While visiting friends recently in Nelson County Virginia, I drove up Rt 56 towards Montebello at night. It is a paved road, full of curves, and once past Tyro, it climbs all the way to the top of the mountain, crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway and winds back down the west side into Raphine. As I started the climb fog pressed in around me and the headlights did little to penetrate the soup. I took it slow and was glad I was one of the few on the road.
Montebello sits below the ridge and the fog stopped right there. It was clear the rest of the way up. I spent the evening visiting, sipping wine, and soaking in my friends hotub followed by a nice relaxing sleep.
In the morning I had time for a hike before my next visit and was steered towards the nearby Spy Rock Trail. You get to this by driving into Montebello (a small store and a few houses) and turning onto the Fish Hatchery road. Follow the signs past the hatchery for the designated parking area to access the Appalachian Trail.
It is a short but fairly steep one mile hike through privately owned woods on a gated forest road to the AT. You will notice a few spiffy looking cabins near the beginning of the trail and then it is just quiet woods.
When you reach the signpost at the trail intersection on the ridge a sign points you 1/2 mile North for Spy Rock. The ridge is much easier to walk on and one this way up takes about 45 minutes.
It was beginning to look like a storm was blowing in from the southwest and I was hoping to not get drenched. Three sets of people passed by heading down. It was such a beautifully comfortable Fall day.
When I got to the rock outcropping there was a woman standing there looking perplexed. She asked me if I knew the way to the top of the rock and was hoping to find her husband up there. It was not difficult to find the trail off to the left around the base and she followed me up. She was worried it was going to get dark before they managed to get back to their car, They had walked in from the top of Crabtree Falls, parking in the Meadows up top and it had taken them more than 2 hours. I suggested they walk back on my shorter route and offered to give them a ride back to their car.
The view was spectacular and the slanting light through the storm clouds intensified the colors. There was still no sign of the husband so I gave a good holler, which traveled out over the mountains ahead of me.
We walked around the bald granite rock but did not linger long with the storm clouds looking so ominous.
Back down at the rocks base we saw her husband who had done a clockwise loop emerge from the Rhododendrons. He was glad to see us and was relieved to find there was a way to get back before dark or the storm.East of Spy Rock
We only got sprinkled on a little as we quickly hiked down the forest road and my little Honda Fit negotiated the 2 small creek crossings on the Crabtree Meadow Road with no problems. Sometimes that road is impassable without 4-wheel drive and better clearance, so I was glad it was in such good shape.
It was the tail end of a sunny evening down on the East side of the mountain and I continued towards Arrington and Freshwater Cove for my next visits of this trip. Nelson County was home to me for 12 years and it still holds me tight.
Wendy lee, writing at Edgewisewoods, Gardens and Critters