Wednesday, May 11, 2016

SNP's Brown Mountain/Big Run Portal/Rocky Mtn Run Loop: Post Fire

May 10th, and it has rained every day so far in the month and it was due to rain again for the next four or five days.  I had to get out despite some questionable weather predicted, but it turned out that it was pretty nice on the trail.  I hiked Shenandoah National Park's Brown Mountain Trail and then looped back on the Big Run Portal Trail and the Rocky Mtn Run Trail to view some of the post-fire vegetation.  The western portion of the Brown Mtn Trail was especially amazing - the textures and colors were spectacular!  This is a tough hike, mostly because all of the elevation gain is at the end of the hike, but also because Big Run is high after days of rain.  Several trail crossings of Big Run virtually guarantee wet feet - my waterproof boots were not high enough to prevent getting my feet soaked several times, starting 4.2 miles from the end of this 10.4 mile hike.  Map.
Fire suppression near the Skyline Drive makes this area look the most stark
of the entire hike.  Fire crews cut everything down so that the fire would have
a harder time jumping the Skyline Drive.
View at the intersection of the Brown Mountain and Rocky Mountain Run trails.

Brown Mtn Trail just past the Rocky Mtn Run intersection.
Trees are starting to leaf out.

Clouds came over the Skyline Drive then dissipated in this view from
an overlook on the Brown Mtn Trail. 

New growth can be seen in some of the darkest parts of the mountain.

Dead pine needles form a color contrast to the burnt ground.

The Brown Mtn Trail is easily followed through the black lands.

New growth, post-fire

A fish-eye lens makes for a surreal scene.

Incredible color contrasts along the Brown Mtn Trail

Blaze still shows through the charred bark.

Lots of color remains.

Trail switchbacks.

Textured tree showing blue trail blaze.

Same tree at its base.

Growth off trail through the burned land.

Descending on the Brown Mtn Trail towards Big Run.

Wild Geranium on Big Run Portal Trail. (Thanks to Lonnie Murray for the proper identification.)
Fire crossed trail to Big Run in only one spot, never jumping the stream.

Rocky Mtn Run Trail at Big Run Portal Trail
Note that the trail here forms the fire boundary.

Rocky Mtn Run Trail through the fire. Trees have leafed out now much more completely than at higher elevations.

Downed tree, cut back at the trail before the fire, burned on one side of trail
but not on the other.
Rocky Mtn Run
Trail through burn zone.

First time here? This is post #148 at Wandering Virginia, dating back over 6 years.  Check out some others at - photos and trail descriptions from all over this great commonwealth!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hiking the A.T. through Shenandoah National Park's Fire Zone - May 2, 2016

A forest fire in the Southern District of Shenandoah National Park, which started near the Rocky Mount Trail and was suspected to be man made, eventually grew to become the second largest fire in park history, closing the Skyline Drive and Appalachian Trail for several days. Blue blazed trails took longer, but were all reopened as of 5 PM on Tuesday, May 3rd.

I helped the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club to assess the condition of the Appalachian Trail through the burn areas, and consequently hiked between Simmons Gap and Powell Gap on the AT on Sunday, May 1, and between Simmons Gap and the Doyles River Parking Lot on Monday, May 2, 2016. Here are some photos I took on my journeys.

I look forward to returning to this area over coming years to see the regrowth!  Fire is a natural part of the forest ecosystem, and much of this area had not seen fire in 85 years.  I think it will produce some exciting changes to this part of the park.

Most of these photos were taken on the A.T. just north of the Ivy Creek Overlook on the Skyline Drive, MP 77.5, just north of the Loft Mountain Campground.  It is a very easy walk north from the overlook.

The log book at the Pinefield Hut, just north on the A.T. of most of the burn zone,
shows a gap in visitors during the time when this part of the park was closed to visitors.
For over 100 additional posts covering trails throughout the Virginias, check back regularly at