Ramble On

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Miller's Head: An Easy SNP Day Hike

Despite the blustery early fall weather (and the promise of a crowd of fall foilage toursits) Mary and I decided to head up into the Park for a little hike. We chose Miller's Head, with its trailhead in the parking lot of the Skyline lodges, as our route. It's in the Easy Day Hikes book, but we didn't realize it until we were on the trail that we had done part of it a couple of times in the past.

We actually walked down to the trailhead from the Skyland dining rooom, adding negligible distance to the hike but retracing the route we took on the weekend we stayed here when we first got to know about Luray. Here's Mary on that portion of the trail (hat, jacket, and hiking pants - all from Evergreen Outfitters. Hi Howard!)

This is a short trail, less than 2 miles found trip, leading along a ridgeline to an observation platform that overlooks Page Valley. Along the way, there are the typical forested jumbles of greenstone, which is usually covered with a patina of green lichen in this part of the Park.
There is also some communications infrastructure along the trail in the early part, just before you reach a little rock terrace that gives a look to the northwest and west down into the Valley, shown in the next two photos. In the first, you can clearly see Lake Arrowhead; the second is more of the view over Luray looking towards the New Market Gap.
From the overlook there is a 180 degree view that spans over to Tanners Ridge and includes Stanley. Since it was a bit cloudy and overcast, we couldn't clearly make out landmarks, but here you can see Ida Loop Road cutting back towards Marksville, it's likely our little house is somewhere in this view.
On the way back to the trailhead, I noticed a little spur to the south, which led once again to a ridge with a view. Only this time, the trees opened up, and you're treated to this perspective of Hawksbill Mountain, the highest peak in the Park (and the one that the Hawksbill Cabin is named after, since it dominates our view as we turn into the neighborhood).
We were surprised during our time in Skyland - we ran into our neighbor, Ranger Sally - giving a presentation in the lodge on black bears. She had an impressive array of artifacts, including a cast of a paw print, some taxidermy items, skull and jawbone mock-ups, and rubber scat. The thing that most grabbed my attention was an ice chest that had been mauled by a determined bear. There were at least 20 people taking in the program, and we joined late and casually.
We also ran into Ranger Sally a short while later, leading another group out on the Millers Head hike. We were on our way back in then, so we just waved at her as we passed by.
All in all, a pleasant hike, not too demanding, with the best part the views of Page Valley.

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