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The Great Channels of Virginia

posted Jun 24, 2017, 4:41 PM by Justin P   [ updated Jul 14, 2017, 3:14 PM ]

Saturday, we woke up and left the park, heading northwest.  We stopped for breakfast and gas in Chilhowie and continued past Saltville to Channels State Forest and the Brumley Mountain Trailhead off VA-80.  The parking area was nearly full as this is a popular hike.  After getting our stuff together, we started hiking down the trail, which is a private road at this point.  In about a mile, the trail leaves private property and heads into The Channels State Natural Area Preserve and became steeper.  There were a number of wildflowers blooming along the trail that made for a welcome break.

The lilies were just beautiful - not sure if they're native or invasive species.  There was also some bright red fire pink blooming along the trail.

It was about another 2 miles, mostly uphill, to a split where a short spur trail leads to the Channels.  There were some flame azalea blooming up here.

Just before the lookout tower, we went left on a short path that came out at the "Hidden Channels", a smaller version of the Channels.

The views from up top were great and it was cool peering down into the narrow crevasses, so we had lunch up here - much less crowded than the main Channels.

After lunch I went around the other side, but couldn't find a way to get in the Hidden Channels.

So we headed back towards the lookout tower.

Before heading into the Channels, we climbed up to get views above.

Peering down into the crevasses below, I could hear people walking around down there.

We then headed down into the Channels.  Being almost like a cave, it was noticeably cooler in here, a nice relief from the heat and humidity.

We wandered around up and down the narrow passageways.  Set up like a grid, it would be difficult to get lost in here.

Alex found a spot where he tried furiously to dig a hole in the sand - not sure what got into him, but he really wanted to dig and didn't care who was standing behind him.  At the far end of the Channels, I found a huge rock that looked like a bone!

After thoroughly exploring the Channels up and down, we started heading back, passing the mountain laurel near the summit.

At Brumley Mountain Trail, we turned left to continue down the mountain a short ways and then turned left on the Channels Trail that led steeply down.  The first mile or so was extremely overgrown with stinging nettle and not a particularly nice hike, though a few wildflowers were blooming along the trail.

We were going to take a left turn on a Forest Trail to start heading back, but couldn't find it.  The Channels Trail picked up North-South Road and became a little easier to follow thought it was still steep.  We spotted a huge wolf spider along the road at one spot.

After passing an area where they appeared to be doing some construction work, we turned left on Clinch Mountain Road immediately before a gate and followed this road back towards the start.  Along this road we saw a cute baby box turtle.

At the third creek crossing, which was Eddington Branch, we followed a Forest Path back up to Brumley Mountain Trail near the private property boundary.  Our detour to make the hike a loop was longer than expected so we hiked quickly back to the car.  Along the way, we saw a large black snake right long the road.

At least it was all downhill from here and soon we made it back.  Back at the car, we started making our way back to Grayson Highlands, stopping to eat at Buck's Drive-In in Saltville.  We had Alex so this seemed like a good spot and the food was really good and inexpensive.  We even got Alex his own hot dog for doing so well on the trail and he really enjoyed it.  Heading back to the park, we stopped at Sugarlands Overlook for nice evening views and then headed back to camp.

After taking a shower, we built a nice campfire and had some drinks before retiring for the evening.