Friday, May 14, 2010

Reddish Knob Ascent - May 10, 2010

At 4397 feet, Reddish Knob is the 2nd highest peak in the George Washington National Forest, behind Elliott Knob. Research indicates that it is the highest mountain heading north until the Adirondacks in New York, except for a couple of nearby peaks in West Virginia just northwest of this mountain. Reddish Knob is higher than Mount Mansfield and Killington Peak in Vermont, Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine, and Hawksbill Peak, the highest mountain in Shenandoah National Park. Reddish Knob is part of Shenandoah Mountain, which has no connection to the national park.

Reddish Knob has a road that goes to a parking area on the top, making it Virginia's equivilent of Mount Washington in New Hampshire or Mount Mitchell in North Carolina. I’ve driven up Reddish Knob several times over the years, usually at off times, because you don’t want to meet another car coming the opposite way on this road. The parking lot is pretty nasty – with much spray painted graffiti, beer cans and even a few old tires.  Makes me think it should be called "Redneck Knob."
Elevation Profile

But the views are incredible!  Pictures really cannot do it justice; especially from my camera.  You can look at Shenandoah National Park to the east, and deep into West Virginia to the west, including a bunch of satellite dishes for a U.S. Navy installation.
This area is presently classified as a “roadless area” and has been promoted for Wilderness Designation. There has been some opposition from mountain bikers as changing the area to wilderness would eliminate biking access from the area (geocaches, too).

To reach the top of the mountain, I parked at a parking area just off the Tillman Road and headed up the Sand Springs Trail. I had hiked this trail a couple of weeks previous when I did the Narrowback loop. It was a much easier climb this time. Maybe it was the cooler temperature, or maybe because I started up this trail at the beginning of my hike. Maybe I am in better shape. Or maybe I was thinking about how I could never do the Yosemite hike I’d like to try in August if I can’t do this one.

The Sand Springs Trail is the most direct route up to Reddish Knob, and is a steep haul for 3.2 miles, as can be seen on the elevation profile. After it ends at the Timber Ridge Trail, Timber Ridge continues at a fairly level pace for about 3 miles before the final ascent up to Reddish Knob. This was an out and back hike, so the elevation profile is a mirror image from front to back.
Timber Ridge from Reddish Knob

The hike itself isn’t a spectacular one. It was a “prove I could do it” hike. A hike I’d like to take this summer at Yosemite up Half Dome is about the same length, but with an additional 1300 foot elevation gain – about 38% steeper. Of course, if I were to chicken out and not do the last portion of the hike, then Yosemite is only 868 feet higher that the Reddish Knob hike. So Reddish Knob was a good test of my capabilities.

The PATC's Charlottesville Chapter will be doing a different Reddish Knob hike on June 12th. They will be taking the Lynn Trail (which I don't find on any of my various GWNF maps) to the Wolf Ridge Trail to the Timber Ridge Trail (at an intersection that was approximately 3.9 miles up trail for me). That out and back isn’t quite as long as the one I took, and starts further up the mountain. The PATC projects their hike to total 11 miles. Maybe some of my friends in that group might consider dropping a car where I parked and coming down that way, just for a change of pace.
Looking down the Sand Springs Trail.

Hike Details.
Distance:  14.1 miles
Total Time: 5 hours 54 minutes, including hanging out at the top.
Steepest Uphill: from 1.35 miles to 1.88 miles; 16% grade.
Lowest point: 1935 ft.
Highest point: 4414 ft.
Total uphill: 3468 ft.