Sunday, March 7, 2010

Buzzard Rock: 65 Degrees and Snowy

It isn't very often that you get to hike in short sleeves when there is still almost a foot of snow on the top of the ridge.  It also isn't very often in the Mid-Atlantic that there is a foot of snow left on the ground on March 7.  Today was a beautiful day:  bright, sunny, and warm, with lots of snow.

Three of us started out from Elizabeth Furnace and hiked 2.5 miles of the Tuscaroora Trail up to Shawl Gap.  Passage Creek was running at the top of its banks in places and is trying to swallow the trail near the picnic grounds.  There wasn't any snow in the valley, but about a third of the way to Shawl Gap, the trail was completely covered in snow.  It was pretty icy, so it was one more chance to use the microspikes and yaktrax this year.  We ate lunch in the warm sun at Shawl Gap next to an old U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey Marker.

After lunch, we turned left and headed towards Buzzard Rock.  The trail climbed quickly to a small peak before beginning a long descent to the rocks.  Although initially snow-free, after the first peak, the trail stayed just to the west side of the ridge in the shade and remained covered in pretty deep snow.  The afternoon sun warmed the snow, making it slushy and slippery.  As usual on snow, our pace slowed down quite a bit.  By the time we made it out to Buzzard Rock, it was warm enough in the sun that we didn't need jackets, even when we stopped to take pictures. 

Buzzard Rock is really more of a knife-edged ridge than a specific rock.  The west side of the ridge is a straight drop, nearly to Passage Creek 500 feet below.  There are good views of the Mansanutten trail to the west, across the valley and of Shenandoah to the east.

Today felt like spring and still looked like winter.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
The trail up to Shawl Gap.
The upper part of the trail to Shawl Gap.
The north part of Shenandoah National Park to the east.  Skyline Drive is visible near the top of the ridge.
Looking south along Buzzard Rock.
Looking down at Passage Creek and Virginia State Road 678.
Boot shot over a gooseneck of Passage Creek.
Sheer drop off the east side of Buzzard Rock.
Elizabeth Furnace, a blast furnace used to make pig iron in the mid 19th century.

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