My head was in the clouds…

Another hiking excursion led me just north of Bedford, Virginia to Peaks of Otter. Peaks of Otter is one of the most popular destinations along the Blue Ridge due to the great views from several peaks, a mountain lake and a small waterfall. I was ambitious and decided to hike the Sharp Top Trail and the Flat Top Trail in a single day.

I arrived at the parking lot at 07:45 and began my hike. Notice below the picture of the parking lot upon my return at 12:45.

I began a steep ascent toward the peak. The leaves were vibrant colors and I was expecting some great photo opportunities. The trail was flatter in a few (very short) spots, but the majority of the rocky trail sloped upward at a steep pitch. The views began to change about a third of the way up.
The trail became foggy. A little at first, but then increasing at points to very short visibility. It may be a misnomer to call it fog, since it was actually the clouds that were settling onto the peak.

A little cloudy at first.

Then, a little thicker.

The cloud obstructed all views, including this view about half way up the trail.

I observed a deer just before the trail split near the top. I had surprised the deer (and she surprised me too) due to the low visibility. She scampered off before I could get a photograph.

I headed over to Buzzard’s Roost when I arrived at the split. The Roost would provide excellent views, if I wasn’t in the clouds.

I realized the futility of looking at the views so I decided to head toward the other point of interest on this hike while I waited for the clouds to lift. On February 2, 1943, a B25D Mitchell Bomber crashed into the side of Sharp Top Mountain killing all five crewmen. The plane was never removed from its remote resting place and a plaque was placed there several years ago. The bomber is off trail, but I had the GPS coordinates (or I thought I did). The GPS coordinates led me to a steep sloped rock that definitely did not contain a plaque or any wreckage. I snaked my way through trees and boulders trying to find the wreckage but was unable to locate any. I gave up and started to climb back toward the trail, noticing a nicely worn and sloped area that seemed almost like a trail. Every so many trees a yellow or orange ribbon appeared. On a hunch, I followed the ribbons back down the mountain slope and was led directly to the wreckage.

The wreckage was a sober reminder of the carnage of the Second World War. I thank God for these men who gave their lives for our country. The wreckage was badly decayed (due to the crash and 70 years of deterioration) but I could see the front of the engine (where the propellers would mount), part of a wing and the tail section.

After spending a few minutes praying for our troops, I began the climb back up to the trail. The climb is steep and was slick due to the wet leaves and rocks.

I made it to the trail and proceeded on to Sharp Top Summit. This section of the trail was steep (as is every part of this hike). Finally, I arrived at the summit. The summit is amazing! A large shelter rests on the summit. Steps and viewing platforms make the summit a great place to view the area below. Some areas of the summit offer a 360 degree view. Unfortunately, visibility had fallen to about 80 feet. This greatly limited my view.

This is a view facing north just below the summit, overlooking the gorgeous orange and yellow leaves surrounding the mountain lake.

This is me at the summit, with the autumn leaves behind me (trust me, they are there).

Here I am posing with the Sharp Top sign next to the shelter.

Turtle Rock stands 80 feet ahead, just on the other side of the shelter (it’s right past the shelter chimney, trust me). I know that Turtle Rock was only 80 feet away because a bronze marker in front of me told me so. I had to take their word for it because I couldn’t really make it out.

I climbed back down the mountain after waiting for 45 minutes for the weather to clear. The weather did change: it got colder, windier and cloudier. I decided to fore go the climb to Flat Rock, since I wouldn’t be able to see anything anyway. All in all, I had fun, but I can’t wait to go back to see what I missed when I had my head in the clouds…

Sharp Top Trail (and off trail to crash site): 4 miles, 2,340 foot of elevation change


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