One windy frigid morning i decided to take a jaunt up one of the most popular hikes in my area: Sharp Top, the rocky topped landmark peak of the Peaks of Otter mountains.
Sharp top is heavily hiked, it’s a great out and back that totals a smidge over 3 miles. It’s steep, rocky, and once you’re past the opening 1/2 mile beautiful. i’ve done the hike many times in my life and this super-cold January hike was easily my favorite one. The parking lot is normally packed with cars; on this hike my car was the only one in the lot. i had Sharp Top all to myself! Once at the peak (which affords views for miles and miles in 360 degrees) the wind was blowing so strong i had to lean 15-20 degrees into it just to stand up.
i enjoyed my hike up Sharp Top so much i decided to go back and take a stroll up it’s less often hiked sister: Flat Top. Flat Top is actually a little taller than Sharp Top but doesn’t have quite the views. It’s a longer out and back (or you can hike from the Peaks of Otter Lodge to a lot on the Blue Ridge Parkway); my hike was 4.7 miles with 1,680ft of elevation gain during the hike- 417ft more than my Sharp Top hike. It was nearly as cold and to make things more interesting snow had fallen. By the time i reached the peak i was plodding through a foot and half to two feet of fine powdery fluff! The mountain was gorgeous clad in it’s icy duds and once again i had the whole mountain to myself! (there were 10-12 cars in the Sharp Top lot this day though).
Once i had hiked the two most prominent of the peaks i figured there’d be no better way to kick off a new year than getting the third of the triumvirate: Harkening Hill. Harkening Hill makes up the third peak of the Peaks of Otter, it’s a much easier hike than it’s two larger sisters and i’d never done it before. A co-worker offered to tag-along this time and with the Polar Vortex extending it’s icy grip onto the East Coast we layered up and bagged this loop trail. Once again (probably due to the snow on the ground and the skin shattering temperature and wind-chill) the mountain was a private reservation.
We tacked on a side-leg out to the Johnson Farm site and that brought this loop to 4.5 miles with 958ft of climbing. Compared to its two larger neighbors the grade is much easier. I’d suggest doing this one when the trees are bare if you’re able to as it affords more to look at. If the trees were in leaf it still would’ve been a nice amble through the woods but the views would have been few.
This little “mini-goal” to start 2019 off had me drinking in the beauty of the area i live in. Having these popular hikes all to myself made me feel connected to the old weathered backbone of the Blue Ridge Mountains in a special way. i hope that this sets the tone for the year to come for me!
My heart is filled with gratitude to live hear among these venerable hills!