Sunday, January 19, 2014

Long Mountain: Bushwhacking in the Snow

Yesterday's hike started from the Trout Run trailhead along Trout Run Road in the Great North Mountain area of the George Washington National Forest. This area is just over the border into West Virginia, near Big Schloss. There was about an inch of snow on the ground at the trailhead. It was also cold, around 18 degrees. Our party included two dogs, who were very, very happy about the snow. One of them started his hike by doing barrel rolls in it. We crossed Trout Run on a nice footbridge and then began the climb up to the top of Cherry Ridge. The snow got a little deeper as we climbed, but not too bad. Every time the wind blew snow up my pant leg I repeated my wish that I had remembered my gaiters. 

We made good time getting up and over the ridge and soon enough, we reached the point where we needed to leave the trail and begin the nearly 2.5 mile bushwhack over Long Mountain. Since that spot was relatively sheltered from the wind and it was sunny, we took a standing break for lunch. Before long, though, everyone was cold and it was time to move on. 

The first 100 yards of the bushwhack were tough. The area had been cleared relatively recently, so it was pretty overgrown with small trees and shrubs. Once we pushed through that, the forest opened up and travel became a lot easier. We meandered our way up the ridge, aiming for a rock outcrop called Dog Rock. I suspect we meandered a bit too far southeast and I am not sure we made it to Dog Rock itself. The ridgeline of Long Mountain is dotted with outcrops. None of them, from what we could see, stand out as distinctive from the others. We had a nice view through the trees, though, given the wind, we didn't linger. We descended a steep gully, happy that it was free of snow and meandered generally east through the woods towards Trout Run Road. 

At the bottom of the valley, we followed an old road bed, which paralleled Trout Run Road. The idea was that we would be able to spot a gravel road on the other side of Trout Run Road (which we could see) through the trees. With the snow, we completely missed it and wound up at the boundary of some private land. At that point, we decided to walk back up the Trout Run Road so we wouldn't miss it again. It turned out that we had only missed it by a hundred yards or so. 

Back on trail, we made great time on the last half of the hike. Towards the end of the hike, we saw one other hiking party - the only other people we encountered the entire day. We arrived back at the car right at dusk. It was a cold, beautiful adventure.

Trout Run at the beginning of the hike.
Michael hiking up the Long Mountain Trail above Trout Run.
The junction of the Long Mountain Trail with a fire road.
A small stream on the east side of Long Mountain.
A clump of snow caught in the needles of a White Pine.
Hiking up the untracked Half Moon Trail.
Sunset near the end of the hike on the Bucktail Cutoff Trail.

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