Sunday, March 1, 2015

North Fork Mountain

My husband and I have driven past North Fork Mountain  and its distinctive cliffband countless times on our way to Dolly Sods and Roaring Plains. We always talk about how we should actually hike there, especially after friends of ours made a movie there. We finally made it out there yesterday with our friend and her dog. We took snowshoes with us, but it turned out we didn't need them. There was plenty of snow, but enough hikers had gone before us that the snow was already stomped down.

The climb from the valley floor begins immediately at the parking lot. The trail steadily, but not unpleasantly ascends for 1.6 miles to the first overlooking of the valley to the west. Once we reached the ridgeline, we found a sunny spot with a nice view for lunch. It was a perfect bluebird day with temperatures in the low 20s and bright blue skies for most of the day. After lunch, we continued on and climbed up to the top of Chimney Top. I had seen pictures of the area, but Chimney Top is really spectacular in person.  We spent a long time exploring the area around the overlook, being careful of the snow and the edges of the cliffs.

At that point, our friend's dog was having a little bit of trouble with the snow, so we decided to head back. We'll definitely be back to explore the area.
The valley west of North Fork Mountain from where we had lunch
Chimney Top and the valley to the west.
The outcrops of Chimney Top.
The weathered cliffs of Chimney Top.
A tiny mountain laurel clinging to a rock.
Looking south along the ridge of North Fork Mountain. The prominent cliff band is Tuscarora Quartzite, a hard metamorphic rock that is resistant to erosion.
Another view of the valley to the west.
Bootshot overlooking the ridge of North Fork Mountain.
Snow on the slopes of the mountain.
A tree growing on the side of Chimney Top.
A pine cone on a tree on top of the ridge.
The power plant and wind turbines to the north on Mount Storm.
Late afternoon sun on the snow on the way down.
A line of (likely) bobcat tracks in the snow.

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