Monday, January 18, 2010

Signal Knob - What a Difference a Week Makes

Three of us took advantage of the Federal holiday today.  We hiked a 10.6 mile loop including Signal Knob and Meneka Peak in the George Washington National Forest.  Signal Knob is at the north end of the west ridge of Mansanutten Mountain.  The weather today was a nice break from the cold that we had through most of December and the first half of January.  There were no clouds in the sky and by the afternoon, the temperature would be over 50 degrees.

We started up the orange-blazed Signal Knob Trail just ahead of a group of Boy Scouts.  Ten minutes into the hike we had to stop to shed layers. No hats and gloves were needed for the first time in weeks.  After yesterday's rain, most of the trail was clear of snow.  The trails in the Mansanutten area make one appreciate the less rocky trails of Shenandoah National Park.  This one is certainly no exception.  The Signal Knob Trail crosses several inactive rock slides that keep eyes focused on the trail.  Look up for too long and you will soon trip over a rock. 

At the signed Fort Valley Overlook, we took a couple of pictures.  From there, the trail curves around, following the ridgeline to the north to the junction with the Meneka Peak Trail.  As we climbed higher, patchy snow appeared in the woods.  Just beyond the junction, there was a short stretch of trail covered in snow, the only real snow we saw on the trail today.

Signal Know itself was sunny and warm.  We sat on the rocks, ate our lunch and chatted with a couple of mountain bikers doing nearly the same loop we were.  It is a rare treat to sit in the sun in January and not need a coat.  We returned to the Meneka Peak trail and followed it along the ridgeline to where it meets the Tuscarora Trail.  The Tuscarora Trail winds nearly four miles down the ridge into the valley where it meets up with the beginning of the Signal Knob trail, half a mile from the parking lot. All in all, it was a beautiful day and a great hike.

The Signal Knob Trail just above the first overlook.

The view southeast from the Fort Valley overlook.

The last remnants of snow on the trail.
Lichen and moss on a log.
A small waterfall on the Tuscarora Trail.

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