Ramble On

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Turk Mountain: An Easy SNP Day Hike

At the summit of Turk Mountain

As I mentioned yesterday, I took Tessie out for an inaugural hike in Shenandoah National Park recently, and chose the easy Turk Mountain summit hike as our destination.  Earlier we’d warmed up a little on Calf Mountain after entering the Park from Waynesboro, and afterwards we drove a few miles north on Skyline Drive to the trailhead for the summit.

There is a more challenging Turk Mountain hike described on Hiking Upward, and linked below.  They list their version as a 10.4 mile loop with multiple stream crossings and 2,400+ feet of altitude gain.  That’s not the hike Tessie and I took – ours started at the Turk Gap parking area, milepost 94.1, and we did a 2.2 mile out-and-back with only about 480 feet of altitude gain, net.

This is a well-maintained trail that runs along the AT for part of the way.  In fact, Tessie and I encountered a pair of north bound AT section hikers taking a lunch break at the parking area.  What a wet day it was – I’m sure that was keeping that appetite up, but I didn’t have any trail magic to share with them.

As you can see from the sparseness of my photography on this trail, I was pretty focused on working with Tessie on her leash for the route.  Still, we did enjoy the rhododendrons in bloom, and made note of several geologic layers that the trail passes through, including a couple of talus fields.  The rainy day really brought out the colors of the lichen that covered many of these stones.

Talus field
Upon reaching the summit, given the rainy day and overcast skies, there is not a lot I can report about the views that are supposed to be the highlight of this hike.  I’m one who doesn’t mind not having the view if the effect of the weather is interesting enough, and here it was, with wispy clouds blowing through the tree branches. 

This stony ridge is narrow and tough for footing, and my little dog looked up at me for guidance in some of the areas up there.   We had a good bonding experience – I’ll take her back on the trail sometime soon, and hopefully will be able to join my friends at Appalachian Outdoors Adventures with their dogs by the end of the year.

As far as the trail goes, this one offers a very typical experience for Park visitors.  It is a good one down in the Southern District, where there aren’t typically many crowds on the trails, so it has that going for it.  A hiker who has done the research on the vegetation, wildlife, and history of the Park will certainly find a lot here; and if you take the time to dig into the geology of the Park there is a lot to ponder in the nearly 500 feet of elevation gain here – you probably cover two or three hundred million years of geological history.

It’s one I definitely will do again, and I may even take up this route from Hiking Upward:

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