Jack’s Trail Review February 18, 2019 Rock Castle Gorge Loop; elevation ranges from 3572 at the top of the gorge to 1700 at the parking area off CC Camp Road (VA Rte 605) Blue Ridge Parkway; Rocky Knob National Recreation Area.

Hi! My name is Jack and I am a 9 ½ year old border collie and I am a trail runner.

Like most humans, I found my way onto trail by luck and accident, in need for something to fill the time.  Even though I was born and raised on a sheep farm and trained by the best, I didn’t care for it. I bounced around a lot between farms, anxiety growing at every stop.

Owners hoped I would take to their sheep, but I never did. 

After a few years of taking it easy on a hobby farm in Virginia, I was given to some of their friends. I was concerned that this would be like all the other home changes, but my new paw-rents (Jonathan, who we call Doc, and Rebecca) were different, they went running.

The second day I was at their house, they took me hiking up a mountain. I thought I was going to die! I didn’t know I was so out of shape. But it was so much fun! I loved it! I wanted to do it again! We started running on the local rail trail. It was paved, but I was out there. Little by little, they would take me for running on the trail and other routes they said were safe from cars and other dogs.

My people started driving me to trails to run. So I am a certified trail runner dog now.

I get mad when we don’t leave in the morning to go run. I now have 2 younger border collie half sisters, I am told that I am responsible for training them on how to run on trail. Geez, they are a handful. So that’s my story and how I ended up loving trail running. I am here to give you my trail reviews. The trails I love.

Really, I love them all. I just want to run all of them. They’re all great. But here are some of the ones I have run on. So find a furry friend and get out there! Doc is veterinarian and he keeps me healthy. We will share some tips on trail running with your pooch as well.

Okay, first trail is one that is close to home for us but it’s Awesome!!!!

It’s my favorite. Rock Castle Gorge Trail. It is a tough trail and definitely not a beginner trail for human or dog. The loop is 10.8 miles with steep climbing. We always start at the base of the gorge, off CC Camp road. The start of the trail here is a gated fire road, once around the gate, we immediately turn right onto the the single track. This follows along the creek for about a mile and then starts the heavy climbing. Over 1,000 feet in 3 miles.

The trail is narrow and steep, with rock outcroppings that I sometimes need help getting up and over. There are plenty of drinking pools for me as we cross creeks and runoff locations up the gorge. A few spots to look out into the gorge of hardwoods.

Once we climb, the trail opens into the pasture that parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway. Doc says the views are great. I can only see the 3 feet off the ground, so I can see the gorge overlook views, but take his word that the Piedmont and countryside views are great Sometimes there are cows in the pastures. That’s a little scary since they are scared of me and act like they want to charge.

The pasture section rolls up and down. There are some rock outcroppings and we pass one of the old AT shelters. This part of the trail was part of the original AT before it was relocated in the 1950s. There is a great view of the valley and Bull Mountain from the overlook just above the shelter.

Most of this section is exposed and it can get hot during the summer. I get excited when we get to the communication tower that is along the trail. That means the last of the cattle cross-over ladders and heading back into the hardwood forest with plenty of water stops for me. I don’t like those wooden ladders and either fight to go under them or have to be picked up and moved over them.

We start descending rather quickly after we cross the cattle fence. It’s about a 875 foot drop in elevation through hardwood forests and a really cool rock outcropping, known as Bare Rocks. It’s awesome and fun to to maneuver through the boulder field, except when the rocks are wet.

They can treacherous then. After the boulder field, we come to the trail intersection with the fire road. We turn left and head down the gorge. This part follows the creek and has great views of the little cascades with the trail. There is one large white house half way down that is privately owned. It is hard to believe that at one time this little gorge was home to over 30 families. I would live there too because it’s pretty and a great place to run and hike. After a steady decline of about 2 miles we make it back to the parking area.

Doc’s tips for trail running with your dog

  • Don’t force it. Just like I didn’t take to sheep herding as my breed is suppose to, but I love to trail run and hike. They pull my harness out and I get excited and tell them I want to go by wagging my tail and barking.
  • Start slow on wide paths so your human and the dog can get the feel of running and hiking with a leash.
  • Invest in a harness; they can control me better in one. Make sure it fits properly. My favorite is the Ruffwear Front Range Harness
  • Make sure your paw-rents carry water or the route has plenty of spots for you to drink at.  
  • Stay healthy with proper vaccinations for the outdoors and flea and tick preventative.  

Hope to see you and your human out there. Follow my adventures on Instagram @pawsaroundthepeninsula