Roadwork to Temporarily Close Catawba Mountain Fire Road to Hikers

Update: Due to weather delays, work did not begin on January 17 as planned. Work began February 7, and will continue until March 4.

(Roanoke, VA). Roadwork to improve the Catawba Mountain Fire Road for emergency vehicle use will require the road to be temporarily closed to hikers and all public use beginning Monday, January 17 through February 11. During this road closure, hikers will continue to be able to use the Appalachian National Scenic Trail to access McAfee Knob and beyond. This roadwork is weather-dependent and is being performed during the winter season to minimize disruption to hikers.

Read more »

Sandra Marra, President & CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy released the following statement, March 23, 2020;

“In these unprecedented times, I am making an unprecedented request: please stay away from the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Whether your hike is for a couple of hours or a couple of days, staying away from the Trail minimizes the spread or contraction of COVID-19.

In a time when social distancing is necessary to minimize the spread and contraction of a dangerous virus, many have escaped to nature seeking isolation and unpopulated spaces. On the A.T., however, what they’ve found are trailhead parking lots exceeding their maximum capacities, shelters full of overnight hikers, day hikers using picnic tables and privies, and group trips continuing as planned. Popular spots along the Trail like Blood Mountain in Georgia, the McAfee Knob area in Virginia, and Annapolis Rocks in Maryland have seen day use reach record-breaking levels. Cars line the highways leading to popular day-hiking spots on the Trail. Hiking the A.T. has become, in other words, the opposite of social distancing.

Want more solitude than the Dragon’s Tooth/McAfee Knob/Tinker Cliffs corridor on the Appalachian Trail? Just on the other side of the Catawba Valley, the NORTH MOUNTAIN TRAIL in  Jefferson National Forest offers about 12 miles of hiking and camping with far less traffic. The downsides: you may encounter a few mountain bikers, there are no water sources after the first mile, and there are very few views when the leaves are on the trees.  But this moderately difficult hike offers great views when the leaves are down – between November and late April or early May.  Plan a one-night backpack or allow at least 6 to 7 hours for a day hike. You can position cars at each end (Andy Layne/Tinker Cliffs trailhead and Dragon’s Tooth trailhead.)

The Hiking Upward website offers an excellent map and a detailed description, although the mileages differ slightly from those provided on Forest Service signage. The Forest Service map  is geared to people entering from the next valley west but it does include a description of the Catawba Trail that begins near the Andy Layne Trail parking lot. The entire North Mountain hike has excellent signage.

HISTORY. On March 1, 1978, problems with some local landowners forced the relocation of the Appalachian Trail away from McAfee Knob and on to North Mountain on the other side of the Catawba Valley in the Jefferson National Forest. This situation did not last long. On January 24, 1982  Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club volunteers Siegfried Kolmstetter, Charles Parry, Andy Layne, Mac McDaniel and Larry Wood brushed out the first mile of the new trail back to McAfee Knob. Although the AT is no longer there, North Mountain remains an outstanding hike, especially between November and April, when the leaves are down and the views most expansive.

We love our dogs, and they love us. Should you hike together? If so, what common sense rules and actual regulations need to be kept in mind?

Should you hike with your dog? “Maybe” is the only accurate answer. We love many people who, for a wide variety of reasons, would not be good hiking companions. Same with dogs. The trail is physically challenging for both dogs and people. Hot weather, cold weather, and other factors can increase the challenge. Some dogs who are perfectly well-behaved at home are very territorial around other dogs and strange people. And then there are all the wonderful strange new sights and smells on the trail. I have seen a leashed dog slip the leash to chase a deer on the trail to McAfee Knob. A hiker was recently injured in Southwest Virginia when her dog decided to chase a bear and she intervened when the bear stood its ground.(Unleashed dogs are more likely to aggravate bears than leashed dogs.)

As with friends and family, just because you love to hike does not mean your dog will enjoy it. So start with shorter walks and work your way up, just as you would do with a person.

Read more »

Wind River 1J

The crest of Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains follows the Continental Divide and includes more than 40 peaks over 13,000 feet high, with lakes above 11,000 feet high full of trout. Join Dan Phlegar of RATC as he shares photos and stories from over two decades of hiking in the Winds.

Bring a pot luck dish to share. All are welcome!

WHAT:  RATC Holiday Potluck

WHEN: Saturday, December 5, 6:00 PM

WHERE: Christ Lutheran Church, corner of Grandin & Brandon, Roanoke

Wind River 2