She being a former manager of a number of hostel, hotels and b&b's along the Appalachian trail was full of stories and info and we proceeded to chat while I made pancakes for breakfast and drank coffee out of a great big mug. The fresh OJ was the icing on the cake. After breakfast and a hug number of new contacts and places to stay along the skyline drive and blue ridge parkway all highlighted in Google maps on my Android phone I finally got my bike repacked and got out the door around nine or so. Main street was still all but dead it being mid week and mid winter in a tourist town, but the manager of the town pub next door said hello and invited me over as he swept and shoved the snow from his front walk.
Though I'd already eaten my fill of pancakes I obliged and had a fine local root beer. Upon leaving I lucked out again and caught the owner of the superb HF outfitters store next store. He agreed to let me in even though they weren't technically open until Saturday. We chatted gear rapidfire while we both looked for some heavy XL mitts, he impromptu asked me if I was a company rep for some manufacturer and then offered me a job somewhat jokingly. We might have talked a little long, myself particularly but he had other business. I picked up some gloves and a vapor barrier for my sleeping bag.
On my way out of town I snapped a few more photos chatted with the owner of the local bookstore as he parked his car about town history, picked up a couple great maps at the NPS bookstore of the skyline drive and blue ridge parkway areas and finally got on the road about 2pm.
Time flies when you're having fun, but I wasn't worried because I'd just made arrangements to stay at a superb AT trail hostel / house called the bear's den only 22 miles up the road.
Because I only had 22 miles and three hours of daylight I got creative with my route and headed up the west side of the shenendoah river. Excellent hill climbing, excellent views, beautiful. Next I crossed over the to the east and proceeded to follow back roads up over the mountain ridge from WV into Virginia. At least that was the plan. ;)
I new from the name, Foot Trail Lane, this would be no ordinary road. As I approached it there were many indicators hinting at what was in store. Could have been the 14 - 18% grades. The fact that the biggest mountain I'd yet ridden loomed in front of me wih no apparent passes or breaks in the ridge. Could even have been all the moonshine references like corn pone, moonshine and mountain dew for road names. However as I reached the foot of foot trail lane and saw the gate and "no atv" sign with the well traveled footsteps in the snow I was quite pleased. Not after all a lane, perhaps at one time maybe, but now a popular foot trail.
Still as I progressed upward the two track broke down to a wash, the foot steps disappeared and fresh atv tracks came and went. Gradually the route became less traveled and more and more an ancient washed out road bed. Still it was not without beautiful sights and sounds.
Then as I got higher the going got slower and the sun dipped lower. Soon the wash was strewn with boulders and uneven ground. Fallen trees to climb over or under. I started finding it easier to hike through the parallel woods. I was no longer biking.
Then it got worse. A 14% or steeper wash of boulders. This was far from being a foot trail let alone a lane. I started carrying my bike more then pushing. Following deer trail. Sweat poured from my brow event though I'd already removed my hat, gloves and outer layer. Then there were the no trespassing signs. Slowly I dated the roads last use to be at least 30 and possibly as many as 50 years ago. (damn you Google)
Yet I continued on.
The sun went down.
I put on my headlanp.
As I approached the ridge I stumbled on some footprints in the snow. White blazes. Aha, he AT. Good to know winter hikers are out. I followed it a little way until another deer trail crosses going toward Virginia state route 761. I crossed a series of various blazes and markers.
Hail Virginia, we are well met.
Eventually I saw a light. A house. Houses often have driveways which lead to roads. :) This one did, eventually.
I descended a series of back roads leading to main roads. An hour and a half later I ate a whole frozen pizza (cooked of course ;) drank a coffee and downed three cans of mountain dew while chatting with the lovely caretakers of Bears Den. I'd only gone 28 miles in six hours.
I topped the night off with a shower and good long conversation wih an old biking buddy. Then I wrote this. Now its off to bed. I get to ride some skyline drive tomorrow!