Monday, September 3, 2007

More Buffalo Mountain

Friday, I had intended to head down to Roan Mountain State Park to do my hiking. Various responsibilities, however (as well as a sale at the local scrapbook store :), conspired to keep me in town. So I decided to head back over to my new favorite spot, Buffalo Mountain. This time, I explored the eastern side of the park, and was not disappointed. Here's another link to the park map, so you can follow along.

I parked at the alternate trail head. I arrived and got to hiking around 7:10 am, as I wanted to be at the scrapbook store shortly after it opened at 10. I hiked the .15 mile trail segment in to the "crossroads," and then took a sharp left to follow the outer loop trail over to the blue-blazed Tower Ridge trail. It appears as though the trail has been re-routed, however, as in my attempt to not miss the point where the white trail intersects a very short blue trail, I wound up heading up a trail that (rather quickly) became impassable. I am almost of a mind to take some red paint back to that spot, and paint over the faded white blazes, but I imagine that would be illegal, so I guess I'll just report it to you here, and hope that my own mistakes can help others.After deciding I was no longer on the trail, I doubled back, and did eventually find the Tower Ridge trail, and also successfully avoided taking the left-hand blue trail.

Here I must pause and make an observation; generally speaking, when I've encountered trails with names like "so-and-so ridge," they usually travel up to the top of a ridge, follow the ridge for a while, and then drop back down. Not so the ridge-named trails in this park. As I mentioned in a previous entry, Stair-Step Ridge appears to cover the cross-section of a ridge, and Friday I found that Tower Ridge would probably more aptly be named Tower Hill or Tower Knob. You see, the Tower Ridge trail goes up. And then it goes up some more. And some more. And so on. Seemingly ad infinitum. Every time I would level out and look around, noting that there appeared to be no more elevation to be gained, I would turn a corner and find another considerable rise in the trail. I guess all those hours I spent pounding treadmills and ellipticals on the "interval" or "hill" setting were not in vain!

Eventually, of course, the trail did top out, and at this, a most unattractive point. But then I had suspected that the "tower" referred to would be of the antenna sort, and not the fire type.

After reaching this point, I had to wonder whether or not I had hit the summit. The only elevation, other than the trailhead, on this side of the map, was at White Rock, along whose trail I intended to return. I figured that I had a bit of climbing left to do before I got there, since surely the highest points would be marked...wrong again! I actually descended a couple hundred feet or so before reaching White Rock. Not such a bad thing, just a little odd. Actually, I had a wee bit of trouble determining when I had reached White Rock, as there were several side trails leading to rocky outcrops along the way. One was comprised of rock a bit more pale than the others, so I'm guessing that was it.

Regardless, each outcrop afforded me with panoramic views of the railroad tracks, fields, streets, and town below, although, as you can see from these pictures, it was once again a misty day. I'll grant you, the fact that I was shooting into the early morning sun didn't help matters, but I can assure you that only a very little more was visible to the naked eye.

As I made my return descent, I noted mostly rocky terrain, and only a handful of short segments that my knees considered intolerable. It probably helps that the return track was a bit longer than the trail I had taken up the hill. I had actually considered returning via the service road, when I was standing on it next to the antenna, because I figured that, being designed to be passable by vehicles, it would likely have a kinder, gentler grade (as far as my knees were concerned). In the end, however, I am glad that I chose to continue my route as planned. The sun-dappling along this easternmost trail was warm and soothing, without being unpleasant, thanks to the still-cool air. It also provided some neat lighting effects, which I completely failed to capture with my camera. :(

What I did notice, and subsequently capture, were some of the many leaves that were beginning to change color and fall. I am a bit surprised that they are turning so early in the season. It has always been my understanding that these color changes are triggered by sugars in the leaves being transformed by cold temperatures, yet we have not had much in the way of a cold snap yet. So maybe there are other factors at work, or perhaps it just gets considerably colder up here atop the mountain than down in the valley where I make my home.

I completed my trek via the white-blazed outer loop, re-crossing the service road, and making my way back along the same segments with which I had begun. A relatively uneventful hike, and I managed to make it to the scrapbook store on time :)