GET Section 6c Trail Report

March 15, 2014

A trail has been constructed from VA 678 to the official Shenandoah Mountain Trail, about 0.2 mile.  It starts up steeply with 2 switchbacks, then ascends with a more gentle grade.  There are some big blowdowns on the official Shenandoah Mountain Trail. 

February 23, 2013

VA 678 from Cowpasture River to the place to turn off has been marked with green glo blazes.  From that point up to the official Shenandoah Mountain Trail is marked with pink ribbons. 

August 15, 2009

VA 627 (Scotchtown Draft) to Cowpasture River, 2.8 miles (5.6 hiked)

      This is the southern end of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail and a little of the road walk past there.  I also drove the loop around to check out the approach roads. 
      It was a hot, dry day at a fairly low elevation (1600 - 2200').  I did this hike with my dog Sid, and we would have done better if we had more water.  I would have expected this section to be low and not steep, surrounded by nearly level areas.  In fact, much of it is on sharp ridgelines, seeming high, although not nearly as high as Shenandoah Mountain just north of this section.  The greatest problem for this hike is the absence of the southern end of the trail--there is no trail, no trailhead, and no parking where this trail is supposed to end on VA 678. 
      Some observations:

  • Street signs are lacking or incomplete in this area.  The intersection of VA 629 and VA 627 gives the name for 627 (Scotchtown Road), but not 629 (the sign may possibly be torn off here).  The intersection of 629 and 678 gives the name for 629 north (Deerfield Road), but not at all for 678 and 629 south (or was it 678 south?--I couldn't tell).  At Fort Lewis, the intersection had no street signs at all (678 and 625).  The intersection of VA 678 with VA 627 did have street signs, but they didn't seem to give the full names (VA 678 was "Indian Draft" and VA 627 was "Scotchtown Draft").  
  • The driving conditions on these roads were good.  VA 629 and 678 are paved and 2 lanes, without center lines.  VA 627 is gravel, but not rutted, and I could go 30 mph most places.  
  • From the looks of the NG Trails Illustrated Map 791, it looks like the south end of Shenandoah Mountain Trail ends on VA 678 at a corner of National Forest land and private land, coming down a hollow.  In fact, the trail is descending a ridge high above VA 678 when it reaches private land.  The road goes onto private land, but I could tell it is not packed down with use like it was on Forest land.  Instead, people have made ascents and descents on dozens of crossing paths on the steep side of the ridge, coming out no particular place on VA 678.  
  • The corner of Forest land and private property is quite visible along VA 678 with many red blazes in the corner.  
  • The best place for a trail here, as I would reckon, is the uppermost descent.  It descends fairly gradually, and you can get down without switchbacks, although it goes down steeply at the bottom, but not as steep as some of the paths.  It also reaches the road closer to a parking area just south of the Cowpasture River bridge.  It is more difficult to find the same way up, but it is opposite a telephone pole along VA 678.  
  • The trail is somewhat packed down and easy to follow in most places (besides the missing part near VA 678).  There are a few places a little difficult to follow due to tree blowdowns that have never been removed.  I would estimate that there has been no maintenance on this trail for years.  Even so, the growth of plants is light, and not thorny or itchy.  The most frequent in-reachers are branches of young White Pines.  All blowdowns and plant growth could probably be removed by one person in one day.  There is also one part a little south of VA 627 that slopes with the side of the mountain, not cut in at all.  
  • The undergrowth of the forest is quite light, particularly in the southern part of this section.  Perhaps deer have eaten most of it.  In places there are blueberry and black huckleberry plants, although no berries out now.  There was very little Mountain Laurel.  
  • There is parking for maybe three cars where the Shenandoah Mountain Trail crosses VA 627, on the north side.  The trail looks more used as it goes north from this point.  
  • There are no blazes in this section, although it sure could use them in some places, especially near VA 678.  I did see a yellow blaze as the trail leads north from VA 627.  I don't know if they continue.  
  • There is a mileage sign on the south side of VA 627.  It says, "Shenandoah Mountain Trail/Route 678 2.5 miles [south]/Route 250 25 miles [north]".  I sure hope it's not that far--I've got 21.3 miles on my trail guide for Shenandoah Mountain.  
  • There were several hills on this section with one having steep climbs on both sides.  This was steeper than other places I've hiked on Shenandoah Mountain.  It makes me concerned about the climb just north of VA 627, which I have not yet done.  If the Trails Illustrated map is to be believed, the trail goes straight up South Sister Knob, climbing 500' in 0.2 mile or so.  If so, that is incredibly steep, and the trail guide does not even mention it.  
  • There was no gypsy moth damage to note.  Most of this section of trail has lots of pines.  
  • There is no poison ivy where the trail is evident.  There is a small amount along VA 678, especially in the trees beside the parking area, and there were a few small plants on the climb up to the trail.  
  • I saw a bear up in a tree.  I had my camera ready, but it slept until the bear climbed down and disappeared. 


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