Appalachian Trail / Iron Mtn Loop (Mar 26, 2016)

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at_to_iron_mtn_coverConditions: Day Hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Damascus, VA
Area: Damascus, TN
Reference: n/a
Stats: 5.61mi, 1226' gain (round trip)

JD had a scout requirement to do at least a 5 mile hike using a compass. B-in-L Craig and I looked at some maps trying to find a loop trip. Something with several trail junctions where JD could practice using the compass to figure out which way to go. Craig decided on a loop out of Damascus, VA which turned into a nice day outing for some adults and the kids. It was a pretty big, Craig, brother John and his wife Fay, the kids...JD (12), Emma (12), Wes (9) Meredith (6). This made the Hodges/Putz hiking group 8 strong. Nick the dog.

We took two cars up to Damascus and parked just off Hwy 58 at a parking area for the Virginia Creeper Trail (elevation 2200'). In hindsight we should have just crossed the road from here to the north side picking up the trail there (but then in hindsight...JD's hike wouldn't have been at least 5 miles). Instead, we walked the Virginia Creeper trail less than 1/4mi to a junction which noted the trail was detoured (?). We took this trail which headed back north (Creeper heads south) and at about .5mi from the cars found ourselves back at the same creek than ran past the parking lot (Whitetop Laurel Creek). There was no bridge or foot log here explaining the detour notice we'd seen earlier. The creek was easy enough to cross with some of the kids hitching a backride. Once on the other side of the ridge JD and I backtracked along the road a bit looking for the trail we knew was on the other side but again...unfamiliar terrain...the trail was right there at the road crossing.

On the other side of the road we found ourselves on the Appalachian Trail (nice!) and headed west, back towards Damascus, on a well graded trail. We saw lots of hikers out, even some that appeared to be out for the weekend or longer. We hiked a for about 3.3mi (2966') until we reach a junction with the Iron Mtn trail. JD pulled out his trusty compass and got us pointed in the right direction. The Iron Mtn trail got us high on the ridge which we followed heading back east. There was another trail junction at about 4.5mi (2820') (trail heads down the upper reached of Beach Creek towards Hwy 605) where again JD got to practice map and compass skills.

We completed the loop by heading back down to the car the direct route (where we could have gone at the start of the trip) making for a hike that got JD his Scout Badge at 5.6 miles!

3/23/2016: Iron Mountain
3/24/2016: Rogers Ridge
AT to Iron Mtn Loop Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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