Sunday, July 27, 2014

High Upon Dragon's Tooth

A couple of miles into the hike, just under a mile from the summit. At the end of it all,
I don't think any of us looked quite this fresh and enthusiastic.
Old Rodan is tired and sore, and — until that most welcome shower — all-too-recently soaking wet and filthy dirty. This morning, I headed up to Dragon's Tooth on the Appalachian Trail, just northwest of Roanoke, and met up with a number of Virginia-based geocachers to hike up to the summit. Back in the 1990s, when my brother lived up that way, we spent countless hours roaming around the countryside there, but we never did go up to Dragon's Tooth — silly us. From the parking area along Highway 311, it's roughly a six-mile round trip to and from the top, and about three feet of the journey is on smooth, level ground. The mile just before the summit is steep, rocky, and frequently requires one to use both hands and feet to make the ascent. We did this in 100% humidity with occasional rain squalls, so those rocks tended to be slick and treacherous. By the time we reached the top of the ridge, there was not a one of us that wasn't soaked to the skin with sweat and/or rainwater.
Bound for glory, or something such.

The formations and view from Dragon's Tooth are spectacular. From the parking area, the elevation change is about 1,100 feet, and the main two Tuscarora quartzite spires at the summit each rise about 35 feet, at almost 90-degree angles from the surrounding terrain. Some of our number — mainly the younger ones — clambered all the way up to the crest of the biggest and sharpest tooth, while at least one of us older folk settled for tromping out on one of blunter molars — itself not a trivial formation, and guaranteed to send you to your death if you're not cautious along its edge. Needless to say, there were caches to be found on this excursion, and find them we did — only three for me today, but a trip such as this is all about quality over quantity, and that much we surely got.

Most interestingly, three of the group — "Kivotos" (a.k.a Noah) and "Fishercachers" (Leif and Bobbie) — are from Waynesboro, VA, and are acquainted with my good friends, writer Elizabeth Massie and artist Cortney Skinner, who are themselves avid geocachers. Geocaching communities do tend to overlap a lot, since most cachers end up traveling and meeting other cachers in oftentimes faraway places. That's just one of many very gratifying aspects of geocaching.

Click on images to enlarge.
The easy part of the hike

A less-easy part of the hike.
Homestyle on the rocks
Down in the valley, valley so low — viewed from my perch on the "molar."

Mountain goats
The road barely visible at the base of the ridge is Newport Road, where my
brother lived a couple of decades ago.
"Hey, Rodan! Does this rock make my butt look big?" Well, that's what Audra
hollered from up there, yes she did.


Anonymous said...

Holy crap! Just looking at the photos scared the poop out o' me! I salute you all, most brave and hardy geocachers! (I'm sure the view was amazing!) You guys ROCK (in more ways than one.)

James Robert Smith said...

You DAWG! I have been hiking and backpacking for DECADES and I still haven't bagged the Dragon's Tooth! It's been on my list for years!