Easter Monday, the day before Arbor Day, was a perfect time to be outside. I wanted to hike Buffalo Mountain, elevation 3,971 feet, a hike to aid my training for the Camino de Santiago. The Buffalo is a pilot for the Blue Ridge Plateau region, as “Pilot” Mountain is the pilot for piedmont North Carolina. The Buffalo amazes you from many vantage points in Carroll, Floyd or Patrick Counties.
Carroll County Virginia is THE place to be to center yourself, in many ways. Nature is my go-to-place for self-reflection. Downtown Hillsville is the center of my universe, the center of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the center point for day tripping that will keep you from tripping out. Numerous trails in southwest Virginia and northwest North Carolina serve my centering purpose. I think each hike I take is my favorite place. And, it is. Until I take the next one.
The sun was bright, the temperature pleasantly warm. I stuffed lunch and water into a daypack and took my granddaughter, Lacy, for a short ride out highway 221 to Willis, turned on Conner’s Grove Road (VA 799) and drove about 5 miles to Moles Road, (VA 727). Moles Road turns right one more time. I drove about another mile on a dirt road over some huge washed-out potholes made by winter’s attack. I wouldn’t want to drive a low-slung car on that road! I took a right at a three-way fork and drove over a better dirt road to the parking lot.
The trail is a one-mile hike to the summit, but it is a strenuous mile. Lacy is an eight-year-old. She marched up the mountain like a Sherpa guide – until the sweat started pouring.
I forgot to grab her a hat and all that hair was making her feel like she was wearing a sheepskin coat, standing beside a pot-bellied stove. I tried putting her hair up using a stick, but she thought she didn’t look good enough and took the stick out. I finally gave her my hat to stop the complaints. We were one or two weeks early for the shade of newly developed leaves in the deciduous forest. As it was, we had a clear view to the cerulean blue sky.
I love nature. Lacy is much the same way. Even at a young age, she would sit in my garden and dig in the dirt for what seemed like hours, happy as a lark. It was easy enough to quiet the complaints by focusing her on the significant natural occurrences we were walking on. My old rock-hounding days from a life in Asheville, North Carolina paid off. The magnesium rich outcroppings on Buffalo render it unlike any other place in the Commonwealth. There were beautiful milky white quartz veins all along the trail. She became very interested in the rocks, weighing down my pack with new pieces for her collection.
According to the website, http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/natural_area_preserves/buffalo.shtml, Buffalo Mountain is the only known location in the world for a mealy bug called Puto kosztarabi. After searching several websites, I finally found a picture of the Buffalo Mountain mealy bug. I really did see a corpse of one that I pointed out to Lacy. Too bad I didn’t have enough foresight to photograph that too.
I did photograph flowers, but like the fish that got away, I missed a great shot of a bee on a cinquefoil, the white, strawberry-looking bloom with razor sharp pointed leaves that reminds me of images I’ve seen of marijuana leaves.
I was able to capture one image of a Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly. Black Swallowtails and Tiger Swallowtails were abundant near and on top of the mountain.
The conversation going steeply up the last 50 steps went something like this: “Yaya, I’m tired. Yaya, stop! I need water. Yaya, can we sit on this rock for a while? Yaya, can we eat here?, etc.” With the last step, just as you crest the summit and see the view below and the rocky ridge in front of you, all that changed to, “Oh my gosh!!!!!!!” Out of the blue, Lacy saw the reward for all the difficult steps.
Don’t count on a porta-potty or any shade on top of the wind-exposed summit! I used my jacket draped on a bush to make shade while we enjoyed our sandwiches. There were too many people on the trail, especially on top that day, for me to be comfortable squatting behind a bush. Our break was quick and we scurried like a squirrel back down the trail.
I turned right on Conner’s Grove Road, instead of backtracking to Willis. We came out on the Blue Ridge Parkway and turned west, stopping at Meadows of Dan for a restroom and an ice cream, a reward for an invigorating hike. Back in the car, Lacy slept and I CENTERED.