Atop the Blue Ridge in February

The old Appalachian Trail shelter at Rocky Knob, Floyd, Va., 02-12-2022 (Bob Stepno photo)

Snapped this photo with my smartphone on my first 2022 visit to the Rocky Knob area along the Blue Ridge Parkway — after enough January snow and ice had melted to make the trail friendlier. I also shot video farther up the ridge, exhausting the phone’s battery to the point that the screen backlight shut off. I had to snap my last few photos — including this one — looking at an almost black screen. But the old tree and shelter framed the image by themselves.

Friends on Facebook liked this picture so much that I’m putting it here where I can send links to my non-Facebook friends and family. The shelter has an interesting history — built in the 1930s for the first wave of Appalachian Trail hikers, but the official Appalachian Trail was rerouted farther west near the Virginia/West-Virginia line in the 1950s, where it could go through that area’s national forests. This trail section became part of the Rocky Knob Recreation Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and is less than a mile (uphill) from the parkway’s Saddle Overlook.

Looking approximately northeast from the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Saddle Overlook. The trail up to the Old-Appalachian-Trail shelter is at the southeast corner of the parking lot.
An interestingly lichen-covered tree made a good stopping-to-catch-my-breath spot about two-thirds of the way up to the shelter, whose angular roof is visible at the top center of the photo.

The shelter has a solid wall, two half-width side walls (entrance on the left; window on the right), and the eastern side is open to the sunrise. It did have a working fireplace, long sealed with stones and mortar. The floor is stone, and there is a long narrow bench attached to the rear wall. I’ve read one early hiker’s account of gathering firewood and bagging leaves to build a fire and pad his sleeping bag on a cold night.
These days, the National Park Service provides a campground about a mile up the road (the Parkway is a long narrow National Park), or travelers can exit in another mile at Tuggle’s Gap in Floyd to spend the night at the town’s modern motels, hotels or B&Bs.

mild-mannered reporter who found computers & the Web in grad school in the 1980s (Wesleyan) and '90s (UNC); taught journalism, media studies, Web production; retired to write, make music, photograph sunsets & walks in the woods.

Posted in Floyd, Blue Ridge Parkway, Southwestern Va, 2022

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