This was yet another trip on the Appalachian Trail that turned out better and different than expected. I’ve been hiking on the AT many times in several states and it’s always a wonderful experience no matter what state or what time of year. I’ve been to the Grayson Highlands many times because it’s one of my favorite places to hike and just not too long ago I hiked up to Mcafee Knob and Dragons tooth. So I knew that we couldn’t go wrong no matter where in Virginia we were hiking on the AT.
I had read about Burkes Garden in several articles and it’s pretty interesting to know what it’s about. Essentially, it hasn’t changed over the years because the same families have owned the land for many years. The pictures are pretty amazing and really make you want to check it out.
Here is some information on Burkes Garden…caution – if you read these articles you will want to do this hike…
We weren’t sure whether we would be sleeping in the shelters because of other hikers and limited room but we were very lucky in that we had the shelters to ourselves both nights. It was pretty incredible!
Day 1 Saturday – We me a gentleman named Bubba at a gas station who assisted us with shuttling our vehicle for approximately $25.00. Our hike started at Poor Valley Bubba dropped us off and then took our vehicle to the end of the hike. We hiked about 4.6 miles to Chestnut Knob Shelter where we spent our first night. I was looking forward to staying at this shelter because it’s one of the few totally enclosed four-sided shelters on the AT. It’s made of stone with an aluminum roof and there are actually cables attaching the roof to the building which gives you an idea of the wind that can occur in the area. We experienced the strong winds and extreme wind gusts that first night along with rain and I was very glad that we were in that particular shelter. It turned out to be an excellent night! And the composting privy was quite nice! A funny thing happened that night….three of us woke up with partially eaten acorns in our shoes – very strange but cool. Just a note – there is a pond a couple hundred yards downhill of this shelter so water up before heading to the shelter. All of the information I had that this is a dry shelter.
Day 2 Sunday – We hiked approximately 10 miles to the Jenkins Shelter. We confirmed two water sources on this section of the trail. One was at a place called Walker Gap there is a creek is a short distance off the trail and the other was at the Davis Farm Campsite. Now depending on the weather(dry/wet) there appear to be several at the Davis Farm campsite area but basically the sign says the water source is 1/2 mile from the trail down a steep hill which is a nice little trek. But at the second switchback there was running water (possibly not during extremely dry weather).
The Jenkins Shelter is a standard three sided shelter that one typically finds on the AT. This day consisted primarily of a very long descent to the shelter through some really beautiful terrain. This was a pretty tough day with all of the downhill but the area surrounding the shelter was awesome. There were warning signs about recent bear activity posted to a few trees and the shelter but we saw no bear sign during this entire trip. This shelter also comes equipped with a composting privy – always a welcome thing while camping in the wilderness. A small creek flows about 80 feet from this shelter as well as Hunting Camp creek that is just about 150 feet down the trail from the shelter so that’s another plus for this area. As we headed down the trail away from the shelter we crossed the Hunting Camp creek. I could see this area being very popular because it’s beautiful!
Day 3 Monday – We hiked approximately 4.8 miles of mostly downhill trail with a little bit of rolling hills. At the end of the trail we crossed a really nice bridge that crossed over Laurel Creek. Just across the bridge is the gravel road called VA615 where we had a short walk to a parking lot where our vehicle waited for us.
Final take – This was a great hike and I’d do it again even if there aren’t really that many clearings to view Burkes Garden. We plan to hike it again in late Fall or Spring to see the area in a different light. My perspective is you get two types of terrain with this section we did. The first is the typical enormous Virginia gray boulders that really contrast with the surroundings like you would find in the Grayson Highlands. Also, I saw the predominantly hardwood forests and open fields that you find in Virginia along the AT. The second half of the hike reminded me very much of what you find along the AT in North Carolina and Tennessee. You get the best of both worlds on this hike that everyone will enjoy. As far as the weather goes well I’ll admit I was hoping for snow and cold but didn’t get either with the unusual warm streak of weather we’ve been getting. We did get some rain but it was mostly after dark while we were tucked in the shelters.
|SATURDAY||OFF TRAIL||OFF TRAIL||BACKPACKERS PANTRY PAD THAI|
|SUNDAY||BACON + OVA DEHYDRATED EGGS||TUNA||MOUNTAIN HOUSE ITALIAN STYLE PEPPER STEAK|
|MONDAY||GOLDEN GRILL RUSSETT POTATOES + DEHYDRATED VEGGIES||OFF TRAIL||OFF TRAIL|
Here is my gear list for this hike…it’s on the heavy side because of my synthetic sleeping bag and Kelty Range Tarp. I could have gone lighter but I hadn’t used this equipment much so I wanted to put them to use.
|SHOES/BOOTS NOT INCLUDED IN PACK WEIGHT|
|VASQUE SCREE LOW SHOES||36.00|
|TREKKING POLES NOT INCLUDED IN PACK WEIGHT|
|BLACK DIAMOND FL ULTRA DISTANCE TREKKING POLES||16.00|
|MOUNTAINSMITH FALCON 55 BACKPACK||76.00|
|BEARPAW WILDERNESS DESIGNS PACK COVER XL||5.00|
|MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR SWITCH 20 IN OUTDOOR RESEARCH 15L DRY SACK||66.00|
|THERMAREST RIDGEREST SOLITE REGULAR CUT DOWN TO 20X60||12.00|
|THERMAREST NEOAIR TREKKER LARGE||26.00|
|KELTY RANGE TARP||44.00|
|2 NIGHT FOOD – LOKSAK ODORPROOF BAG/ZPACKS BLAST FOOD BAG||77.00|
|BEAR BAG KIT-CORDAGE/BLACK DIAMOND NEUTRINO CARABINER||4.50|
|CORD BAG KIT – TARP CORDAGE – BEAR BAG HANG CORDAGE & CARABINER||7.00|
|MINI COMPASS AND TEMP GAUGE||0.70|
|ZPACKS CUBEN FIBER ZIP WALLET||2.00|
|WATER KIT – SAWYER FILTER MINI(2OZ), TWO SQUEEZE BOTTLES(3 OZ)||7.00|
|SAFETY LANYARD – BG COMPACT SCOUT KNIFE/ADVENTURE MEDICAL RESCUE HOWLER/COAST G10 FLASHLIGHT||2.80|
|TOILETRY KIT – MEDICINE/TOOTHBRUSH/TOOTHPASTE ETC IN OUTDOOR RESEARCH SMALL DRY DITTY SACK||10.40|
|FIRE KIT: DRYER LINT/LIGHTER/LIGHT MY FIRE FIRESTEEL||2.80|
|POTTY KIT – DEUCE OF SPADES, TOILET PAPER, HAND CLEANER BOTTLE/HOLDER IN NYLON SACK||4.30|
|MARMOT RAIN JACKET||17.20|
|WINTER CLOTHING BAG 2 NIGHT SLEEPING BAG: TALL WOOL SOCKS/BOXERS/TSHIRT/WOOL SHIRT/SHORTS/COLUMBIA FLEECE SHIRT/DRY LOW SOCKS/HATS/MIDWEIGHT WOOL THERMAL BOTTOMS IN REI PILLOW SACK||66.00|
|RAB LATOK GAITERS LOW||5.50|
|EDDIE BAUER FIRST ASCENT IGNITER JACKET||23.40|
|SEIRUS GLOVES WATERPROOF FLEECE LINED||3.60|
|NIKE RAIN PANTS||12.40|
|MSR POCKET ROCKET STOVE W/PIEZO/TOAKS 600ML POT/GAS||13.70|
|OPTIMUS LONG FOLDING SPOON||0.80|
|WATER BOTTLES – BLADDERS|
|SOBE BOTTLE W/DRINK TUBE EMPTY||1.50|
|BLACK DIAMOND STORM HEADLAMP IN HMG NANO CF8 CUBEN STUFF SACK W/EXTRA BATTERIES||5.30|
|MIRROR / COMPASS / MOUNTAIN LAUREL DESIGNS CUBEN FIBER BAG||1.50|
|TOTAL SUM OF WEIGHT OUNCES||571.00|
|TOTAL SUM OF WEIGHT POUNDS||35.69|