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Catawba in the Clouds: A Hike on the Appalachian Trail

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Each semester Outdoor Adventures hosts a hike widely known as the Catawba Challenge. It’s a one day 19.6 mile hike along part of the Appalachian Trail. On Saturday November 16, OA hosted the hike for the fall semester. While there isn’t usually a shortage of people signing up for outdoor activities, this hike has a reputation among the OA guides for having to be canceled for lack of participants.  That however was not a problem this semester, guides included there were thirteen people on the hike.

The group met at 7:30 Saturday morning in the OA center to leave for the hike.  The forecast called for cool weather and the possibility of rain. While the rain held off the clouds stuck around. The entire range of mountains that were hiked was blanketed in a heavy mist that was reminiscent of popular horror movies. Mike Remmes, former OA guide and Roanoke College graduate, came along for the hike and in the presence of the mist termed the hike “Catawba in the Clouds”.

The Catawba Challenge passes several very popular spots on the A.T. Carvin’s Cove, Tinker Cliffs, and McAfee’s Knob are three popular sights that would be seen on a clear day. While participants still got the fun of climbing on the cliffs any view to be seen was obstructed by the mist. McAfee’s Knob, which is the most popular lookout point along the entire A.T. was merely a rock jutting out into unending fog.

Along with obstructing views, the mist did cause other problems. The ground and rocks weren’t dry so it caused the occasional slip, though there were no major injuries. Other than foot blisters and full body agony, the hikers went unscathed. Tim Keir, sophomore, said “my knee is still killing me. I’m proud I got through it, but you can bet I’m going to be in better shape for next time.”

The last hour of the hike was after nightfall, with headlamps lighting the path. The group met the pick-up vans in Catawba right after six that evening.

While it’s by no measure an easy hike it is fully enjoyable. Students at Roanoke are blessed to be so close to one of the best hiking trails in the world, and every student should take advantage of it, even if they aren’t doing the Catawba Challenge.