MO: Trails NE of Wolf Gap

Posted by Andrew L. on

Between good weather and just three of us, the trip to explore the trails Northeast of Wolf Gap was uneventful. This trip report is just to provide a record in case others are contemplating a similar trip.

Jeff and I met up at Vienna metro and carpooled to Wolf Gap. Since we were camping for the Friday night at Wolf Gap, Nick met us in the parking lot at 6:20am on Saturday morning. Spring is here, so the car camping spots at Wolf Gap were already taken and there was a big party going on at one of them. We set up across the street in the informal group area. I was quite happy to get a site that was mostly out of earshot of the big group, until about a minute after laying down I heard a nearby tree creek in the high winds.

We got up on the ridge toward big schloss for the sunrise, but the sun rise itself happened before we were on big schloss. We saw some other backpackers who had camped near big schloss up on the rocks at sunrise. Perhaps due to the nice weather, we passed at least seven other groups of backpackers during the weekend.

At 3:30, we were at the intersection of the Pond Run section of the Tuscarora Trail and Halfmoon trail after hiking for 9 hours with a few breaks. Going by the shortest path to the campsite was listed as 3.4 mi and we were going to take a longer route to get there, which winded up as another three hours of hiking. So I figure that the estimate from Caltopo with straight line segments for portions of the trail was likely off by closer to 15% than 5%, so it was probably going to be a 25 mi day instead of the posted 23 mi or the Caltopo estimate of 21.7. In defense of Caltopo, it was probably correct on the elevation gain. And I had plotted the Big Schloss cutoff trail as a straight line since it wasn't on the USGS map, so there was probably 0.7 mi to add in to just that segment. While being off by 2 mi for the posting is a lot in absolute mileage, it's under 10% which is well within the DC UL margin of error.

We found that the nice campsite near Halfmoon Run was already taken by some car campers, so we backtracked up Bucktail Ridge and camped in the grassy field. I have mixed feelings about camping in the grassy field. On one side, the ground was soft, we didn't need to worry about any dead trees and we had a great view of the star after dark. Perhaps due to the number of miles hiked on Saturday, every sleep position seemed comfortable. On the other, there was a non-trivial amount of deer poop, thus likely an elevated risk of deer ticks. So heading further up the trail and doing dispersed camping in the trees might be a safer option for small groups. As is, there were some benches near the parking lot, so we ate dinner and breakfast on those. Nick executed a solid bear hang.

On Sunday, we elected to swing by the Trout Pond area, as it substituted new trails for ones we had seen recently. That winded up adding on about two miles or so, but it had a good lookout point. Also, there are some sinkholes that are nifty to see.

We were back at the cars around 2:20pm and dropped by Spelunker's in Front Royal for a post-hike meal of burgers and fries.

Michael Martin posted on

Sounds like a good trip. Did you make much use of the Tuscarora Trail? There are some nice sections of it to the east and the north.

Nick Kassuba posted on

We ended up doing Three Ponds on our way to White Mountain overlook to eat lunch (My favorite part of the trail we hiked) and the Pond Run section which was more of a two track than a trail.

Andrew L. posted on

When I first laid it out, I was thinking of catching the Tuscarora up at Paul Gerhard shelter and then heading SW. After measuring the distance on the map, I figured that would put us around a 30 mi day on Saturday or needing to change the campsite and route back on Sunday, so we caught the Tuscarora near at Wilson Cove instead. It's good to know that any of the options would have had cool trails on it, so there are more trails yet to be hiked.

One thing which I liked about how the trip worked out was that the ratio of time spent hiking in the woods to time spent driving in the car was awesome. While it helps to have company in the car, some of the further away VA/WV drives start to get far for folks coming from Baltimore, etc. Naturally, one of the other things being kicked around was doing more PA hiking...