The second half of our Footprints expedition began high in the Blue Ridge Mountains exploring the upper reaches of the watershed and some of the headwater streams that feed the James. This included three days of backpacking along the Appalachian Trail to Spy Rock and The Priest Mountain above the Tye River. In the mountains one can forget they are still traversing along the James River watershed, but there were a few moments where nature reminded us the river was not far away. On the third day of the trip, as we made the long descent from The Priest, the sound of a babbling brook slowly became louder and louder. We turned a bend and were all frozen for a brief moment with the beauty of a small waterfall and natural water slide which must have been about nearly a quarter mile in length. It was fascinating to see how the forest vegetation changed as we descended from Spy Rock bald at nearly 4,000 feet to the riparian forests in the Tye River valley.
I was excited for this portion of the trip because I had never been backpacking before. However, I had no real idea how physically challenging the trek would be for me. At the end of the steep climb on the first day, as a stood atop Spy Rock, taking in its 360 degree panorama of the Blue Ridge, I felt my muscles trembling from pushing myself as hard as I ever have before. After three days of carrying 1/3 of my weight on my back, I experienced a heightened awareness of each joint and muscle, and a profound sense of accomplishment . I am not sure I’d want to strap a pack back on today, but this part of Footprints has opened me up to backpacking and will not soon be forgotten. I know before long I will seek out the forests and cascading streams of the mountain trails again.