Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gerhard Shelter Loop - Great North Mountain

The Great North Mountain area, which is west of Front Royal on the Virginia/West Virginia border is an area I often overlook it when planning hikes. I'm not sure why that is because there are some really nice hikes there. We've hiked a lot of the trails in the area over the years, but the Gerhard Shelter loop was an exception. It fit the bill for Sunday, meeting two criteria: we had never been there and it included a small part of the Tuscarora Trail. We are trying to hike more of the non-road portions of that route (unfortunately, there are still many miles of road walking on it).

We started under cloudy skies. The trail immediately climbs away from Waites Run Road and switchbacks up a ridge for a couple of miles. As we climbed, the patches of snow turned into an inch or so covering the trail. By the time we made the top of the ridge, ice covered all of the tree limbs and mountain laurel leaves. The mountain laurel drooped over the trail under the weight of all of the ice. When we hiked through it, it sounded like we were pushing through beaded curtains. At the very top of the ridge, we were treated to a stunning view of the mountains to the east and West Virginia to our left.

We stopped for lunch at Gerhard Shelter, a nice small shelter on top of the ridge. The only downside of camping there is the closest water source is over half a mile down a very steep trail. After lunch, we hiked down the steep trail to reach a forest road which took us to the Vance Cove Trail. Eventually, we came out onto Waites Run Road to complete the loop. It was a lovely hike even with a significant amount of forest road walking. We saw one group of backbackers high up on the ridge.

The Tuscarora Trail on the way in the switchbacks that made up the first couple of miles of the hike.
Ice on mountain laurel leaves.
A cool fungus on a log.
The view to the east from the top of the ridge.
The Tuscarora Trail on the top of the ridge.
Michael finishing his lunch in Gerhard Shelter.
The forest road near the bottom of the valley
Racoon tracks in the snow on the road.
Rabbit tracks.
Waites Run near the end of the hike.
Anther view of Waites Run.
A cool lichen on a rock.

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