We headed west on 55/US 48 from Strasburg skirting around the north end of Little North Mountain and crossing Great North Mountain and the Tuscarora Trail before dropping down into the Lost River Valley and Wardensville, WV. At the end of the main drag, just after Lost River Brewing, we turned left onto Trout Run Rd and headed to the well-marked Bucktail Trail parking area about six miles up on the left. This is as easy a trailhead to find as they come.
Coincidentally, Trout Run Rd runs back south and east through Wolf Gap into Shenandoah County, VA where it becomes 675, Wolf Gap Rd, the road we were on last weekend when hiking Big Schloss just over the border in Virginia.
We arrived at the trailhead about 9:45am, it being just slightly less than an hour drive from home, and were perhaps the twelfth car there. Nonetheless, we got a space right next to the gate and we did not see many of those people on the trail. I am guessing that a lot of the cars belonged to overnighters who made a two-day trek of the trail.
It was quite by accident that we got to Halfmoon Mountain on Sunday. Ann was looking at hikes and thought that she had sent me a link to one on the AT that she wanted to do, but ended up cutting and pasting the wrong link, the one to Halfmoon. I liked it so much that I asked if we could do it rather than the out and back hike on the AT. I'd like to get as many hikes in the George Washington National Forest as possible before deer season opens November 21.
Speaking of the GWNF, we really love hiking there as opposed to Shenandoah National Park which sees so many tourists and where the trails can be crowded. Sunday, we saw six hikers all day on our loop which started from the Bucktail parking lot and heading north to the bridge over Halfmoon Run where the Capon Trail starts. From there we headed east up the creek, picked up the Old Mine Trail forest road for a little bit, then climbed the steep German Wilson Trail to the saddle where we turned west and climbed to the summit of Halfmoon Mountain. Back down from there to the yellow-blazed Halfmoon Trail, at this point less than a mile from where we were hiking the Mill Mountain Trail last weekend, to the pink-blazed Bucktail Cutoff Trail and back to the car for a circuit of about 10.6 miles in about five hours.
|We Made the Circuit of Halfmoon Mountain|
|Lone Hickory Turning Yellow|
|To Make the Loop, Don't Cross This Bridge|
Upon leaving the fire road, the German Wilson trail became immediately steep and then turned right following a gully between two hills, a dry creek bed. Footing was iffy and my hiking poles came in quite useful in seeking out safe places to step in the deep leaves. This trail was also not well maintained or well marked. The photo below shows what you are dealing with for faint blazes.
|Blazes are Tough to Spot at Times|
|Red Leaf on Mountain Laurel|
|Rocks Just Before Summit|
|Looking East at Mill Mountain|
|And South at Big Schloss, Wolf Gap, and Tibbet's Knob|
|Annie Checking out Derelict Tower|
|Trout Run Valley, Long Mountain to Right|
|Big Schloss Behind Ann|
There was also one turn in the pink blazed trail as it joined an old wagon road for a brief time that could have been really hard to notice had we been going the opposite direction. The temptation would have been to continue straight up the mountain on the wagon trail and totally miss the poorly blazed turn-off. We finally arrived back on the orange-blazed fire road on which we started. We missed seeing the pink-blazed trail take leave of the fire road as we hiked out in the morning. About 20 paces back down the fire road, I turned around to try to understand why I missed the turn-off. At 20 paces, the pink-blazed trail was unrecognizable.
All this is by way of saying that these less popular trails are less well marked and you need to have your wits about you. A map helps too and you should always have a compass. Know how to use them too. It would be nearly impossible to get lost here though, with the mountain to your back in the east, you are in an area bordered by Deep Gutter Run (issuing from Sandstone Spring on the Mill Mountain Trail) to the south, Halfmoon Run to the north, and Trout Run (road and creek) to the west.
No good hike should be without its just reward and so we stopped in Wardensville at Lost River Brewing. Our last visit here was in 2012, though to be fair, we did try to stop on the way back from our Labor Day excursion to Blackwater Falls, but they were closed. We grabbed the two stools at the bar closest to the front door and after a long wait on our unhurried/lackadaisical barkeep, I got a Pale Ale and Ann got a Shocktop. The Pale Ale was decent enough: not the best, not the worst, but fresh and drinkable.
|Lost River, Decent Pale Ale|
|Really Good Wings|
|Salt and Vinegar Fries (Absent Salt and Vinegar)|
|A Very Good Burger; Nice Onion Rings Too|