Upon reaching the upper heights of the Blue Ridge on Route 60 just west of Long Mountain Wayside, we turned right onto Coffeytown Road and pulled over to await a planned link-up with Bill Holman, who had dropped off Iva Gillet, Dan Ralston and John Brandt at the Montebello Fish Hatchery for a 12-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail to Hog Camp Gap. Bill wasn't there at the appointed hour, so we waited while listening to the excitement of an adjacent auction which had brought many people and cars to this normally isolated spot. Alas, no Bill after a half hour wait, and with no cell service we decided to proceed.
While driving the dirt road to Hog Camp Gap, Ken finally got enough of a cellular signal to allow a text message from Bill to pop up on his phone (it was Bill saying he was late and not to wait for him), so he stopped to tell the trailing cars of Bill's status...but upon exiting his car, he was surprised to see Bill at the rear of the convoy, waiving! The group was finally whole and we proceeded to the trailhead without further incident.
We were soon back on the trail, climbing toward the ridgeline, crossing at least one shallow stream which still allowed for Leon Gorman's best friend, Bailey, to enjoy a brief moment splashing around. Soon we intersected the AT and headed north, climbing steadily and passing a couple of nice rock outcroppings which allowed fine views to the west. The autumn colors were in full display, if perhaps a bit subdued...there is a predominance of oaks in the area, so not as vibrant as we may have wished. After identifying some terrain features far to the west thanks to the clear conditions (such as Interstate 64 west of Lexington and even the VMI campus), we finished the last section before reaching the wide open summit of Cold (Cole) Mountain.
The summit here is special, as it is a rare maintained bald (obviously mowed) in a region famous for tree covered mountains. On previous hikes, due to the unobstructed panorama and it's resemblance to the opening scene from The Sound of Music, club members Debra Fisher and Marian Styles have led the group in the singing of that movie's theme song, The Hills Are Alive...but last minute obligations apparently kept them away from this trip, even as several hikers regretted their absence and made modest attempts to sing both the theme song as well as Do-Re-Mi. Joanne Davis marveled at the location, knowing of what she spoke considering that she lived in Switzerland for many years before recently moving to Crozet. Liz Lyons recalled memories of her first trip to the summit. After absorbing the views and taking lots of photos, the group continued along the open ridgeline, basking in the sunshine and enjoying the expansive views as we walked. We soon reentered the wood-line and descended the AT to Hog Camp Gap for a short walk down the road to our cars.