In any state we visit, if we are near the Appalachian Trail, you can bet we are going to find a way to hike at least a few miles of it. There is something truly special about setting foot on a trail that so many have hiked. I just love hiking and thinking about all of the lives that have been changed on this trail. So far on our adventure, we have hiked on the AT in New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, and now Virginia. Being as close as we were to the Blue Ridge Parkway, we knew we had ample opportunities to get out on the trail during our stay.
Will was in charge of picking the hike, and he decided we should hike to the top of Apple Orchard Mountain. The hike leads to an FAA radar tower, which is clearly why this is the trail he chose. You can see the radar tower from many places along the Parkway, as Apple Orchard Mountain is the most prominent peak in Virginia, so we knew we were in for some spectacular views.
We parked at the trailhead for Apple Orchard Falls, and instead of going down to the falls with everyone else, we made our way up the mountain. The hike was 1.5 miles to the top with an elevation gain of 850 feet. While we have done many similar hikes, this one kind of took us by surprise. First of all, it was unexpectedly hot. I was not mentally prepared for a hot and humid hike. I was also very sore from paddleboarding the day before. Will had Little Bird in the backpack and had taken her out the day before fishing and hiking, so he too was a little sore. Nevertheless, we made our way up the mountain, and boy, was it worth it.
Because the real draw was the falls, we only saw a couple of other hikers the entire time we were on the trail. Even at the top, we were the only ones there for most of our visit. The views from the top were as beautiful as we expected, and we were in complete awe of the FAA tower. Of course, we knew it would be big, but it was incredible to stand at the base and have it towering over us. We spent a good bit of time at the top exploring with Little Bird and letting her stretch her legs while also giving Daisy a rest to reenergize for the hike down.
As is usually the case, the hike down was much more enjoyable than the hike up, although we were still glad to get back to the truck. However, when we returned to the truck, we found ourselves in a huge swarm of ladybugs. We had not seen a single ladybug before our hike when we ate lunch on the tailgate or anywhere along the trail. It was crazy! They were everywhere. We quickly fed Little Bird a snack then jumped in the truck to escape the swarm. For miles after we left, we were picking them off of ourselves and shooing them out the window.
Rather than take Parkway back, we opted to drive down a back mountain road. It was an amazing drive with breathtaking scenery and beautiful fall colors. While the drive took a little longer, it was incredibly relaxing and was a great way to end the day.
It was so much fun getting another hike in on the Appalachian Trail. As we make our way into Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia, we hope to get in a few more miles before the end of the year.