Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cumberland Valley Loop - Big South Fork

Gernt Trail 3.3
Gernt Overlook .3
O&W Trail 2.7
Coyle Branch Trail 2.1
North White Oak Loop 11.4
Groom Branch Trail 2.4
Total Miles: 22.2

Lora and I headed out for an overnight backpack at the Big South Fork.  We hiked the Cumberland Valley Loop and part of the North White Oak Loop which are all old road beds.  We started at the Cumberland Valley trailhead and hiked the Gernt Trail.  We did the side trip to the Gernt Overlook which is worth the time.  Great views and just a short side trail.  The sign says .3 one way but I think that is round trip.

After the Overlook, the trail drops down into the gorge to the North White Oak Creek.  With the cold weather, we got to see lots of icicles hanging off the rocks and frozen puddles on the trail.  It is a very pretty trail down to the creek.  Once at the bottom we took the O&W  trail along the creek heading East.  The first fording was of the Groom Branch.  Yes, the water was a little cool for the old fashion foot washing. It was a lot shallower than the North White Oak Creek ford that you would have to make to get to Long Ridge Trail that we saw there.

North White Oak Creek was up pretty high and made for some beautiful sights and some good swimming holes if you were up to it.  There were some good mud holes that we had to climb around too.

The next fording was of Coyle Branch, which was cool as well and a little bit wider.  There is a large area for a horse camp there where we turned and hiked the Coyle Branch trail up and out of the gorge.  The Coyle Branch trail was another beautiful hike with all the rock overhangs and icicles.  We bypassed the Leatherwood Overlook because the amount of miles we were already hiking.

We turned onto the North White Oak Loop trail and hiked it along the area that the wildfire had occurred some years ago.  We had many small creek crossings and wandered in and out of the Scott State Forest.  We ended up camping across one of the small creeks uphill into the woods.  According to the description it was around the 5.3 mile mark.  It was a cool night and we had to thaw the ice off the wood before it would burn.  We stayed warm by the fire and enjoyed the light of the full moon along with the stars in the clear sky.  We heard some coyotes during the evening.

The next morning we got up and continued our hike on the North White Oak Loop.  Once again we bypassed the White Oak overlook because of the miles.  The trail wondered along both sides of the gorge without any good views.  We did see two brave horse riders out just before we got to the Groom Branch Trail.  On  the Groom Branch trail we did see a wild looking growth in the top of hemlock tree.  It looked like a bush growing up there with lots of branches and the same needles.  First we have seen anything like that.  Over all it was a good hike.

On the way out we noticed a sign that said "Permits" at the Hitching Post General Store by the trailhead.  So we stopped in a found out that you don't have to drive all the way to Bandy Creek Visitor Center to get a permit to backpack in the Big South Fork.  That would have saved us lots of miles over the years.  They do serve food here and they are open on Sundays which is a rarity.  The owners Jim and Claudia also own the Big South Fork Lodge.  So stop by and see them next time your in the area.


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