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Laurel Run – George Washington NF

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Hike Summary

I decided to range out to a different area this week, and so I went to the section of GWNF that’s west of I-81. It’s a bit of a drive, but it is also a much wilder area of Virginia, straddling the VA/WV border, feeling really out in the middle of nowhere.

At first, I missed the turnoff and parking spot for the hike, as my phone GPS (that I use for driving) seemed to think that the parking was somewhere that it wasn’t. I fired up my handheld, and luckily it was able to more accurately pinpoint where the starting place was, so I turned around on the unmarked forestry road and made my way back.

This little mishap is one of the reasons I don’t like to use my smartphone as a navigation aid whilst out hiking. The GPS isn’t as accurate as a handheld, and the battery life is nowhere near necessary. GPS navigation is a heavy draw on a battery, and you can run it down in a matter of a couple of hours. I usually prefer to keep my battery for taking some photos and for the need to make a phone call if necessary, although even that is not something that can be guaranteed while out in the wilderness.

I went hiking on a Wednesday this week, instead of my usual Thursday. The night before, I decided to check on the weather forecast. There were some hefty thunderstorms and rain forecast for Thursday, so I decided I should move things around and I am glad I did. The weather was fairly tempestuous, but nothing too severe or too hot.

the first part of the hike, up Laurel Run Trail, was pretty steep and frequently rocky. It seems like this trail probably gets frequent rainfall and so there’s a bit of erosion. It’s broken up a couple of times by some gorgeous open meadows.

Up at the top, the trail meets up with the North Mountain trail. This was a great trail that, appropriately enough, skirted along Great North Mountain, along the border between Virginia and West Virginia.

There were quite a few views from up here, but the trail was also incredibly overgrown at times by summer grasses. I had a hard time getting to one of the overlooks because of this; the grass was a few feet high and made footing a little rough.

Despite this, there was still a great variety of terrain and plantlife to walk through. There were forested copses, high ridges, meadowy balds that were full of thistles (and this made me very glad I had my walking stick with me, so I could push them out of the way!) and thorny humps of berries and roses. I saw some wild blueberries and sampled just one; I don’t like to take anything out of the land if I can help it.

The day was growing warmer but also seemed a little unpredictable, as if a thunderstorm could roll in at any moment, so I kept moving for the most part and didn’t really stop as much as I’d like to take in the scenery, or really to eat much more than a Clif bar and some trail mix. This is something I feel I need to work on sometimes. I need to be able to just relax and take things in, and worry less. It’s just part of my slightly anxious nature, I suppose. I do feel overall as if the hikes are still very much helping me. It helps to just get out and not have to be constantly distracted by phones and computer things so much. It helps to just sometimes only think about where the next footstep goes.

After a while along the varied terrain, I came upon the intersection with the Stack Rock Trail. This was a bit of an interesting trail, as it wasn’t blazed incredibly well, and that same issue with overgrowth almost at one point took me off in the wrong direction. I quickly realized my mistake and corrected it. It was a pretty steep descent down a series of switchbacks to the Laurel Run Spur Trail, which is actually also a gravel road. One of the things I noticed is you can tell that there probably was clearcut logging at some point in the past, as there were a lot of open meadows along this trail.

Back to the end I was, and time for another visit to Spelunker’s in Front Royal. A sweet waffle bowl ice cream sundae was the perfect way to end the day.

2013-06-27 Laurel Run
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