Miles 700-900: Lost Spectacle Gap to View of Powell Gap Hollow
Entered Lost Spectacles Gap in a thunderstorm, just in time to go up on a ridge line. Missed all of the views down to Newport Rd. The following day, fate was on our side and we were awarded with excellent views from the iconic McAfee Knob. Six miles later, Tinker Cliffs was equally stunning. It is a 1/2 mile cliff walk with views back towards McAfee Knob. We had a peaceful walk through Lamberts Meadow, and on to Hayrock. Troutville was a nice pit stop. From there, the AT crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway numerous times. Each overlook is prettier than the next. We took a side trail to Apple Orchard Falls (200′ waterfall). There is an FAA tower with views on Apple Orchard Mountain. We strolled along the James River before crossing the longest foot-use-only bridge on the AT. Little Rocky Row, Big Rocky Row, and Bluff Mountain all offered nice overlooks. 800 miles was marked in the dirt and we celebrated by eating chocolate with our trail friends, Braids & White Cap.
For the mile or so before Brown Mountain, there is evidence of a settlement of freed slaves. They sold the land to the forest service in the 1920’s. Further down, there are more remnants of settlers such as chimneys, a cemetery, and many stone walls. Cole Mountain and Tar Jacket Ridge were scenic spots and Spy Rock was one of our favorites so far. It was a boulder almost as big as a city block and had a 360 degree view. We climbed The Priest and reveled in the views coming down the steep 3,000 foot drop down to the Tye River (great swimming hole). Immediately after going down, we went back up another 3,000 feet (Zip line?!) and had views from Chimney Rock, Three Ridges Mt, and Hanging Rock Overlook. More views from Rock Point, Cedar Cliffs, and Humpback Mt. The terrain started settling down a bit after that. The creeks are gorgeous and lined with blooming bushes. Fragrant smells greet us everywhere we go! Waynesboro is a bonafied trail town at the southern terminus of Shenandoah National Park. The next 40 miles in the park were wonderful! Small climb to Little Calf Mt but then it’s mostly ridge line. The trail and Skyline Drive intersect many times and share many views.
Highlights and Surprises
Claudia’s parents came to visit! They promised to “pop out” of the woods somewhere and they did! For the purposes of the blog, and maybe forever, we will refer to them as “Tonto” (Mom) and “Lone Ranger” (Dad). We met them in Troutville and had several days with them at their Airstream at the Natural Bridge/Lexington KOA. We slack packed a few days and took one zero to enjoy the cabin they gifted us with for Claudia’s birthday. Each day was full of surprises, laughs, and good food. Day 1 of slack packing, they planned to meet us at a specific point along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Turns out there was a 10 mile section closed for road repair! Since they were bringing a picnic lunch (we were only carrying snacks) they parked at the end and headed our way. They ended up hiking 12 miles! It was much appreciated! Day 2 of slack packing worked out pretty well, except that they don’t like going up hill… hiked down 2,000 ft to see the mystical Apple Orchard Falls (200 ft tall) and then right back up again to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Day 3 of slack packing was probably their favorite hike but quite memorable. They hiked in a few miles to the closest shelter, Matt Creek. That section of the trail goes along the James River, which makes it flat and scenic. The shelter was just what they expected. They passed out trail magic and met a few thru-hikers. We met them there at the end of the day with no issues. On the way back, Tonto was leading and heard something in the brush. Little Rhino was just behind her and stopped in her tracks. There was a snake! It was coiled up and ready to strike. If you’ve been following Andrew, you know we’ve seen a lot of snakes (he loves them). However, this one had a diamond shaped head and was certainly poisonous. Lone Ranger has herpetophobia and snakes are his least favorite creatures on Earth. The snake rattled the brush (mistaken as a rattlesnake but was actually a Copperhead). Eventually it went on its way with no issue.
Another major highlight was seeing our friend, Tegan! She drove in from Charlottesville and treated us to lunch in Waynesboro at Jake’s. We hadn’t seen each other in years and it was great to catch up. We spent the day walking around downtown, going to the museum and art gallery. Thanks, Tegan!
Favorite Recipes of the 8th & 9th 100 miles
Tonto’s Toffee Bars
These have been a family favorite for a long time but we didn’t realize what a great trail food they were until this trip! They have the perfect blend of fat, sugar, & salt, which all thru-hikers crave! We didn’t make these on the trail; this recipe requires a kitchen.
Ingredients: 1 stick butter, 1 cup brown sugar, club crackers, 1 package semi-sweet Hershey’s chocolate chips
Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray generously with Pam cooking spray. Line the sheet with club crackers side by side. In a small pot, melt butter and add brown sugar until smooth. Pour mixture over the crackers. Put pan in 500 degree oven for 8 minutes (or until bubbling). After removing from oven, pour chocolate chips on top. Smear with spatula until melted and covered. Refrigerate until hard. Break into cracker sized pieces.
1 cup TVP bacon, 1 cup rice, 2 Tbsp dried leeks, 4 sun-dried tomatoes (or more if you have them), 2 tsp pepper, 1 pinch jalapeno, 1 Tbsp dried bell peppers, 2 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp garlic, 1 Tbsp onion powder, 1/2 stick butter
1 cup quinoa, 1 cup couscous, 1 cup red beans, 6 sun-dried tomatoes, 1 Tbsp dried bell peppers, 1 pinch jalapeno, 2 Tbsp leeks, 1 Tbsp onion, 1 Tbsp garlic salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1 Tbsp tarragon, 1/2 stick butter
Where We Stayed/Mileage
Crossed 700 miles on Day 61 , slept near footbridge at mile 702.6, Hay Rock (20.9, not usually allowed but exception was made d/t shelter closer from bears), KOA (5.5, 20.1, 0, 17.9, 17.3), Brown Mt Creek (20), Seeley-Woodworth (15.8), Harpers Creek (14.2), Humpback Mt (14.7), Grace Lutheran in Waynesboro (12.3), Calf Mt (7.7), Black Rock Hut (13), Day 75 hiked to Hightop Hut (21.4) at mile 903.4.
Snakes, toads, chipmunks, squirrels, deer, 1 black bear!
We entered Shenandoah NP in the evening and hiked into dusk. Animals like that time of day. First, we witnessed a doe nursing her baby and licking it clean. Then, we saw an adolescent black bear 20 yards down the hill. It was adorable and quickly scampered off.
What We’re Reading
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Claudia) and Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara (Andrew)
Trail Beta for Future Hikers
- Bryant Ridge Shelter featured a neat design. We didn’t get to stay there but popped in for lunch. If it lines up with your schedule, check it out! It sleeps 20 and has a wrap around porch.
- Troutville has some fun and yummy treats for hikers. It’s not a “trail town” so to speak but we found a great deal on breakfast at Mill Mtn Coffee. Lunch at Three Lil’ Pigs was excellent too. They give thru-hikers free banana pudding- just ask!
- Jumping off the James River footbridge is a tradition for some thru-hikers. We weren’t sure where to jump and you have to climb up over the railing to do it. We decided just to swim! It was very enjoyable (and safe!).
- Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company was a fun pit stop! We went for lunch/beer from Reeds Gap. They also offer free camping and a $5 hiker only breakfast. If the timing had been right, we would have definitely done that.
- Grace Lutheran is a wonderful, donation based hostel in Waynesboro. It is only open 1 month out of the season. If you go through at another time, or if money is not an issue, we heard rave reviews about Stanimal’s 328 Hostel.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.