Monday, September 22, 2008

James River Face Wilderness

Friday night I met Maggi in Big Island, VA, west of Lynchburg, about 7 miles south of the AT James River crossing and our starting point for the weekend. We lucked out and found a campsite just .3 of a mile north from the road parking. We had the tent up and we were in bed by 11:00. In the morning we went back to the car and moved them .5 mile to the bridge parking lot and had a cold breakfast of bagels with Nutella and Cliff Bars. We divided the load of tent, food and water and headed out. We crossed the James River bridge heading south on the AT. Destination Marble Springs.
Up, Up, Up and only a handful of switchbacks.
Why we punish ourselves, 2000+ foot climb in 3.5 miles
Another view of the James River
(click on any image to enlarge)
The Devil's Marbleyard was an awesome sight. A dozen photos doesn't begin to show the enormous field of broken rock.
This is just one small section, less than 25% of the "Yard".

"In terms of environment, western Virginia has nearly seen it all. The geology of the region tells the story. The various limestones, sandstones, and shales of the Shenandoah Valley and the Valley and Ridge province formed in settings still found on earth. For example, the Antietam Quartzite found at Devil's Marbleyard in Arnold's Valley is the result of a transgression, or rise in sea level relative to the land, that took place over 500 millions years ago. It was then a very pure quartz beach sand, similar to those found on the Outer Banks of North Carolina today. Proof of this setting may be found on all the blocks and boulders at the Marbleyard. The straight tube-like structures all running parallel to one another are the fossilized remains of cavities in which what was probably a worm-like creature lived. The Antietam Quartzite can also be found in the hill above Buena Vista and in St. Marys Wilderness Area."
10 miles on Saturday included the 30 minute, 1 mile down hike after lunch to visit the "yard". After the long morning climb up from the river we had lunch and stashed our packs and headed down. Even without our packs it took 45 minutes to get back up on tired legs.

We were visited Saturday evening while preparing dinner by two guys who yelled, "Make sure you hang your food tonight. We just had a 150 lb Black bear cross the trail about 400 yard away." If you click on the image you will see the red bottom bag suspended at least 10 feet above Maggi's head. Always the last thing you do before hitting the sack.

Sunday morning campsite at Marble Springs. Just 8 miles back to the car. Mostly down hill. Mostly.

Yes, fresh Black bear scat, 400 yards from our camp on Sunday morning. Sitting in the middle of the AT. It was not there at 4:30 pm Saturday on the way in.

Morning fog.

The last mile parallels the river and was a welcome relief after that long down hill.

Almost home. Crossing the AT James River bridge one last time. Just two more sets of stairs. The calves were screaming STOP. Lunch in Lynchburg for an all you can eat salad at Ruby Tuesday made up for all the pain.

Our Life Is So Plain All We Watch Is The Puddles Gathering Rain
Maggi's Comments
After a long week working to take care of other people, Dad and I set out on a long over due backpacking trip, to take care of ourselves. The mountains are breathtaking; every time I see them it reminds me how much I love being outdoors exploring God's creation. Friday night Dad and I met after dark and hiked .3 miles into a nice leaf covered spot to set up home for the night. Saturday we were up a little after first light to get started on our 10 miles, mostly up hill. The weather was perfect, mostly sunny 70's that became 60's the higher we went.

The Devil's Marbleyard was well worth the side trip we took after lunch. It blew me away, how the boulders/rocks came to lay there is beyond me. Only God could have created such an amazing site. We came across a Boy Scout troop of 37 boys of all ages (elementary-high school) climbing across and around the Marbleyard. All I could think of was, I would NOT want to be responsible for them and I'm glad I'm not their mother. For me it took all fours to feel comfortable climbing up, down and around the rocks, it was amazing.

I was relieved when we got to Marble springs, home for the night. Dinner that night was Mexican beans and rice, freeze dried so all we had to do was add water. YUM! is all I have to say. Very very good I didn't even notice that I hadn't had a fruit or vegetable all day. We had to put our bear bag high that night since a black bear was spotted by two locals ~400 yards from our camp, yikes! It got dark and I think both dad and I were ready for bed. I read for a little until my hands got too cold to keep outside of the sleeping bag.

Sunday was beautiful too and the steep down hill posed an equally challenging day. The whole weekend just gave me the bug to get outside more. I think Dad and I will be making this more of a tradition now rather than an occasional trip. It was a great way for us to catch up on our father/daughter time. Although our legs were saying otherwise, we didn't want the weekend to end, so we grabbed some lunch and much needed veggies at the Ruby Tuesday’s salad bar. We parted ways Sunday afternoon and this Monday morning it was back to reality, but with great memories that will last forever.

Click on Google Earth image above and or the track profile below to see our Sunday, 8 mile return hike from my Garmin GPS track.


kevin.shon said...

Mr. C!!! Maggi!!! I am so happy that you were able to spend some time together, especially in the wilderness! I miss you all and it looks like you had some much needed hiking time! Perhaps we could all go on backpacking trip soon?
Much love, Shalom,


Sam said...

Interesting post.

My friend also wirtes, you can check her blog at

Anonymous said...

Hey Big Brother Jay & Niece Maggi !!

Sounds like a wonderful weekend together. Didn't know my brother had such sexy legs for an old man !! Maggi you are more beautiful every day !!

Love, Lisa

BRO Edit Team: Will Harlan, Graham Averill, and Jedd Ferris said...

I'm interested in James River Face photos for Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine. Will you contact me at Thanks.

MADxMAC said...

Any chance you could scribble on your map the hike in? I'm trying to plan a hike in the are and would like to follow someone else's footsteps the first time in.