GET Section 1b Trail Report

September 25, 2010

Lower Campground of Sleepy Creek WMA to Spruce Pine Park, 11.2 miles, including side trips
      This was part of PATC's Celebrate Tuscarora.  Each section's overseers led the way to the end of their section, then passed us on to the next overseer(s).  This is Section 1b of the Great Eastern Trail, and part of Section 12 of the Tuscarora Trail.  With me on this hike, in addition to the overseers of the sections were David Frye (my frequent hiking companion), Tom Johnson (GETA president), John Spies (GET web master and overseer from Meadow Branch crossing to Spruce Pine area), Dave Jordahl, Ed from Hagerstown, Lloyd McAskill, Susan Bly, Paul Kimbal, plus a few others whose names I did not catch, and my dog Sid, Tom's dog Sam, and Susan's dogs Cleo and Yzerman.  At any one time, we had 13 to 16 hikers in the group.  The weather was mostly clear, and the haze decreased as the day went on, so we got better views.  The temperature may have reached the 80s, but there was a good breeze, making it feel cooler. 
     The Tuscarora Trail sometimes follows woods roads, and sometimes is a graded footpath, and it has a rather narrow grade, not suitable for horses, if they were allowed. 
     Some observations:

  • When at the Lower Campground in July, I didn't see signs marking it, but they were there this time.  
  • The Tuscarora Trail was clear and open in the entire section.  The section north of Devils Nose has greenbrier and small tree growth threatening to crowd the trail, and could be cut back even now.  
  • I question the 1.8 mile point as being the "top of hill".  The hill starts 400' past the 1.7 mile mark, and the hill is a lot longer than 130' trail distance.  
  • We took a side trip on Whites Knob Trail (mile 3.2) to the coal mine and to Meadow Branch.  It was 0.2 mile to the Coal Mine Trail, then about 350' to the mine.  It was maybe 0.1 mile further on Whites Knob Trail to Meadow Branch.  
  • Throughout the hike we came beside or crossed Meadow Branch a number of times.  With the drought, it is not flowing, although there are pools of water in many places.  The dogs had places to drink and dip.  
  • The Trail has been built to stay off the Dug Road (mile 3.5 - 4.1).  At first it is right beside the road, then there is a relocation underway that goes away from the road.  We were led along the unfinished relocated trail.  It goes by the top of some rocks that are not high enough to get a view, then onto the road along the top of the Third Mountain.  Walter Smith tells me the relocation is 0.5 mile, which is 0.2 more than the distance on the Dug Road.  I suppose it helped pack down the relocated trail to have 44 feet going over it (14 humans, 4 dogs).  
  • At the Audubon Road parking (mile 5.0) we had a little ceremony where Tom Johnson and Walter Smith hammered in GET diamond markers on two trees.  But the tree for the trail leading north is dead, and the marker may need to be moved to another tree in a few years.  
  • At the Meadow Branch crossing (mile 7.2) just south of Devils Nose, there is a little Rhododendron, but not too much.  The bridge has not been put in, but the bases on the side have been started.  There are a lot of hemlock trees here, but with the Adelgid plague, they may not live a lot longer.  If they die, there will be a major (plant) culture change, as we've seen many other places.  
  • We did not see the Fisherman's Trail that led down to the canyon (mile 7.3).  
  • You can go quite a ways out on Devils Nose (mile 7.5) on a red-marked path through the rocks.  They include some interesting rocks, including some passages and overhangs, and there is one scary chasm there.  I went out with Sid, but came back to find everyone else had left--they didn't see much of it.  
  • At mile 8.0, I saw boulders, but didn't see caves in them--I didn't go off trail.  
  • At mile 8.5, I didn't notice trees swallowing boulders.  
  • At mile 8.6, on PATC property, camping may be permitted, but the hillside is so steep as to make normal camping impractical.  
  • The descent from mile 8.6 to 8.9 is steep even with switchbacks, and rather treacherous.  
  • The roads from mile 8.9 to 9.9 are part of a subdivision with houses or cabins.  There are dogs at the houses in the latter part (A faint sign says, "GO Slow Dogs!!"--we misunderstood it at first), but they apparently were tied up or otherwise restrained--they didn't come out, but barked and howled a lot.  
  • The Spruce Pine Hollow Shelter has been basically completed.  It's a bit simpler than others I've seen on the Tuscarora, but looks nice.  
  • I would estimate that Spruce Pine Park is 0.1 mile from the Tuscarora Trail at the bridge over Meadow Branch.  
  • I saw no poison ivy until we got to Spruce Pine Park (and not too much there). 
  • No ticks or chiggers seen. 


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