Monday, March 3, 2014

Little North Mountain in the Rain

Little North Mountain is a wonderful, often overlooked, mid-length hike in the Great North Mountain area of the George Washington National Forest. It is overshadowed by its flashier neighbors, Big Schloss and Tibbet Knob. Finding the trailhead is a little bit of a test of map-reading skills. The hike starts at a nondescript pullout on rural highway southwest of Strassburg, Virginia. The pullout is easy to miss. There are no signs, and worse yet, there is a larger pullout literally around the next corner.

Six of us (eight, if you include the dogs) set out under gray skies. At first, the Tea Hollow Trail (really, an old roadbed) is easy to follow and has the appearance of having been maintained sometime in the last fifty years. The road follows Cove Run up the valley, towards the saddle between Tea and Little North Mountains. About half a mile in, there is a dirt berm across the roadbed and beyond that, it sort of all falls apart. The road bed is easy enough to keep track of, but there are a lot of blowdowns. A lot. If anyone has carried a saw into Tea Hollow in the last twenty years, they certainly didn't use it to clear the path. This isn't anything new. It looks exactly the same as it did two years ago. Then there is the greenbriar, that tears at pantlegs and skin. All of this is before the official bushwhack starts, three miles into the hike. I actually enjoy picking my way through all of that. It sort of adds to the adventure. The person who had to weave his dog's leash through each of the blowdowns didn't enjoy that part of the hike quite as much.

The road eventually just disappears and we were left to hike up the valley. It is a simple enough bushwhack, because one basically just has to follow Cove Run. The spring has a pretty little pool surrounded by moss-covered rocks. Nearby, we picked up the path up to the ridge. I think this path exists for Tuscarora Trail hikers who need to find water.

Just as we arrived on the ridge and the Tuscarora Trail, it started to rain. The temperature dropped steadily and the wind picked up. We also started to run into remnants of snow on the trail. We knew the front was coming in, so we were prepared, but I have to say, high 30s and rain aren't my favorite hiking conditions. The hike along the top of Little North Mountain was pleasant and easy. The clouds had rolled in, so we didn't get any views, but it is a nice hike anyway.

This is the hike if you are looking for solitude. We didn't see anyone else all day. The only downside of the hike is the mile walk back to the car along the road.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 A white fungus on a fallen branch.
 Leaves trapped under ice.
 Two members of our group following Cove Run towards the Tuscarora Trail.
 The Tuscarora Trail on top of Little North Mountain.
By the end of the hike, the clouds had settled down onto the mountain and we were hiking in the fog. This is the view to the east from the trail.

No comments:

Post a Comment