Hiking in Virginia.
Hiking, anyone? How about some hiking in Virginia?
You might remember from my Friday Faves post that I mentioned
Usually, I just go on short hikes.
And I’m gonna be honest about why…
I don’t want to have to pee in the woods. I have no problem with the woods, just the fact that these trails are highly traveled. But I was talking with my oldest son recently about how I mostly follow these outdoorsy people on Instagram since that’s what I’m photographing and how I like outdoorsy product and clothing lines…and he said, “well then you’re going to have to
I knew that was true, so I decided to get over my panic.
How to Hike Dragon’s Tooth.
We picked a nearby trail to hike. Now I want to share my experience and give you some tips from my first long (ish) hike.
Location of Dragon’s Tooth.
Dragon’s Tooth Trail is located on Catawba Valley Drive in Catawba, Virginia. We just used the GPS on our phone, but we got off at exit 141 on I-81 South. We turned left onto N. Electric Rd and then took a right onto Catawba Valley Drive. After almost 10 miles, the sign for the entrance to Dragon’s Tooth Trail is on the left. Prior to that entrance, you will pass another well-known hiking entrance- McAfee Knob. The car parking area at Dragon’s Tooth fills up quickly, so be sure to get an early start.
We chose Dragon’s Tooth Trail for our first long hike because it was shorter (mileage wise). It is 2.4 miles one way (I’ve read some accounts that say it is longer). There is a gain of around 1500 ft in elevation. Always pay attention to the signs as there are intersecting trails! This trail has a blue blaze.
Since he knew about my panic, he threw a roll of toilet paper in our backpack supplies. I was like “really?!”, but it turned out to be a good thing since the toilets at the beginning of the trail were out of toilet paper (thanks hubby). There was hand sanitizer, but next time I’ll remember my own. I’m pretty opposed to antibacterial stuff in daily use, but do own sanitizer for soccer events (porta-potties…no explanation necessary).
I mentioned in this post that my hiking boots did not work out. They haven’t yet been replaced. I hiked in running shoes. I’m not sure I’d recommend this. I saw plenty of people on the trail with them. My feet are in-between sizes and my shoes were a little big and the bottoms were a little too worn. This will matter on the boulder section. I think it goes without saying, but I will…always bring enough water.
The beginning of the hike meanders through an enchanted forest along a stream.
It was in the low 50’s (F) when we started and a little chilly in the shade of the trees. But don’t worry, the steady climb will warm you right up.
I’m always amazed by the trees as I travel along the forests in Virginia. My husband laughed at how many I “hugged.” Some were so huge that I wanted to see if my arms would even go half way round (and I have long arms).
I think about how long they must have been growing on that mountainside and how long they’ll be growing after I’m gone. I think about how nature is continually growing and thriving while we try to battle it in our yards. Personally, I rarely battle it, preferring to give it its say.
In the forest, everything works together, creating this beautiful cycle. Once we were away from the parking area, we were surprised by how quiet it was. The random calling of a bird and the answer of another. Otherwise, silence. It reminded me of growing up and made me miss the silence of the country and of a sky filled with stars in the darkness.
And just when I began to wonder when we would reach the Appalachian Trail….there we were.
I got engaged on the Appalachian Trail. We weren’t hiking it. We had traveled to Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee and then meandered down part of the trail to a quieter spot, where he asked me to be his wife.
It’s amazing to me that this trail goes along all the way from Georgia to Maine. About 2,200 miles.
Around some corners, you can begin to get a glimpse of the mountains.
The .7 miles is much harder than the part you have already climbed. You will now be following white blazes. There is a reminder to pay attention to them.
This is a boulder climbing section. You need to know which direction to go.
You also need to be prepared for obstacles.
This tree was across the most obvious path. There was a newly worn path going around the upper portion of the tree. We opted for that instead of going over because we were letting a group of people pass us while we took a water break.
My shoes did not have the kind of traction that I would have liked in order to have gone over the tree. They had a tendency to slide a little on some inclines during the uphill hike.
We packed the cameras away for part of the boulder climb so that things would not get bashed or fall. You really should google some images. The real climbing begins at an area that runs along the edge of the mountain. I knew I could get up, but was really worried about my descent.
When you get to the top of the boulder section, there are a few overlooks. I took a break to enjoy my moment at the top of the world. The hand out of view is gripping the rock since it’s a long way down!
It is about another 1/10 of a mile, following blue blazes again, to get to Dragon’s Tooth.
Dragon’s Tooth is named because of the giant Tuscarora quartzite spires. The tallest “tooth” rises about 35 feet. The only shots that I was semi-happy with did not include the entire spires. The next time I do this hike, I’m hoping for some more greenery (aka, not winter!).
I did not climb to the top of the tooth. I don’t know if I would even if my shoes were a proper fit.
The hike down requires as much work and concentration as on the way up. I was really nervous about the spot that I call the “steep cliffside descent” (I found somebody’s 30 second YouTube video of the spot here. This still doesn’t show that beside that face is just straight down and you are thousands of feet in the air).
I was seriously wondering whether I would descend it barefoot. My husband jokes about my “monkey toes”. I can pick things up with them if I’m too lazy to bend over. My feet are also strong from lots of balance work in yoga. I figured they would be better than sliding down the rock or having my shoes trip me up. When I got to the spot though, it was nowhere near as frightening as what I had built up in my mind. I made my way down. From there on its smooth sailing. Ok. That’s an exaggeration, but nothing scary remains.
I kept my husband amused by yabbering away. Finding sticks, and rocks, and acorn tops to play with along the way. When I could see the end in sight, I showed him my legs weren’t completely dead, doing some squats and a tree pose.
I was excited that I had conquered the Dragon’s Tooth Trail, earned a little outdoorsy credit (and didn’t have to pee in the woods)!
If you find yourself with some time spent hiking in Virgnia, don’t miss the challenge of Dragon’s Tooth.
Let your light shine!