Hike Thirty-two: Virginia’s Peaks of Otter’s Sharp Top Mountain

Our first hike of 2019 began by driving under a fading double rainbow . . .
IMG_6377Andrew and I were on our way to Jefferson National Forest, home of another Peaks of Otter hike: Sharp Top Mountain:

  • A short three-point-six mile hike
  • 1,540-foot elevation gain
  • Level Four of Five difficulty due to its steep nature

We first ventured to the Peaks of Otter in April 2018 when we took to Sharp Top’s sister, Flat Top Mountain. That hike had both a higher elevation and hike distance; however, we learned Sharp Top was believed to be the state’s highest point in colonial times.  Later, surveyors found other summits, including Flat Top — which has a 4,001-foot elevation — beat Sharp Top.  Still, Sharp Top is the most popular due to its views which can be seen splashed with a stunning colorful sunset.

We weren’t in for the sunset though (not yet at least) but we did desire a quick yet grand trail so after our drive, we arrived at our mountain’s base . . .
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When we arrived, the weather had dropped dramatically and Andrew and I rushed to put on as many layers as possible — base layers, shirts, flannels, vest, our warmest gloves, scarves, and hats.
61602108_535760896828686_4969978465206927360_n copy.jpgThe cold weather also meant I could use these two amazing devils: hand warmers.  These seemingly small but mighty warmers are my luxury item on freezing trails.IMG_6393IMG_6399

Off we went, and the way the sun shined over the mountain was stunning — The trees, rocks, ground became illuminated in a soft yellow-orange.IMG_6427IMG_6437IMG_6435IMG_6434Up and up we went, winding around the glowing mountain . . .
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A short distance later and the Sharp Top’s tip was in view . . .IMG_6480
On this hike, there are two extraordinary summit views.  We first ventured to Buzzard’s Roost where massive boulders stood like guards along the trail as if protecting the vista.IMG_6490Most of the boulders were firmly planted, but there were occasional ones that appeared precariously balanced due to the fact that they made minimal contact with the ground.IMG_6485
A rock scramble was in order to get to the top of Buzzard’s Roost so I darted ahead of Andrew — At points, areas to place feet were slender so I had to squeeze myself against the rocks to avoid suddenly slipping off.

 

IMG_6494IMG_6499IMG_6540IMG_6500IMG_6510At the vista, birds soared in front of us and we focused on where our next summit was — the main observation area was a rocky outcrop at the tip-top of the mountain . . .
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The day was gorgeous — We were the only ones at Buzzard’s Roost so we stretched out on the rocks and bathed in the sunlight until our bodies began to warm.
IMG_6517The wind though was fierce and, at the highest boulder, we couldn’t safely stand due to overpowering gusts.  Every time we tried, we were both nearly shoved off the rocks and had to throw ourselves down to save from sliding off!
IMG_6531IMG_6533We estimated the wind gusts were forty miles an hour; however, we later passed a hiker that said he read the gales were coming at sixty miles per hour!  Regardless of the specific speed, the wind was throwing my vest’s hat against my head and whipping what little hair was out against my cheek.  Even in these pictures — where we were stably sitting on top of the rocks — we had to use our entire force to lean against the wind.  For some reason, the whole experience had me open-mouth, fully-belly laughing.  Therefore, these next few shots perfectly capture both the happiness I felt and the insane wind gusts around me.
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Moving to a slightly lower (and more protected area) we were able to enjoy the view.
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This hike made me feel calm, gleeful, and child-like — giggling with Andrew as the gales rushed against us and (on the way back) squeezing inside tiny crevices of gigantic boulders.  Seeing Andrew’s smiling eyes too — This is love amplified in countless forms.
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After Buzzard’s Roost, it was time to explore Sharp Top’s main observation point.
IMG_6558IMG_6561A National Park Service sign told us the boulders in this area were formed by decomposition and weathering, which is how they slowly formed into “boulder-like blocks.”IMG_6569IMG_6570IMG_6571IMG_6574IMG_6578IMG_6580IMG_6584IMG_6514

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Neighboring sister mountain, Flat Top

The view was 360-degrees and we roamed around the mountain’s peak until we found this flat rock, which begged to be climbed — but only for a few minutes before powerful wind gusts worked to throw us off of it . . .IMG_6587IMG_660962061971_333167153968772_3433459378261327872_n copy.jpgIMG_6619IMG_6624 2
Casting one last glance back at those enormous boulders and blue mountains, we headed back down the trail.

At our car, grazing deer were alerted to our presence and dashed across the road to disappear again into the forest.
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We watched them leave before taking off our packs and removing out boots.   I looked mine over — My boots were so scratched and scuffed that it was hard to believe they were relatively new. IMG_6626.jpgAndy constantly tells me to treat my boots more carefully, and I probably should — I’m super rough with them.  Without hesitation, I scoot down the sides of a boulder, rubbing leather the entire way, and I squeeze my feet into tiny crevices of rocks that grab and grab the boot’s tip; I trip on large branches that have been known to be shoved so deep into the leather than I have to pull the wood out.  But I forget to take care of my boots when I’m outside — I forget because I’m having fun.  To me, that’s the sign of the best hiking boots — They look worn, dirty, scraped, and scratched because you aren’t concerned with how you’re walking, what you’re dragging them against or through — The only thought is pushing yourself and relishing in that push.  Plus, those boot imperfections — They simply show proof of amazing trails and even better trail stories.
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