Sunday, May 17, 2020

Short Ridge Trail, GWNF

This posting is part of my effort to document trails in the North River District of the George Washington National Forest that don't have much in the way of online descriptions.  This trail is in the southwestern portion of the District, and was part of the old Deerfield Ranger District.  Descriptions and photos are from explorations occurring in May, 2020.  Conditions on trails are subject to change.

The Short Ridge Trail connects a parking area on the Deerfield Road (SR 629) south of Deerfield with FR 399, the Jerkemtight Road.  (Some maps refer to this trail as the Jerkemtight Trail.) Hikers can then ascend the Jerkemtight Road to the Shenandoah Mountain Trail, reaching that trail at its intersection with the Marshall Draft Trail.  A distance hiker, therefore, can use the Short Ridge Trail as part of a connection between Shenandoah Mountain and Walker Mountain to the east, by crossing the Deerfield Road and connecting to the Brushy Ridge Trail and the Back Draft Trail.

The trailhead for the Short Ridge Road is south of Deerfield just off of SR 629 on FR 392.  FR 392 is also known as either Short Ridge Road or Fowler Springs Road.  There is parking for two or three cars here.  

The area was a little muddy, as you can see from the photo below, but it was easy to negotiate.  The photo shows the FR 392 coming from Deerfield Road.

FR 392 is gated just after this parking area.  When I arrived, there was another vehicle here, parked in front of the gate.  Not recommended - this road is still used and is open from October 1 to December 31 every year.

The Short Ridge Trail angles off of FR 392 not more than 50 yards after the gate.  This is a critical piece of information!  The trail is not signed at either end and is hard to see without knowing this. I had a GPS track that I followed, but they aren't always spot on so I missed the turnoff and ended up on deer trails for a while thinking that I was on the trail.  Below shows the trail leaving the road, about 50 yards after the gate, before I turned off.

Eventually, I bushwhacked up a ridge to find the trail, and I followed the trail the entire way on my return.  I found it in great shape and well blazed in yellow - just not in a few critical places (like here).

Once on the trail, it climbs for the next 0.4 mile, ascending 225 feet at about a 10% grade until it reaches a ridge.  It follows this unnamed ridge (Short Ridge is actually further west and this trail never touches that ridge) for the next half mile.  It is usually very easy to follow except for a couple of spots.

At about the 0.7 mile mark, the trail appears to split.  To the left it heads up about 8 feet to a flat area that may have been the end of an old road.  To the right is another trail.  Go to the right, as this will take you directly to the old roadbed that becomes the trail.

At 0.9 miles, another road merges in from the right and, 100 feet later, splits off to the left.  Make sure you stay on the trail here and don't end up on the old road.  The photo below is a southbound view of the first road merge - the trail came in from the right and did not use the road with trees down on the left.  There are no blazes here and I had no issues following the trail when coming from the south, but if you are coming from the north this could pose problems.

After these two road intersections, the Short Ridge Trail descends to Jerkemtight Road.  The trail ends here, and there is no parking on Jerkemtight Road.  At Jerkemtight Road, the trail is also unsigned, and is even harder to locate than the southern end.  Hikers descending from the Shenandoah Mountain Trail would need to know where they are - they have passed the Tom Lee Draft Road (the only major intersection on the descent) and crossed Jerkemtight Branch on a low water bridge (shown below looking west).

The trail comes into the road about 0.4 miles east of the low water bridge and is virtually invisible unless you are looking on your right (heading east) for an old woods road.  There is a trail that cuts up 20 feet to that road.

Looking carefully into the woods at this point, it is possible to see a blazed tree trunk on the old woods road.  Unfortunately, no trees closer to the road are blazed.

On my hike, I turned around at the low water bridge.  The water was moving faster than the photo indicates, and there were no easy rock crossings nearby.  I was nursing a knee injury, and did not want to risk the crossing.  So completing the hike to the Shenandoah Mountain Trail and possibly the Wallace Peak summit will occur another time.  Spring is not the best time to test water crossings, but this is likely an easy crossing in the Summer and Fall.

I found the Short Ridge Trail to be in surprisingly good shape, and I cleared some brush along the way, which improved it further.  It offered wonderful solitude and wildlife viewings over its short distance, as we flushed a couple of deer and were entertained by a very noisy turkey who ran down the trail away from us.  As long as you can find the trail, it is worth checking out.

1 comment:

  1. This is what I like about the National Forest. Route finding can be a little hard takes some skill and normally a story comes from it.


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