By: | Richmond Times Dispatch
Published: February 03, 2012
EXCERPT: HAYTERS GAP --
If this were just a hike in the mountains, I'd be no less awed than I am right now.
Standing on this slab of sandstone, I turn in all directions and see mountains. There's Mount Rogers, Virginia's highest point (elevation 5,729 feet) in the distance, and the high peaks of North Carolina beyond. I can make out White Rock (4,528 feet) to my northeast and High Knob (4,162 feet) to my west.
I hiked three miles to get to Hayters Knob (4,208 feet) on Clinch Mountain, ducked into a tunnel of rhododendron and emerged on this rock. I feel like I could take in this view forever. There should be snow up here on a late January day, but somehow it's 50 degrees. There isn't a cloud in the sky.
The vistas would be enough to warrant the drive from Richmond and the straight-uphill hike, enough to inspire wonder and awe. But, as it turns out, the view is just the beginning of the experience on this sandstone slab — a bonus, really. Because this rock formation I stand on with my two dogs is not what it seems.
I look down. What first appear to be cracks in the rock, the normal kind of separation you'd expect in a rock face weathered for 400 million years, are no mere cracks. These crevices go down and down. They don't seem to stop. Maybe 40 feet below, in some places more, I can see the ground.
All of I sudden, I feel faint, like a rock climber who loses focus and realizes how high up he is. What appears to be one contiguous rock face is in fact many rocks, and the cracks between them are wide enough to fit a human, at least down below. They might not match the slot canyons of Utah in height, but that's exactly what they are — slot canyons. Right here on top of a mountain in Virginia.
- Suddenly, a nice mountaintop view takes on an otherworldly feel.
- Read the rest of this story here at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
- Read more from Andy on Richmond Outside.com
- Learn more about Channels State Forest - PDF brochure here from DOF and Natural Area Preserve on the DCR website here
- Click here to view a map and more info on Virginia's Area Preserves and Natural Heritage Areas
See an amazing photo page on Channels State Forest here
If this interests you and you would like to learn more about forests, mountains and geology..the next BRFAL Chapter Basic Training for Aspiring Virginia Master Naturalists is coming up in March 2012 at The Franklin Center in Downtown Rocky Mount VA. You can get the Draft Schedule of Classes and View the Itinerary here, and get the Information Letter and Application here. If you have any questions about this upcoming basic training please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org