GET Section 6a Trail Report

May 28, 2011

US 250 to Benson Run Road (FDR 173), plus down FDR 173 to FDR 393
      This is a 7.5 mile segment of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail, GET Section 6a, plus 2.5 miles down the Benson Run Road, for a total of 10.0 miles.  With me on this hike were GETA President Tom Johnson, my hiking companion Nancy, and a FOCAS hiker Mary, my dog Sid, Tom's dog Sam, and Nancy's dog Aslan. 
      We had all been on a hike on April 23 that started the same place, but went down the Georgia Camp Trail, 1.4 miles into this section. 
      With the many dips and puddles in the Benson Run Road, I did not want to drive up and back it, so we opted to end the hike outside the problem parts, partly due to lots of rain in recent months.   It was a partly cloudy day with highs near 80°, somewhat cooler up on Shenandoah Mountain. 
      The first 3.0 miles are on a gated Forest Service Road, then 4.5 miles are on footpath. 
 Some observations:

  • The Forest Service Road (FDR 396) was still fairly free of plant growth. 

  • The footpath was in good shape, only few blowdowns and minor trimming needed.  It was well graded and not very steep, very pleasant hiking.  The last ¼ mile or so is on an old forest road. 

  • At each trailhead or intersection there were trail identification and distance signs (thanks USFS!)  But the sign just south of Benson Run Road has been removed (probably vandalism).  In 2009, it said "SHENANDOAH MTN TR./NELSON DRAFT TR. 4-1/4 / JERKEMTIGHT ROAD 10-1/2". 

  • There are some nice campsites on this section: one on the right in the first mile--it has a suspended tree trunk that could be used to hang things; a spot on the left at the intersection with Georgia Camp Trail; one about 200' to left on an unmapped (but with a yellow diamond) path on the Signal Corps Knob ridge; one at a small pond just south of where the trail leaves the Forest Road with a fire ring and a bench; and one just south of Benson Run Road. 

  • I counted 58 kinds of flowers in bloom, including Gray Beardtongue, Viburnum, Hairy Stargrass, Geranium, Early Azalea, False Solomon's Seal, Pink Lady's Slipper, Catawba Rhododendron (first I've seen on Shenandoah Mountain). 

  • There was some Gypsy Moth damage along the footpath, but also some large (considering) Chestnut trees--we saw one that had a trunk diameter of 5-½  inches, and one I estimated at 40' tall. 

  • There is one spot before Tims Knob (which was thick with Mountain Laurel, so hard to approach) with a creek below (Right Prong of Benson Run), with an easy descent.  I could see the creek directly from the trail. 

  • There was some poison ivy along the sides FDR 396 and Benson Run Road, but none along the footpath--it was easily avoided. 

  • I found no ticks on me after the hike.

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