GET Section 6e Trail Report

February 23, 2013


VA 614 (0.6 mile) has been marked with green-glo blazes. 


February 11, 2011


US 220 to Intersection of VA 609 and FDR 1325, 9.0 miles

            This is a 7.9 mile section of the Great Eastern Trail in Bath County, VA, as it crosses Warm Springs Mountain and Big Piney Mountain.  The first 0.8 mile was road walk, 0.2 mile on US 220 and 0.6 mile on VA 614.  The GET follows the Piney Mountain Trail about 4 miles over Warm Springs Mountain, and a little on Big Piney Mountain.  From there, the GET descends on an abandoned trail to FDR 465, Bath Alum Ridge Road, and follows it to FDR 1325, which leads to VA 609.  This section heads southeast as the GET goes north, so I refer to the sides of the ridges as east and west.  With me on this hike were David Frye and my dog Sid.  There was an inch of fresh snow, and in shaded places there was up to 3" of old snow under it, although there was not much more snow at the top of the mountain than at the bottom.  The temperatures that day ranged from about 10° at dawn, rising to the mid 40s. 

            We took a side trip on Warm Springs Mountain Trail to House Rock. 

            The road signs on the west side of the ridge were adequate, but on the east side are rather lacking.  There are no signs at all at the intersections of VA 609/FDR 1325 or FDR 1325/465.  The former intersection can be identified by the Bath County Dumpsters beside FDR 1325, which are visible from VA 609 southbound.  Also the next intersection north of here on VA 609 does not identify its road name (Dry Run Road). 

            Some trail observations:

  • The Piney Mountain Trailhead on VA 614 (Muddy Creek Road) has a sign saying 7.0 miles to FDR 358.  This can be misleading as it crosses that road in 3.3 miles, only to come back to it later.  The trail is easy to miss--David almost walked past it without noticing it. 
  • Piney Mountain Trail has dark blue blazes, and I think they have been recently repainted, over blazes that were a lighter color.  The blazes are adequate for this trail, but there are no double blazes at trail intersections.  Intersections are marked by stacks of rocks. 
  • It looks like Piney Mountain Trail was thoroughly trimmed about 2 years ago.  It is growing back in with Mountain Laurel, Minibush, Blueberry, Huckleberry; and Greenbrier in a few places.  On top of Warm Springs Mountain some scrub oaks are growing in.  The cleared corridor remains about 6 feet wide, but the new growth is about knee high.  If not trimmed soon, this trail could grow in. 
  • The climb on the west side of the ridge has some steep sections.  Approaching the top, it climbs right up the side of the mountain--no switchbacks.  The topographic maps show it climbing 300' in 0.2 miles, and I would say the map accurately represents the trail.  It was a challenge climbing it in the snow. 
  • There are some blowdowns, but not too many on the west side. 
  • On maps, Piney Mountain Trail has an intersection with Warm Springs Mountain Trail near Bonner Mountain, follows it along the ridge, and then leaves it after 0.5 miles to descend to the east.  From this point it is 0.5 mile north to House Rock on the Warm Springs Mountain Trail.  In fact, the Warm Springs Mountain Trail has been abandoned.  There are no trail signs, no blazes, and on the way to House Rock, some places the trail was easy to follow, and other places there was no way to tell where it was.  There is a viewpoint to the east on the way there, where the trail is on the east side of the crest.  There are no noticeable rocks until almost to House Rock, which is a monolith about 30' high and about as wide.  It does not rise above the trees.  North of there, big rocks lie tumbled about, but I was not willing to explore with the snow. 
  • In the saddle between Warm Springs Mountain and the lower Big Piney Mountain is the crossing of FDR 358.  This road is not on the topographic map, but is on the National Geographic-Trails Illustrated Map, and on DeLorme maps.  There were no tracks in the snow, and the road is probably gated.  There are no signs at this intersection. 
  • There has been a fire on the east side of the FDR 358, and then on the left side of the Piney Mountain Trail.  It killed the Mountain Laurel bushes, but not the tree tops of the pines and oaks. 
  • In this area, the Topographic maps indicate Black Rock without being specific about its location.  I could see nothing within sight of the trail that looked like a rock formation. 
  • At about 0.2 mile east of FDR 358, there is a fire line that looks much like a trail.  It could be confused with the trail the GET takes down to FDR 465. 
  • It is about 0.4 mile east of FDR 358 where the trail down the east side.  It is a visible intersection, and a rotting sign post (without the sign) remains there.  There is also a pink ribbon around a tree. 
  • The trail down was part of the Piney Mountain Trail, according to topographic maps, and the current Piney Mountain Trail beyond this intersection (not on the GET) was the South Piney Mountain Trail.  I will refer to this trail down as Old Piney Mountain Trail. 
  • Old Piney Mountain Trail is easy to follow, but not easy to stay on, strictly speaking.  There are 3 huge blowdowns over it in the upper half.  Also the tread appears to be slipping away, as it is tilting with the slope.  I suspect the tread could be improved a good bit simply by raking old leaves off the tread.  We sawed off some tree branches reaching into the trail. 
  • At the halfway point, a fire line comes down the slope, which the Old Piney Mountain Trail crosses, going into the fire zone.  Beyond this, there are a lot of Mountain Laurel bushes that grew into the trail, now dead.  They crowd the trail much of the remainder of the way down.  The Mountain Laurel roots are not killed by the fire, and it looks like they have one year's growth since the fire.  Near the bottom, the Mountain Laurel bushes are alive, but still crowding the trail. 
  • The trailhead on FDR 465 should be easy to find--it emerges at a sharp bend, and the trail cuts into the hill quite plainly, although there are no signs there.  There is pulloff space (even a campsite) on the other side of the road.  This would be a suitable parking area for hikers and trail workers. 
  • FDR 465 (Bath Alum Ridge Road) had just one set of tire tracks in the snow.  It is not gated, not rutted, and suitable for driving by any cars.  It is also nearly level.  One spot of concern is Wolf Run, which flows across the road surface, but with not much cut. 
  • While there is no sign at the intersection with FDR 1325, it is the only road intersection up to this point, so it should not be confusing.  You can see this road below on the left well before you reach the intersection. 
  • Although it is difficult to be sure in the winter, I saw no poison ivy along this hike. 

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