GET Section 3b Trail Report

October 1, 2011

Waites Run to Wolf Gap, 9.9 miles, 10.7 miles hiked
       This is GET section 3b, part of which I had done the previous weekend.  With me were Nancy Ruggles and Christa Neher, plus my dog Sid and Nancy's dog Aslan.  It started out clear that morning, but clouded up, and started raining by the time we got to Big Schloss.  The rain was light but driving from the west.  The temperature was in the 40s.  It was quite clear to the east--Massanutten Mountain plus the Blue Ridge were clearly in view--I could make out High Knob near Front Royal and Big Levels past Staunton.  To the west things were fogging in with the rain. 
        I had hiked all of this section before, but it was in 1974, so I didn't know what the conditions were at present.  Overall, this section of trail was in good condition, although part is in need of an overseer (Mill Mountain to Big Schloss Cutoff Trail).  The distances and description for the guidebook needed some adjusting, though.

Some observations:

  • The whole section is open (not grown in) and not eroded.  But much of it is rather rocky.  
  • The biggest difference between the guidebook and the trail is between the intersection of the Tuscarora-Pond Run Trail and the Halfmoon Trail and the intersection with Mill Mountain Trail.  The guidebook gives the distance of 0.7 mile, but it took us 42 minutes of brisk hiking to cover the distance.  Also, at the intersection with Mill Mountain Trail, the MMT is straight ahead, not to the right, as the guide says.  And the Tuscarora Trail continues to the left, not ahead.  The sign at the intersection says the distance is 1.4 miles, which I will accept.  There was also a road going off to the right not far from the first intersection which had no signs or blazes going up steeply while the Tuscarora Trail continued nearly level ahead.  Also a road goes to the right at the second intersection, which I think is the same road, which is the old route, which probably was about 0.7 mile.  No signs or blazes on this road either.  It appears the TT was relocated on a more gradual slope, going a longer way.  
  • The Guidebook had named this section of trail as part of the Halfmoon Trail, but the Forest Service signs indicate it goes only west from the Tuscarora Trail.  
  • There are some fairly long and sturdy boardwalks across some wetlands on both sides of the Halfmoon Trail intersection.  
  • The top of Mill Mountain had a metal tower with an airline beacon, which has been removed.  The footers remain as does a small building.  The building has a door with the lock removed.  Inside are bunks.  It looks like a small trail shelter with a door that closes.  A ladder on the side goes up to a platform on top, but the upper 4 rungs are gone.  
  • Along the Mill Mountain Trail, there is a viewpoint between Sandstone Spring and Big Schloss Cutoff Trail with a sign saying "Overlook". 
  • There are a few campsites (with rock fire rings and logs as seats within a fairly level area) at several places: 1. Along Waites Run just before the trail starts up Pond Run, 2. At the intersection with Halfmoon Trail, 3. On Mill Mountain, a little more than halfway between Tuscarora Trail and the summit, 4. Just 100 yards past the summit, 5. at the intersection with the Big Schloss Cutoff Trail, and 6. at the point where the trail starts its steep descent to Wolf Gap.  There are also spots that look like they've been used as campsites at Big Schloss, but I would recommend using heavy use areas like that--they often become "no camping" areas.  
  • There is a viewpoint indicated 0.1 mile from the intersection of Tuscarora Trail with Halfmoon Trail.  It is not signed, nor evident at the intersection, but if you go across the campsite, it is plainly there, and the view is pretty good of Halfmoon Mountain, Trout Run Valley, and Long Mountain.  
  • The section in need of an overseer has a lot of woody growth that could be cut back--a good trim would serve for a good time, but it is not too bad yet. 
  • There is some annual growth between the Cutoff Trail and Big Schloss that could be cut (that’s harder to keep up with).  
  • Due to recent rains, there was a lot of water on the ground.  The eight crossings of Pond Run were challenging, and there was a lot of water near the Halfmoon Trail intersection.  We went by a place with water rising into a small pond, which I think is the source of Pond Run, and it looked like it could be quicksand, which is where water rises through sand.  A lot of water flowed from Sandstone Spring, with the resulting creek quickly becoming vigorous.  And there was a small creek crossing the trail near Wolf Gap.  Yet the spring that is 0.1 mile from the Halfmoon Trail intersection had no water in it.  
  • There was poison ivy only at each end of this section: in the Wolf Gap campground and near Waites Run, and not very much. 

       I had previously measured the length of Mill Mountain Trail as 6.3 miles, but a remeasuring of the map indicated 6.0, which is in agreement with the Forest Service signs.  I would adjust some of the distances in the middle a bit, though.  This, with the adjustment on the Tuscarora Trail, brings the total of the section to 9.9 miles, instead of 9.5. 

September 25, 2011

Big Schloss from Wolf Gap, 1.9 miles, 4.4 miles hiked
       This is part of GET section 3b.  This was a FOCAS hike, and with me were Mary, Christa, and Cathy, as well as my dog Sid.  It was raining when we left Harrisonburg, but it stopped and did not fall on us during the hike.  But it did remain foggy and humid, with temperatures in the 70s. 
       Some observations:

  • This is a heavily used section, and the tread is wide, and it probably was an old road.  But it is not so overused as to be badly eroded.  
  • The tread is quite rocky, making it a challenge to hike on, but typical of Great North Mountain.  
  • There are a few good viewpoints, particularly where the trail reaches the crest about 0.9 mile from Wolf Gap.  
  • There is some weedy growth trying to move into the trail, but it is wide enough not to be a problem.  
  • There was some poison ivy at the Wolf Gap recreation area, but I saw none along the trail.  
  • There are signs at the trailhead (0.1 mile from Wolf Gap, in the campground) and at the Big Schloss side trail.  The side trail says "1/4 mile" to Big Schloss.  I paced it off and found it was about 0.3 mile to the bridge and 0.35 mile to the end of the trail.  But pacing on that rough of ground tends to overestimate.  Measured on a topographic map, it is 0.3 mile to the end of the trail (where Big Schloss drops off to the north). 

        From Big Schloss we could only view Trout Run valley to the west--everything else was fogged in.  But it cleared some as we hiked back.  We could see to the east then, although Massanutten Mountain was partly fogged in. 

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