Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Roundtop Trail with Robert

Virginia Spiderwort growing along Round Top Trail 

Roundtop Trail with Robert

Robert Shaw
Dana Koogler

Through hike distance 7.5 miles 

   Robert and I had planned to take advantage of having two vehicles and like minds.
We did a shuttle hike on Thursday of Roundtop Trail.  I had only hiked it once all the way through.
It was completely new to him.  It is one of the lesser used trails in the park. I think there are
several reasons for this.  1.  the need for a shuttle 2.  the need to make a 7.5 mile hike a 15 mile out and back if you cannot do it as a shuttle hike 3.  the sometimes deep ford of the river at the Townsend Wye at the hike's end.  4.  people cannot see and do not know where the trail emerges at the Wye.
I was reading over the trail narrative for this hike to be sure not to miss anything.  I read something in Ken Wise's book that I had not paid attention to before.   Roundtop Trail has been re-routed slightly.
The trail now winds down the bluff  at the Wye as a set of steep switchbacks.  It used to run along the bluff and come down to a suspension bridge.  Now all that is left of that bridge is the anchoring mechanisms and foundation.   According to his history of the trail the bridge was very helpful but high waters kept destroying it. Eventually the park service gave up on the idea of repairing it.  
I cannot say I blame them.  

         All narratives either of us read prior to this hike had good advice to offer.The best advice is that when you get to the parking area for the Townsend Wye check out the river. If it is flowing high and fast change your plans.  Do not attempt to ford the stream on a day like that.  It is not worth drowning over.    

   We met up early to get started.   The day was a little overcast to begin with.  We jumped in my car and headed round to Metcalf Bottoms area to start.   We only saw a couple vehicles at the trails here.
I do not think anyone else hiked Roundtop today but us.  It is a good wildflower trail but the time of the best wildflowers on this trail was past.   We still saw some good stuff though.  

 Near the beginning of the trail
 Close up of Flame Azalea. We only saw a little of this today.

Close up of mountain laurel. Saw LOTS of this today!

      Roundtop Trail climbs steadily to a ridge and swings wide around Roundtop Mountain never making the summit.   It takes you past a dwelling right beside the trail at one point.  It also passes a 
posted sign for private property up top.   There is a housing development just beyond that.  
The summit area of Roundtop is a state natural area. Why? What is up there? The top of the mountain is up there. That is what!  Too many folk have decided to try to be King of the Mountain in nearby Wears Valley thus the slopes of the mountains are littered with cabin after cabin.  They failed to see the point of ridgeline zoning.  Thankfully someone stepped in to protect Roundtop from meeting the same fate.   The state natural area insures that the view of the mountain won't change.  Building a house on a mountain summit or above the primary ridgeline ruins the view for all onlookers and guess what folks? No one owns the view!  

           The climb is gradual thankfully. The forest is a red clay pine oak forest. It is the kind of ground where heath vegetation thrives.  Rhododendron, Mountain laurel, pink lady slipper orchids, spreading pogonia orchids love this type forest.    Later on the trail passes through a more rich cove hardwood zone that is wetter owing to seeping springs.   This is where you may see trilliums, spiderwort and other varieties of Spring ephemerals.   

    We walked along chatting.  The pace was not too bad.  I am always slow on uphills.
We stopped once for a snack break, but did not fool with bringing lunches along today. We'd be done by lunch time.   We had some partial views along our way.  The day had cleared up and we had nice weather.  
Robert ahead of me checking the GPS to get an idea of where we stood on our hike distance and position.   It really is encouraging to know you've only got X amount of climb remaining.
Partial view from Roundtop
The forest smelled so nice today. Piney woods much of the way.  

          I had forgotten a lot about the trail since it had been so long between hikes.
One of the main things I forgot about was an extremely steep downhill incline section of trail.
It is just after you start descending from the high point of the hike!  Wow! It would be very slippery
if it were wet.   Thankfully it was dry today.   

         Roundtop is also not used a lot because it lacks the grandstand views, water features, history that attract folks to hike a given trail.  I enjoyed myself but there is not a lot to say about it.  
The only wildlife we saw were numerous woodticks, five toads, and a couple fence lizards. 
The company was good though and the conversation made the hike fun.   
Glad we did this hike.  

       We came to the end and wound our way off the bluff above the Wye.  
At the bottom we could easily see Little River flowing past.   We sat down and put on our water shoes to cross.  We were hot from hiking and really looked forward to getting wet to cool off.  
We could have picked a better spot to ford.   I was up to my behind in the river.   Oh well. 
Nothing for it now.    We got across uneventfully.  The river looked so pretty today.  It had plenty of water and it was crystal clear.  A few folks loitered around the river, but not many actually got in it.
It would have been cold for a swim, but wading felt great. 

        We walked back round to the car and loaded up our stuff.  
I sat on my raincoat to protect the seats.  We went round to the other end and said our goodbyes.
I hope it is not long until we can meet up again.  
Above and below.. a couple of my favorite vistas from the trail today.  The mountain laurel was definitely the star of the show today!


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