|Sect. 16 screenshot from Art's Hiking Maps|
Unintentionally I started covering the Mountain to Sea Trail (MST) in this part of the state by going on some longer fun runs in the past year or two. With a couple long runs I had all 40+ miles of trail covered from Grandfather Mountain (sect 13.3) to Deep Gap (end of sect 14). And with an 11+ mile birthday run this year I had a good portion of section 17 (Brinegar Cabin to start of 17.1) covered as well. Suddenly the thought of linking up Stone Mountain to Grandfather Mountain seemed possible and like something I could do without inconveniencing the family too much with long drives or waiting for me to finish a run. I haven't been on sections 15 (Deep Gap to Horse Gap - 15.8mi) or 16 (Horse Gap to Laurel Springs - 15.2mi) and with the close proximity to my in-laws cabin I set out for one of these portions. Not being able to coordinate rides and realizing I should be taking it easy to see how my legs had recovered from yesterdays race, I decided an out and back would be the smart move and headed for Horse Gap to check out the first portion of section 16.
I've probably said it somewhere in this blog before but if you plan to spend any time on the MST then you have to check out Art's Hiking Maps. Although not officially endorsed by the MST (probably something political) these maps are amazing and give great detail and have proved to be a lifesaver more than once (luckily only figuratively).
I found a place to park just across the road from the trailhead (by the Horse Gap sign) and looked for the familiar and (to me) welcoming trail marker with the white dot above a hiker. This portion started climbing quickly and I smartly proceeded to power hike on instead of running and testing the legs right away. I really did little research on this portion so I didn't know what to expect. I have one rule when out on these runs on the MST and its to take my time and enjoy God's creation. I usually try to bring a camera and if I see a side trail, as long as it looks like it might lead somewhere 'cool', I'll take it. Around one half mile into the run I saw one of these trails and was gifted with one of the best surprise views I've had on a run like this. I didn't know it but I had found 'Jumping Off Rock' and its amazing view of the the surrounding mountains to the East. I'll let pictures (and video if I get it uploaded) show what my words wouldn't be able to justice.
|On the Parkway somewhere around MP257|
|Jumping Off Rock panoramic photo|
|This woolly worm predicts a mild winter?|
|Start of Section 16 (trail is just across BRP to left of picture)|