Monday, January 23, 2012

Ice and Snow at Little North Mountain

I stumbled across the description for Little North Mountain last week, which included a phrase along the lines of, "one of the best kept secrets in the area," and thought we should give it a try.  There is a ton of hiking in the Great North Mountain area (on the Virginia/West Virginia border) and we have only hiked Big Schloss.  Little North Mountain is not a long hike - only 8.5 miles - but it promised nice views and a short bushwhack. 

We found the parking area easily and set off down a old, snow-covered fire road.  The first mile was pretty easy going.  After an initial downhill to get to Cove Run, the old road trended gently upwards, following the creek upstream.  Cove Run entertained us with lots of small waterfalls and glass-like pools surrounded by snowy logs.  Then the blowdowns started.  I lost count of how many we had to climb over or scramble around, but it was a lot.  The dog with us got a lot of agility practice.  That isn't a complaint:  It definitely added to the adventure. 

Eventually, the road ended and we needed to bushwhack to the top of the ridge.  The rosebushes and briars just added to the challenge.  We flushed three grouse out of one thicket.  They took of in their characteristic spectacular fashion, catching the attention of the dog hiking with us (on leash, so her interest didn't get her anywhere).  We continued uphill, following the creek to its headwaters:  a pretty little spring surrounded by snow.  On the opposite bank, we noticed a path leading uphill in the right direction.  We followed it cautiously, keeping an eye on where we wanted to end up.  Pretty soon, we started to see old sawed logs, indications that it was a maintained trail at some point.  It was pretty narrow and faint in places and we didn't see any blazes, but after ten minutes, we popped out onto the Tuscarora Trail.

Just before we hit arrived at the Tuscarora Trail, we reached an elevation where hoar frost had formed on the trees.  Everything was coated in tiny needles of ice, giving the forest a spectacular, other-worldly appearance.  We turned east and then north on the Tuscarora Trail, which was a superhighway compared to the path up the hill.  The hoar frost needles got larger as we got higher.  Some of them were almost an inch long.  We did not, however, get any views.  The top of the ridge was socked in the clouds.  The spectacular frost made up for it, though. 

The rest of the hike was a pleasant ridge walk.  When we reached the road, we had a brief encounter with a young yard dog.  His owner came out to settle him down and we left without incident, but it was a tense few moments.  The only downside of the hike was the mile road walk back to the car.  The road is narrow and people drive fairly fast, so we had to be alert for cars coming around the blind corners. 

Overall, it was a great hike and we are looking forward to more explorations of the area.  I also wanted to add a note of thanks for the excellent description of the hike on Mid-Atlantic Hikes. 

Pictures (click to enlarge):
The old road was initially a clear, wide, easy path.
 A small waterfall on cove run.
Interesting fungi on a snowy log.
Another small waterfall on cove run.
Climbing through a blowdown.
Climbing through another blowdown. 
Sammie guiding the way through the bushwhack.
Small hoar frost crystals on Mountain Laurel.
Higher up on the ridge, the crystals got bigger.
 The Tuscarora Trail on the top of Little North Mountain.  All of the trees were covered in hoar frost.
 More hoar frost.
Frost-covered trees at one of the socked in overlooks.

1 comment:

  1. I love following your hikes! The shots are wonderful and I always come away feeling like I learned something! Thanks for sharing.