Sunday, May 31, 2015



Not two hours from the triad, is one of the best state parks I have ever visited.  Marion Virginia is south of Wytheville, off I-81 and is the home of Hungry Mother State Park....yes it was the unusual name that first attracted my attention....but there is more to this park than a name.  

In 1933, residents of Marion, assembled 2000 acres for a state park. This Park was one of the first completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936.  By damming Hungry Mother creek, a 100 acre lake was created between many small mountains around which a multi-use park has developed. 

So what about the name?  Legend has that a homestead was over run by natives and Molly Marley and her daughter were taken captive.  Escaping, Molly and her daughter made their way through trackless rugged mountains, surviving off the land.  Finally following a large creek in the southwest mountains of Virginia,  Molly collapsed from hunger and exhaustion.  Her young daughter left her by the creek and eventually was found by other settlers.  All she could say was "Hungry Mother". Eventually, Molly's body was found by the creek that now bears the name,  "Hungry Mother"  

The Hungry Mother Lake is the focal point of the park.  There is a large beach and many locations where, canoes, kayaks and paddle boats can be rented.  

The beach  features a popular large diving platform.  The park also boasts many campground locations with facilities that include showers, cabins for rent, a lodge and convention center, shops and restaurants. There is even an amphitheater located on an island where a wedding was taking place.

While it was very tempting to go for a swim or rent a canoe to explore the lake, we decided to return another day for those activities, for we came to Hungry Mother State Park to hike Molly's Knob.

The trail head for the hike is located on the back side of the park off a road that is between Campground C and a picnic area leading to the lake side cabins.  The trail head is at a lake overlook from which you can also access the Lake Loop Trail.  The trail is labeled "hard"  which must mean to Virginians, "steep".

The trek to Molly's Knob is a 1.9 mile climb covering 1500 feet in elevation.  It is a hard but manageable hike. On this day at the end of May, the trail was adorned with flowers, the most dominant of which were the summer white blooms of Mountain Laurels.

The trail is well marked and well maintained and begins as a ridge trail overlooking the lake.

In approximately a half mile, the trail intersects with other trail options at a nice overlook featuring the distant Molly's Knob.

 At this overlook we were asked to photograph a group of friends.  Of course the FBWG took their picture conditioned upon them allowing me to make them famous by placing their happy faces in this blog.

They told us the hike to the summit would take us 30 minutes....yeah sure! It is 1.0 miles to the next trail intersection and .4 miles from that intersection to the summit.  The hike from here is a steep climb, varying between moderately steep and very steep.

We frequently stopped to let our heart rates subside and these stops often coincided with forest windows and spectacular flower displays.

There were so many mountain laurels it was hard to pick from the many good pictures.  But I really liked this one because of the red star shaped flowers that were interspersed among the summer whites.

The Vista Trail is the half mile last leg of the hike to the summit and it is the steepest of a steep trail, but at the end of the trail, you can see your destination as a bright light at the end of the foliage tunnel.  At the end of he trail is a spectacular view from which you can enjoy from two nice benches.
The mountain top was cleared for the overlook and a small meadow has emerged adorned with Mountain Laurel and Huckleberry bushes.  The overlook faces the nearby peak of Staley's Knob and in the distant horizon Mt. Rogers, all framed by the blossoms of Summer Whites embossed with pink accents.

The view from Molly's Knob gives a view of the Town of Marion and the traffic on I-81.

We met a nice lady Jane Caldwell who lives in nearby Abingdon Virginia who hiked up to the summit alone to check on the Huckleberry bushes.  The benches provided a great prop for photographs of the mountains.
This is a great hike.  Nicely adorned trail that is so well maintained and marked....grade the trail at a 10...the park and trail head are easily found - 9....scenery is greatly enhanced by the flowers, especially the mountain laurel but the view is grand just not breathtaking spectacular....8....
the effort to view ratio is about right....maybe tilting more to the effort....overall a 9 rating hike for a 10+ rated have to visit the Hungry Mother State Park....for a hike, a swim, a canoe ride....or just to relax.

Saturday, May 16, 2015



One of the oldest mountain range in the world are the Uwharries located in Randolph County, North Carolina.  The National Wilderness area sports some pretty secluded trails and camp sites.  We decided to hike the Robbins Branch Trail via Hanna's Creek and Birkhead Mountain Trail...a 7 mile loop...ouch!

It was 84 degrees with 50 per cent humidity.   I do not suggest this trail on a hotter or more humid day.  While not overly strenuous, the trail is long and has a few hills that will vapor lock you on a hot day.
You park at the Robbins Branch Trailhead but soon have a choice to make....take the loop counterclockwise via Hanna's Creek Trail or the left fork up Robbins Branch a good Republican I turned to the right.

Not far up Hanna's Creek Trail we encountered a rock garden strewn with unusual rocks which had be be millions of years old.

Not far from the rock garden was a campsite with the remnants of a old chimney that had collapsed into a pile of stone.  As it was a natural cairn, I added my rock pausing to thank God for the beauty of the day.  

We crossed Hanna's Creek and barely got our feet wet and proceeded up the trail and suddenly stopped in our tracks are the foot of a gorgeous White Laurel in full bloom.

At mile 1.66 we intersected with Birkhead Mountain Trail.  This trail is a 10 mile trail crossing the entire Wilderness area.

The Birkhead Mountain Trail boasts a homemade sign commemorating the location of the plantation of  Christopher Bingham who lived on this land in 1780.  We tried to find a graveyard which was supposed to be in the area but gave up after a short walk up a side trail.

The Birkhead Mountain Trail is a wide well maintained trail which leads up a gradual incline as we summit some of the oldest hills in the world. It has a wilderness feel even though it is obvious that the area had been timbered sometime last century.
My Hiking companion and I noted that we had passed the Soprano's Restaurant on the way in and this area reminded us of the famous "Pine Barrens" episode of the show where Paulie and Michael get lost in the woods after trying to find a place to bury a not yet dead Russian mobster.  

Remember the famous line? Fortunately we never ran into the guy!

We stopped to enjoy some really nice wild flowers.  It was like someone had carefully planted them for us to enjoy. 

One of my favorite flowers "writ on the margin" of this trail is this orange beauty. First, because it is so pretty; second because photographing it allowed me to stop and catch my breath as we climbed one of the steep hills.   " A flower's structure leads a bee toward it, having pollen adhere to its body...we don't know of any such reason why beautiful places attract humans" (David Rains Wallace)

At the 3.69 mile mark we found the intersection of the Birkhead Mountain Trail and Robbins Branch Trail.   I did not let my Hiking Companion know we were still 3.1 miles from the end of the trail.

Fortunately, the three mile hike was mostly down hill and followed the banks of the Robbins Branch.

At the five mile mark we were greeted with another nice wildflower and needing a break I stopped to commemorate our feat with a picture.

A mile and half later we completed the loop.  It was far from an easy hike on this warm day.  But it was a fine workout for the FBWG and his Faithful Hiking Companion.  After 7 miles and nearly four hours on the trail, our dogs were tired!

Rating this hike will be unfair....Access off Lassiter Mill Road is not  a problem if you follow Old NC 49....not like I did and follow New NC 49...thanks to Siri I found the trail head.....7;  The trails are well marked and maintained....8;  Scenery is not happening but if you look to the margins of the hike you can see some nice things....7;  the effort to view ratio is messed up....big effort for a bad view....overall a 7 hike but a good one for the exercise.