’t want to fall and get wet in these temperatures.

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From above this is the crazy curved (and expensive to build) walkway across the falls.

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We hit the AT and head south past the Black Rocks with great views west but the wind was blowing 50 plus mph.

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With snow on the ground and the wind we slipped into the Cornelius Creek shelter for lunch, so cold (19 degrees) we got into the sleeping bags to stay warm while we made some soup.

Right behind the shelter is a side trail that runs up to the Blue Ridge parkway and the Glenwood Horse trail.  The Horse trail runs for 65 miles through this area and we took it south towards Fallingwater creek and Chestnut Mountain.  It runs on old woods roads, some gravel road sections and some nice side hill trail.

Just before we hit the Jennings creek road we dropped below the snow line and found a campsite on the old road.  Great fire with the perfect food, excitement building for the big day tomorrow.  About 12 miles today.

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We wake up to 15 degrees but still and clear.  Off down the Horse trail with many road crossings and intersections.  Peaks of Otter Bob saw his shadow, forecasting 6 more weeks of winter, boy was he right this year!

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We get a few views through the morning and hit the Little Cove mountain trail and stop for lunch as it begins to cloud up a bit.

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We drop down the Little Cove mountain trail to the Jennings Creek road (FS 21) and walk a short distance to where the AT crosses.  North now on the AT we make the climb up towards Bryant Ridge where we wind around the hills for some while before coming to the fancy and fairly newly built Bryant Ridge shelter (they spent something like $750,000 building it).  It is nicely built with lots of timber framing details and we have it all to ourselves!.  About 15 miles today and it is warmer, around 30 degrees.

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In the morning we bushwhack down the creek, north, to the road and walk about 2 miles back to the car.  About 5 miles total.  Not a bad little loop and the Horse trail makes it possible.  We only saw a few day hikers the afternoon of the second day.

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