The trail is pretty tough in the beginning of the Central Section of Virginia. The further north the thru-hiker progresses the calmer the seas… the path is well-graded, and well-maintained but it includes a number of 2,000- and 3,000-foot climbs. Hiking North Bound (NOBO) this section of the trail ends in a forest of old, veteran trees, having traveled across several significant summits and miles of a spectacular sense of wilderness in the George Washington National Forest (north of Roanoke, VA.). The Trail then parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway area for many miles (the two “highways” crisscross over 40 times) and finally travels east across the Great Valley of the Appalachians through yet another national forest named for a US President, the Jefferson National Forest. Virginia is the birthplace for four of the first five US Presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe – Adams, the 2nd President was from Massachusetts).
Central Virginia features many noteworthy points, with views from unusual rock formations and outcroppings. Noteworthy peaks include Dragon’s Tooth (NOBO mile 695), McAfee Knob (mile 707), The Priest (mile 823), Three Ridges (mile 834), and Humpback Rocks (mile 846), This section is more rugged and remote than the Shenandoah just ahead.
Dragon’s Tooth (mile 695) is a really cool outcropping of Tuscarora quartzite on the top of Cove Mountain (yes, I had to look that up!). The tallest “tooth” shoots up roughly 35 feet above the rest of the terrain. The trail to Dragon’s Tooth ascends a steep, rugged and rocky path which forms the spine of Cove Mountain. This spine is also known as the Dragon’s Back. The difficult hike to the summit of Dragon’s Tooth usually yields a pretty magnificent view of several nearby peaks. With a name like Dragon’s Tooth, I feel confident that my trekking poles will turn into a lance and a sword so that I can do a knight’s battle in conquering the summit. For more information check out http://www.roanokeoutside.com/dragons-tooth-trail.
The Priest (A.T. mile 823) is found along a wonderful portion of the A.T.in the George Washington National Forest. The journey is a little tough but the reward is a special view of the Tye River Valley. The assent embraces a series of forty switchbacks with just over 3000 feet of elevation gain. It might be the hike with the most elevation gain in all of Virginia. I was interested in the origin of the name, The Priest. The true origin is uncertain, but there are two theories. The first is that it was named after the DuPriest family that lived in the area. This is most likely accurate but it is kind of blah. The second is that a minister in the area gave some of these nearby mountains religious names. The Priest is just one mountain that makes up the well named Cardinal Range – along with The Little Priest, The Friar, The Little Friar, and The Cardinal. I am not sure which theory is correct but I think it will be a great place to pray and praise the Creator. Catch http://virginiatrailguide.com/2009/06/17/the-priest/ for some more insights.