Tag Archives: Hungry Mother State Park

Kayaking Hungry Mother Lake

On Saturday, August 22, 2012 our whole family went to Hungry Mother State Park to enjoy a day on the lake and to try out our newest toy—a 2012 Dagger Zydeco 9.0 Kayak. 

Kayaking Hungry Mother Lake

Back in April I saw the new edition of the Zydeco at an outdoor store over in Boone, really liked it, and so I ordered one.  I purchased it to be used with my 10-year-old, 12′ Perception Antigua Kayak for group trips or for quick “throw the ‘yak on the roof and go” short trips.  In mid-June we picked it up, and we have been waiting for a several months to test it out. 

So we packed up the Jeep for a picnic, put the two ‘yaks on the roof, and brought along some spinning rods for good measure.  It was a beautiful day in the mid-70s with low humidity.  The sky was mostly sunny, and the lake was really busy. 

Hungry Mother State Park Beach

The beach was open, and my two boys were suddenly more interested in swimming and going off the diving boards than kayaking, so I took the new Zydeco for a solo trip all around the lake. 

Circumnavigating the entire lake takes over an hour, as it’s about a 100 acre lake and there are approximately 3 or so miles of shoreline.  I’ve kayaked from one end to the other and back in under 35 minutes while racing in the Mountain Do Triathlon multiple times, but it had been a while since I had just gotten out and kayaked for fun on a summer day.  Consciously trying to stay close to the shore, in order to truly go around the whole lake, it took about 1 hour, 20 minutes of consistent paddling.

View from Near the Dam

As I have written previously, Hungry Mother State Park also has trails that circle the lake, as well those that climb to the top of Molly’s Knob.  With all that this park has to offer, it is still probably a bit underutilized except for some of the busier summer weekends.  From my own personal use perspective, this suits me (and, I suspect, most of the other park patrons who live around here) just fine.

Clouds reflecting on the lake create shadows on Walker Mountain in the background

So, how did the Zydeco handle?  Overall, pretty well.  It’s very manageable at 36.5 pounds (a lot easier to get on the roof than the 49 pound Perception) and very easy to turn.  The lighter weight suits it well for smaller folks, which is one of the main reasons I got it (for my boys and wife). 

Hungry Mother State Park Kayaking Panorama

The shorter length does make the Zydeco track a bit less well than the Antigua (meaning it doesn’t hold a straight line without correction as well.  Better tracking generally allows for more powerful paddling). 

Boys Kayaking–Zydeco 9.0 on the left, Antigua 11.9 on the right

Both the Antigua and the Zydeco are “Adventure Recreation” kayaks, meaning they’re designed for light touring or class I or II+ whitewater, not for sea kayaking or hardcore whitewater rafting.

Zydeco 9.0 in Action

The Zydeco fits the bill for what we’ll need for the next several years when we go on family, mild whitewater, and fishing trips in the region.  I think the two kayaks will pair up well for our future adventures.

Perception Antigua 11.9 on Hungry Mother Lake
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Molly’s Knob

In 1934, the Civilian Conservation Corps began construction on the trails of Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Virginia.  In 2012, the trails still provide hikers, runners and mountain bikers great recreation opportunities. 

The Promentory on Top of Molly's Knob
In late October 2011, my son Isaac and I (with my daughter Josephine in a backpack carrier)  hiked up to Molly’s Knob, the highest point in the park.  This is a classic day hike in Southwest Virginia.  Molly’s Knob is a sharply rising promentory knob that is about 3500′, rising slightly over 1000′ from the lake.  The hike from the lake is about three miles, making for a six mile round trip.
 
Hungry Mother Lakeshore
Over the years, Hungry Mother State Park has been a major training ground for me, particularly for running, mountain biking, and kayaking.  The trails are not your typical Southern Appalachian foot trails—we’re not talking root-laden, AT-type trails.
 
As you would expect for trails constructed by the CCC, these are similar to the U.S. National Park trails across the country.  The trails are wide enough in most places for two people to walk abreast together, especially the main trail around the lake (appropriately named the Lake Trail).  (If you add about a hundred yards to a run around the lake, you have almost exactly 10k.)
 

Other than the Lake Trail, the trails weave up and down the mountainside, mostly on the backside of the lake.  The map of all the trails is located on the state park website, here.

There is good signage throughout the park; all trails are marked.
The first time I ascended to the top of Molly’s Knob, sometime in the mid-1990s, it was on a mountain bike, and I was huffing and puffing attempting to follow my brother-in-law up the trails.  While I still see mountain bikers on these trails, the climb to Molly’s Knob is more enjoyable, in my opinion, as a regular hike.
View of Molly’s Knob from the trail. The knob is about 1000′ feet above the Lakeside Trail.

Most of the trail is a steady climb along ridgelines that gradually ascends the mountain.  The last half-mile of the trail is a spur that circles around to the backside of the top of the knob and is quite steep.  If you are on a mountain bike, it is probably best to dismount and just hike-a-bike up to the top. 

Molly Vista Trail Spur, a steep spur leading to the top. It is about .4 miles to the summit from this point.
 
The photos above and below show the start of the final, steep climb.  It gets considerably steeper than in these photos in the final section.
 
Close up of the trail marker.
As you climb the mountain, the views of the surrounding mountains begin to open up.  Below is one of the first views of Mount Rogers and Whitetop to the south.
 
View of Mt. Rogers and Whitetop mountains from Molly Knob Trail.
The view from the knob looks southwest, directly down the valley-and-ridges.  There is, however, a prominent smaller mountain that rises adjacent to Big Walker Mountain.  This is the mountain shown in the photo below. 
Late Afternoon Sunburst
In the photo below, you can see the view of the valley below.  I-81 runs down there somewhere, thankfully hidden in the folds of the hills, along with the Middle Fork of the Holston River.
 
Valley View
Below is another view looking south.  From this point, at the top of the mountain, you make out Mount Rogers (to the left) and Whitetop (to the right), with Iron Mountain rising about 3/4 of the way up in front of those two peaks. 
Mount Rogers and Whitetop mountains as viewed from Molly's Knob.
Below is another view looking out from the top of the knob.  There was smoke from a fire in the photo.   
View from Molly's Knob.
To the left of the fire, probably too small to be seen in the photo (unless you click and enlarge it), there was a hawk soaring on the thermal upwind currents.  It is easily seen in the close-up photo below.
Hawk Gliding on Thermals

This hike was toward the end of October, and while the brightest fall colors had already peaked and passed, there was still some wonderful auburn and golden foliage on the mountainsides.

Late fall colors as viewed from the knob.
Depending upon your level of fitness, this may be considered a moderate or a strenuous hike.  It’s definitely one that reasonably fit children over the age of 10 or so are capable of, especially if you pack water, some goodies, and take some breaks. 
"Isn't it beautiful, little sister?"