A somewhat hard-core guide to a random selection of the Commonwealth's lesser known hiking trails, with some gear reviews and lightweight backpacking info thrown in, by a central Virginia based hiker, backpacker, bushwhacker, explorer, Scoutmaster-emeritis, GPS data addict, and Appalachian Trail maintainer.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
A.T. Near Roanoke: Catawba Mountain ( Rt. 311 ) to Dragon's Tooth Parking Lot
On February 21st I joined the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club for its third Tuesday hike of the Appalachian Trail. I don't recall now why we moved it to Thursday; probably due to weather. This day was a spectacular one as you can see from the photos, with incredible blue skies. In Virginia, there are few months better for hiking than a crisp February day. On the other hand, it is impossible to determine what day that might be more than a few days in advance.
Sawtooth Ridge from further south on the A.T.
The past couple of weeks the group had done two sections of the Appalachian Trail near Roanoke. On this day we headed further south on the trail, heading towards, but not reaching, the rock monolith known as Dragon's Tooth.
We started at the same starting point for the previous week's hike over McAfee Knob - State Route 311, about 10 minutes west of Interstate 81. We headed over an area called Sawtooth Ridge (a part of Catawba Mountain), but I found the area wasn't as tough as it looked from the road. The trail doesn't go over each peak in the sawtooth, but skirts around a lot of them. The ridge lasted for 3 miles, and took us a little under an hour and a half as a group.
When we reached Beckner Gap, the trail dropped off of Catawba Mountain and into a valley where we crossed several styles designed to keep animals from roaming, and various tributaries of Catawba Creek.
We eventually climbed back up to obtain spectacular views from Viewpoint Rock, climbing along a thin rock ridge.
The view from Viewpoint Rock
A short distance after Viewpoint Rock we reached Lost Spectacles Gap, so named because a Roanoke club volunteer lost his glasses here. We took the blue blazed trail back 1.5 miles to our vehicles in the large Dragon's Tooth parking lot.