Monday, December 29, 2014

Tinker Cliffs Trail Adventure

 My lovely wife dragged me back up to Roanoke, so I packed my running shoes.  I planned to get up on Saturday morning, go for a big run, return to the house, then take the kid for a kid sized run.  When I told the kid my plan, he disagreed.  Telling me that I should take him on his run first, so I would not be too tired to take him later. 

He was actually excited about going, and I would gladly give up my run to run with him, so I scrapped my plans.  We got some breakfast, and headed out the door to enjoy some time in the woods.

We parked at the Tinker Creek Greenway and headed up the smooth single track to the ridge.  We hung out and on the ridge for a few minutes, enjoying the view of Carvins Cove before heading back down.  2.4 miles on the trail and not one complaint from the kid.  Turns out he is pretty excited about trail running and is making plans for future runs.  Awesome!  
The kid!
 We went back to the house and I took a mid morning nap before heading out on my own.  My goal was to get to Tinker Cliffs.  I had never been there before and wanted to get up there.  I had several options to get there but was not sure how any of them would pan out.  I decided to to take the less traveled, almost non existent Sawmill Branch out of Carvins Cove.

I parked at Bennet Springs parking area and headed down the pavement onto Happy Valley Rd, before taking a left on Arrowhead, and then a left on Sawmill Branch to the Appalachian Trail.  

Sawmill Branch where it intersects Arrowhead

The trail went up with little relief all the way up to Tinker Cliffs.  I was not exactly sure that was on the right trail, but I knew that the direction was correct, so I plodded on.  The sun was well up in the sky by now, and I realized that it would be setting in about 5 hrs.  If something went wrong,  if I sprained an ankle,  I could be out here after dark.  Something to consider and take it easy.   

I ran on.  Up,  and reached the AT.  It was a pretty vague intersection,  the first right after leaving Lambert Meadows heading north on the AT.  I left plenty of arrows so that I would not miss it on the way back. 

 I reached Lamberts Meadow and the shelter shortly after.  A beautiful high mountain meadow, with creek running through it.  A few tents set up around the area but no people to be seen.  I continued on, still not sure how long it would take me to get to the top and not sure I would even make it. 
Lambert's Meadow
 At the intersection of the AT and the Andy Lyne Trail, I started seeing more people.  It seems that the Andy Lyne trail is a pretty popular way to get up to The Cliffs.  I had considered taking that route, but would have had to drive another 15 minutes to get there,  time that could be spent on the trail. 

Then the real climbing started.  Up the steep final pitch,  a real butt burner,  I was working tired muscles and they were letting me know.  Made me look forward to heading back down when I could work another set of muscles! 

Bridge to the shortcut around Tinker Cliffs
 I reached the Roanoke side of the ridge, rounded the other side and was greeted with huge views of the Catawba Valley.   To the south, one could see the long ridge that the AT travels along.  Snaking along through the valley. 

I stayed for a few minutes, chatting with some hikers and soaking it in. 

Tinker Cliffs, looking South to McAfee Knob
 After about 10 minutes and a snack,  I turned to head down. I had been on the trail for 1 hr 40 minutes. 
The Catawba Valley

 The return trip was uneventful.  I was running low on water, and focusing on keeping a steady pace and rationing my snacks and fluids.  I need to figure out a way to carry my water filter and some extra snacks.  I could double my distance easily. 
The Goat Path
The Pavement

Running into the sun, on the pavement,  temps around 60,  the last 2 miles were probably the least pleasant.  But I made it.  I was cooked and successful.   I was super happy to have made the goal and look forward to going again. 

Tinker Cliffs is everything that I heard it was.  Next time I'm going to follow the lead of some other hikers up on the rocks taking a nap! 

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