Old Brown Mountain Trail News

Earlier Brown Mountain Trail News

(November 5, 2011) Most of the leaves have fallen, but what remain are quite colorful.  These include maples and even some Black Huckleberry bushes which had already turned in early October.  Even with most leaves down, the trail isn't too bad for leaves on it, much already blown off.  I cleaned the water bars.  A snow on October 28 left some tree bend into the trail, but mostly at the lower elevations.  Big Run is running high enough that you need to wade to cross it. 

(October 8, 2011) Fall colors are already evident.  The Black Gums, some Maples, and some Sassafras are showing red leaves, plus some yellows on Hickory, Birch, and even some Chestnut Oak.  The trail is in good shape, and Big Run is running well, but not high.  I saw 6 hikers, including 4 in the Wanderbirds Club from Washington, DC. 

(September 3, 2011) Big Run remains low even though there's been a lot of rain in the last few weeks.  The trail was trimmed again, no hikers seen although two vehicles were parked at the trailhead.  I found and ate 6 blueberries.  Black Gum leaves are starting to turn red. 

(August 7, 2011) It's hardly rained in the last month and Big Run is low.  Blueberries are almost gone.  With the slow growth and a trimming today, the Trail is fairly clear. 

(July 9, 2011) Ripe blueberries!  Early in the season, so expect them for several weeks.  I trimmed the growth of plants back, but there's an awful lot.  Big Run is at a typical summer level--not too low, but should be easy to cross. 

(June 25, 2011) The first 200 yards of the trail has been weed-whacked. 

(June 4, 2011) Mountain Laurel in peak bloom!  Especially above 2500' in elevation.  Blueberries not yet ripe but may be soon.  A few Serviceberries to be found, but the birds get them quickly.  Dry and hot for two weeks has brought Big Run down to where it should be crossable on the Portal Trail. 

(May 7, 2011) We've had a lot of rain and wind this spring, but there was little blowdown/fallen branches on the trail.  The Azaleas are in bloom (won't be for long) and the aroma is heavenly!  Mountain Laurel will be blooming in a few weeks.  I saw some Polygala which I hadn't seen over the last three years.  Big Run is running fairly high, and can be a challenge to cross. 

(February 3, 2011) A fairly big snow fell on January 26, which has mostly melted, but it has raised the water level of Big Run, which had been dry at US 340.  It's more moderately high, but crossings on the Portal Trail would be difficult to stay dry-footed, not unusual for winter.  Some snow remains high on the mountains, but the Skyline Drive has been closed most of the time from the snow. 

(December 11, 2010)
The Park Service has cut down all the brush below Brown Mountain Overlook.  Some of the remains crowd the Trail.  It is passable, but I had to pull some branches reaching into the Trail, and will no doubt have to do some more, down to the second switchback.  The leaves are all down, and though some places have leaves covering the Trail, it's not too bad.  A lot of branches had fallen from winds, and I cleared them, as well as the waterbars.  Big Run is running fairly high. 
As I headed out through a shallow snow, I found only one set of footprints--only one hiker since the snow fell, about a week before.  No cars were parked at the Overlook.  But I met two hikers coming up, and soon after that I was overtaken by 7 hikers of the Charlottesville Chapter of the PATC, led by none other than Ken Moss, my co-overseer. 


(October 30, 2010)
Fall colors past peak, but there are still a lot of pretty colors.  Now it is mostly Maples (red and yellow), Hickories (yellow), Sassafras (yellow or orange), and Tuliptrees (yellow).  Oak leaves have mostly become brown.  I was out with co-overseer Ken Moss, and we cleared several blowdowns in the first 2.5 miles of the trail (shouldn't be any past that).  Ken has a GPS which gives distances a little less than what I have, but I think the GPS cuts switchbacks! 

(October 15, 2010)
Fall colors are evident, although not yet at peak.  Black Gums (red) and Sassafras (yellow or orange or red) are most colorful, although Black Gums may not hold their leaves much long.  Hickories are bright yellow at the low elevations, and you can see the hickory concentration near Big Run if you view from Brown Mountain.  Black Huckleberry plants have red leaves now, too.  Maples have started to turn, but they should look better later.  Oaks are mostly green still.  Lots of trees have already lost leaves due to the drought, but the ones remaining should have reasonable good color changes.  Big Run is flowing down to at least one mile from US 340, but is low and should be easy to cross above the Portal.  There are a few blowdowns (between Mile 1.2 and 2.5) that were duck-unders that have settled into inconvenient height--I'll try to get them cleared in the next month or so. 
Work on the Skyline Drive continues, and they have Swift Run and Sandy Bottom Overlooks closed.  As construction continues, they may close the Brown Mountain Overlook, cutting off access to the Brown Mountain Trail.  It hasn't happened yet, but may in the next few months (or maybe next spring if they stop for winter). 

(September 11, 2010)
It's dry again, but not yet as dry as in July--the new leaves are still green, but the brown ones are still on.  There are some early fall colors on the Black Gum, Red Maple, and Sassafras trees, making for a colorful hike.  I opened up some close growth in the middle of the trail, not much else needed work.  Again, there were 2 cars at the overlook, but I didn't see any hikers on the trail.

(August 7, 2010)
We've had more rain, and many plants that turned brown are putting out new leaves.  Almost no blueberries found.  We had some vicious windstorms in the Valley, but little more than branches down.  The only trees needing sawing were Sassafras that bears pull down.  Big Run is low, but enough water to swim in at the bridge.  There were 2 cars at the overlook, but I didn't see them on the trail. 

(July 10, 2010)
It has been very hot and dry, but it rained July 9.  The drought has been very damaging: almost no blueberries are available (rare, small, and not as good tasting, although many have not yet ripened), and many plants have apparently died or gone dormant--the leaves just turned and orange brown, especially in the slab area.  No hikers or cars at the overlook. 

(June 5, 2010)
Mountain Laurel still out, at least at higher elevations, lower elevations about done.  A few ripe Serviceberries, and I picked the first blueberry, although it wasn't fully ripe.  A storm last night washed a lot of debris on the trail, although it is not eroded.  No hikers or cars at the overlook seen. 

(May 15, 2010)
Mountain Laurel is already out!  In places, especially at lower elevations, some bushes are in full bloom; others are just starting to bloom.  It looks like the next two weeks will be good for Mountain Laurel blooms.  First ripe Serviceberry--at the Rocky Mountain E summit.  A lot of spring growth had to be cut back.  Only two Lady's Slippers, although there are several other plants there.  Water levels are still dropping, and it should be easy to cross Big Run on the Portal Trail.  No hikers seen this day, but there was one car left at the overlook. 

(April 10, 2010)
Spring has come with vengeance with the first 7 days with high temperatures of 80° F or more.  The trees have started to leaf out, even at the higher elevations of this trail.  It looks more like the end of April.  On the other hand, ground wildflowers were delayed, but many early ones came and went very quickly.  Serviceberry and Trailing Arbutus are in bloom, but may not be much longer.  There are few other wildflowers out yet.  Water levels are dropping, but slowly. 
I whacked away at some of the bent-down plants.  A group of 9 hikers from the DC area hiked this trail this day. 

(March 19, 2010)
Extended warm days combined with rain have brought an end to the snow!  On March 19 there were still a few small snow patches in the shade of Rocky Mountain by the Trail, but probably not much longer.  I hiked the Trail and cleared off the branches and blowdowns so the trail is clear.  Big Run is flowing high, and it is not recommended hiking the Portal Trail unless you have waterproof boots or like to wade in freezing water.  No wildflowers yet.  The snows bent down the plants into the Trail some, more work in the next months. 

(February 23, 2010)
The snowiest winter around here continues.  Less than a week without snow on the ground, after a warm rain (and very high water!) on January 24.  On the 29th I checked part of the Trail--not too bad, but the snow mashed down some berry plants on the side of the trail, and I'll have a lot to trim even before spring growth.  Then five snows within two weeks fell starting January 30.  The whole month of February with snow on the ground and the Skyline Drive closed!  Maybe it will be melted by early March...

(January 6, 2010)
It snowed on December 5 (5") and again on December 18 (20+"), and it has been cold in most of the time since.  The snow has not melted, except on south-facing slopes (and the Brown Mountain Trail mostly faces north), and the Skyline Drive remains closed.  We had a lot of rain in November and Big Run is flowing strong, so even if you could get there, you'd have to wade! 
I haven't been on the trail since October, and am anxious to get out there again. 

(October 17, 2009) - Fall colors in force!  Leaves are changing early this fall, and with the current cool weather, I thought things would be changed more up on the mountain than down here, but it's still greener up there so far due to the Hickories plentiful here.  Still there are lots of colors to be seen.  Yellows are provided by Birches, Witchhazel, and some Maples and Sassafras.  Reds are provided by Black Huckleberry plants, a few remaining Black Gums, Maple-leafed Viburnums, and some Maples and Sassafras.  Most impressive are red leaves on the berry plants by the trail in the Rocky Mountain burn area (about 2.4 miles from Skyline Drive).  I was hoping the Scrub Oaks near Big Run Portal would be red, but no so--brown once again.  Big Run flow is still low, and it goes dry more than a mile upstream from US 340. 

(September 19, 2009) - I found very few blueberries, and picked only 5.  Still--that's a long season, as I've seen ripe ones since June.  Black Gums and blueberry plants are getting red leaves, as are some maples.  The rest of waterbars were cleaned and four minor blowdowns were removed.  Surprisingly, I didn't have to get Sassafras trees out the the trail. 

(September 12, 2009) - On August 29 I cut out a tree fallen over the trail about 1 mile from the Skyline Drive.  Today I worked on waterbars down near Big Run.  Only a few blueberries found down low, and the few chinkapins were picked off.  Big Run is low, but trickling as it goes under the bridge in the Portal.  Some places on the trail may have Sassafras trees bend down by the bears, but not the lower part. 

(August 8, 2009) - Blueberries still ripe, although rather small and maybe dried up at lower elevations.  At higher elevations, there should be some for another month.  Big Run is down lower than in July, even after two big rains in the last week. 

(July 11, 2009) - Blueberries are ripe at all elevations, but early in the season at higher elevations.  There's been little rain in the last three weeks, and Big Run is way down, although still at healthy levels for summer.  Stream crossings should be fairly easy now. 

(June 13, 2009) - Mountain Laurel is near peak at highest elevations, most flowers have dropped off below 2000' elevation.  Although I worked hard to keep the trail open, it's a little tight in the middle parts.  Most places are well open, and there was little in the way of branches reaching into the trail.  First blueberries ripe, but expect mid July will be best time.  With all the rain, berries are plentiful and big.  Just a few serviceberries ripe--although good, it seems the birds or bugs get them pretty quick.  Big Run is still quite high. 

(May 16, 2009) - Deerberry and Minniebush in bloom.  Mountain Laurel is starting to bloom below 2000' elevation.  Probably two weeks or more until peak on Rocky Mountain, and I expect a good bloom of them.  Only 4 Pink Lady's Slippers in bloom, down from nearly 20 a few years ago.  No Dwarf Crested Iris found, I think they've come and gone already.  Big Run still fairly high. 

(April 11, 2009) - Spring is a little slow.  Only Red Maples and some Trailing Arbutus in bloom, plus some Serviceberry below the top of Brown Mountain.  Trail is all clear.  Big Run even higher than earlier--you can hear it from 1000' above on Brown Mountain. 

(March 7, 2009) - Trail has been cleared, not too much fallen considering winds we've had.  Even though it's been a dry winter, Big Run is still running too high to cross dry-shoed. 

(January 1, 2009) - Although we just had a very windy day, the Trail is all clear. 

(October 13, 2008) - Fall colors are getting good.  Birches are bright yellow, and Sassafras redder than usual.  Black Gums are a great red, although leaves may drop soon.  Unfortunately, the oaks probably won't be a good red near the Big Run Portal this year.  Trail is clear, and no more trees have been pulled down by bears. 

(September 20, 2008) - Only a few blueberries or black huckleberries left.  Trail has been cleared.  Biggest problems are when bears pull down Sassafras trees into the trail. 

(July 19, 2008) - Blueberries are plentiful.  Still early in the season for them.  Parts of the trail are a bit grassy, but the worst parts have been trimmed.  Big Run is fairly low and warm. 

(June 7, 2008) - The trail needed some more clearing.  Mountain Laurel is in full bloom, and some Silkgrass is out.  It is past season for Azalea (a few Minibush still in bloom), Irises, and Lady's Slippers.  The first blueberries have ripened.  Big Run is flowing, but slowing each day of the heat wave. 

(May 21, 2008) - The trail was cleared most recently on May 17.  Early Azalea and Minibush were in bloom.  The last of the Dwarf Crested Iris was blooming, and the very first Mountain Laurel and Silkgrass blooms were open (peak Mountain Laurel will probably be in early June).  I could find none of the Polygala flowers, and there were only 15 Lady's Slippers in the patch. 

(April 20, 2008) - The trail was cleared most recently on April 19.  Serviceberry trees are in bloom, and are prominent in many places on the trail, particularly burn areas and open rocky areas.  Trailing Arbutus is still in bloom and Dwarf Crested Iris has started to bloom.  Some blueberry plants (mostly those pruned to the ground) are blooming already. 

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