Monday, August 29, 2016

Roaring Plains, or We Actually Went Backpacking

We went out to Roaring Plains with a couple of friends two weekends ago. The weather forecast, honestly, wasn't great. There were significant chances for showers both days, so I wasn't sure how it was going to go. Our itinerary was a little up in the air depended on how fast we were able to hike. I was hoping to explore a little bit more than the area where we've been up there. We were also hoping for blueberries. Neither of those things happened, but we still had a really nice trip.

Saturday, we really won the weather lottery. There were scattered clouds and a couple of times it looked like some of them might organized themselves into something more assertive, but it never happened. The temperature was nice and it was mostly sunny. Flowers were blooming everywhere in the bogs and meadows in an end-of-summer bonanza. We did find some blueberries, but only just enough for our morning oatmeal. Many of the blueberries we found were well past their prime. We made pretty good time to the gas line cut. From there the trail (which it technically is, but calling it that is...generous) gets more challenging to follow. When we did this trip two years ago, it took all four of us and two dogs paying attention to keep to the route. It was no different this time, although we only had one dog. Late in the afternoon, we picked a wonderful campsite right on the rim of the plateau with a great view of North Fork Mountain and Seneca Rocks to the southeast.
The path across one of the heath balds. The low shrubs are almost all blueberries.
 Picking blueberries.
The gas line cut through the area. After this the trail gets much more challenging.
Rudebeckia laciniata (Cut-Leaf Coneflower)
 The view from the promontory aptly named, "The Point"
 The same overlook.
 The view from our campsite.
Sunset from our campsite.

Clouds rolled in overnight and we woke up to overcast skies and high winds. The rain held off long enough for us to eat breakfast, but not long enough for us to keep the tent dry while we packed up. We debated which way to go: to continue on the loop or to turn back the way we came. As we were discussing it, the clouds lifted and we spotted some blue sky. We continued on the loop. The section of this trail (again, a term used generously here) between our campsite and where it meets up with the Roaring Plains Trail is probably one of the most rugged trails I've hiked in the mid-Atlantic. Even having hiked this before, we really had to pay attention to stay on the route. Even so, we had to backtrack several times to get back on the right path. By the time we reached the long boulder field that the trail descends, the wind had mostly dried the rocks, which made that section easier. The weather held exactly as long as we needed it to: As soon as we made it to the bottom of the boulder field, it started raining lightly again. We finally made it to the junction with the Roaring Plains Trial just before noon: three hours to go a little over two miles.

We caught another break in the rain for lunch at a nice campsite at the junction. As soon as we began packing up, the rain started again and, this time, with purpose. We took a right on the well-maintained Roaring Plains Trail and our pace tripled. Soon enough, we reached the forest road that we had to hike for a couple of miles back to the car.

It was a great trip. This is one of my favorite areas to hike. I want to get back up there again and do more exploring. I sort of assumed that, since we had hiked the rough section two years ago, that we would move faster on it this time, which was wrong. It is just a hard, slow section of trail to navigate. Lesson learned and we'll do a different route next time if I want to see a different part of the plateau. Another bonus: We didn't see a single other person the entire weekend.
Waking up to gray skies.
Overcast, slightly dreary view before breakfast.
 After the first rain shower moved through, fog rose from the creeks in the valleys.
 Contemplating the boulder field.
 Platanthera ciliaris (Yellow Fringed Orchid). One of the more interesting plants in this area.
Gentiana linearis (Narrow-leaved Gentian). These beautiful little flowers were going off everywhere.

No comments:

Post a Comment