Saturday, April 30, 2011

Big Schloss - George Washington National Forest Wolf Gap Recreation Area, VA

ABOUT THE PARK: Big Schloss - Wikipedia

GPS Coordinates 38.92409, -78.68865

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National Geographic 792 Massanutten & Great North Mountain Trail Map

HIKE DISTANCE:  4.4 miles

From the parking lot, look for the restroom building and follow the trail in that direction.  Go through the split rail fence beyond the restrooms, cross the paved road and pick up the orange-blazed Mill Mountain Trail to the right of camp site #9.
The trail switchbacks up then levels out along the ridge.  West Virginia will be on your left, Virginia on your right.
Enjoy several views along the ridge.
At the intersection, turn right on the white-blazed trail towards Big Schloss.
Cross the newly constructed bridge (Fall 2010) to Big Schloss.
While the bridge was very sturdy and did not bother me at all with my fear of heights, I just could not bring myself to scramble up the rocks at the end for the best views.  So even if you can't go all the way, there is still plenty of scenery to enjoy and the hike is still worth it.

[  0.00]  From the parking lot follow trail past restroom, across paved road, to traihead for the orange-blazed Mill Mountain Trail to the right of camp site #9
[  0.30]  Trail starts to switchback up
[  0.80]  Trail levels out along ridge
[  1.90]  Right at fork on white-blazed trail to Big Schloss
[  2.10]  Cross bridge to Big Schloss; retrace back
[  2.50]  At intersection turn left on orange-blazed Mill Mountain Trail
[  4.40]  Arrive back at parking lot

Friday, April 29, 2011

Apple Orchard Mountain - Blue Ridge Parkway/Jefferson National Forest, VA

ABOUT THE PARK:  Apple Orchard Mountain - Wikipedia

GPS Coordinates 37.507866, -79.524040

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Apple Orchard Falls and Cornelius Creek Trails Brochure (partial: shows parking to A.T.) - US Forest Service

HIKE DISTANCE:  4.25 miles

This hike can be done in conjunction with the Apple Orchard Falls hike but since it was raining pretty hard at the higher elevations on the day I did the falls hike, I saved the mountain for a prettier day.  The mountain hike starts on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Apple Orchard Falls sign.
Follow the paved trail next to the sign which soon turns veers right into a dirt trail then comes to an intersection with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail, the route to the summit of Apple Orchard Mountain.
FAA Radome at the summit.
Open grassy areas at the summit make for nice break spots with great views.

Continue across on the A.T. and descend about a quarter of a mile to see The Guillotine before heading back:

[  0.00]  Start on paved trail at overlook sign in parking lot
[  0.30]  Right on white-blazed Appalachian Trail at intersection
[  0.35]  Cross Parker Gap Road
[  1.85]  Summit of Apple Orchard Mountain; unofficial trails behind summit sign to views; continue on A.T.
[  2.05]  Stone steps descend
[  2.10]  Guillotine; retrace steps
[  2.35]  Back at summit; unofficial trails behind summit sign to views
[  3.90]  Cross Parker Gap Road
[  3.95]  At intersection turn left on Apple Orchard Falls Trail
[  4.25]  Back at parking lot

Flat Top Mountain, Peaks of Otter, Blue Ridge Parkway, VA

Peaks of Otter - National Park Service

GPS Coordinates for Flat Top Parking: 37.468368, -79.580441

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The Flat Top Trail can also be accessed from it's opposite end to be done in conjunction with the Sharp Top hike.

TRAIL MAP:  Peaks of Otter - National Park Service

HIKE DISTANCE:  5.65 miles

Sharp Top (left) and Flat Top (right)
Trail becomes more rugged and switchbacks up.
At 2.1 miles come to an intersection with a trail to Cross Rock.  This trail descends very steeply so remember you have to climb back up.  Other hikers told me it is not worth it so I did not take that trail.  Do look around the intersection for some rocks to scramble up on for views.
Apple Orchard Mountain (with white ball on top) from Cross Rock intersection.
View from Cross Rock intersection.
No views from the actual summit but wander around the maze of trails at the summit and scramble up rocks for views.
Rock scramble to western view.
Western View
Eastern View
Sharp Top from Flat Top
White-spotted Slimy Salamander
Eastern Towhee

[  0.00]  Start Flat Rock Trail from parking lot
[  2.10]  Intersection with trail to Cross Rock; rock scramble to views
[  2.55]  Short side trail to left to rock outcrop with view
[  2.65]  Keep right at multiple intersections to summit sign; right to rock scramble to view
[  2.80]  Explore maze of trails at summit for rock scrambles with views on both sides; start back from summit sign
[  3.15]  Intersection with trail to Cross Rock; rock scramble to views
[  5.65]  Back at parking lot

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Apple Orchard Falls, Jefferson National Forest, VA

ABOUT THE PARK:  Apple Orchard Falls - US Forest Service

GPS Coordinates 37.5296,-79.553

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TRAIL MAP:  Apple Orchard Falls and Cornelius Creek Trails Brochure - US Forest Service

HIKE DISTANCE:  5.6 miles

Since I prefer to ascend more steeply and descend less steeply, I took the steeper Apple Orchard Falls trail up.  On this particular day, it was not raining at the beginning of the hike but the higher I climbed, the harder it rained.  Turned out to be a very nice hike anyway.
Where there are two bridges to the left, take the second bridge.
Watch your step!
Apple Orchard Falls
Wooden steps after Apple Orchard Falls
View from a bench almost at the top of the wooden steps - even nice on a rainy day.
The top of the falls.
The Cornelius Creek Trail descends back to the parking lot and is just a plain old trail through the woods in the beginning but once it meets up with the creek you'll be following the creek and rock hopping across several times making this a very pleasant and scenic part of the hike.  Unfortunately, my camera got damp from the drizzle and would not take any more pictures until it had dried out at the end of the hike so I don't have any pictures from the best part of the trail.

[  0.00]  From parking lot take the Apple Orchard Falls Trail to left of information board
[  0.20]  Right at fork
[  1.15]  At second bridge turn left and cross bridge
[  1.45]  Trail sign pointing in opposite direction, ignore and continue straight ahead
[  1.70]  Cross two consecutive bridges
[  1.80]  Bridges and decking at Apple Orchard Falls; ascend wooden steps after falls; view at bench
[  2.15]  Bridge at top of falls
[  2.50]  At intersection turn right on woods road, Apple Orchard Falls Road
[  3.50]  At intersection keep straight on Cornelius Creek Trail, a footpath leaving the woods road
[  4.10]  Cross Cornelius Creek; trail becomes very scenic with multiple rock hops across creek
[  4.60]  Cross creek then cross bridge
[  5.65]  Back at parking lot