Autumn is here
September 26, 2004
Ok, first, my apologies to everyone else on this site who was saying that they saw an early Fall coming a month ago. I didn't believe you, and I'm hereby retracting my disbelief and saying that you were right, Fall is definitely here.
Some of the maples are peaking in the high creek valleys up along Mountain Lake-- I saw them today. Black birches are turning golden above 3000 feet, and the oaks have assumed their dull rust color along the 4000 foot summits due to an early frost last week. The first trees are even changing down here in Blacksburg, but above 3000 feet around here I'd say they are definitely into early autumn... again, this is most pronounced in the "sinks" where cool large creek valleys can trap that high mountain air in the morning, but there's no mistaking the colors cropping up on the hillsides as well.
I just checked Whitegrass's webpage too. They had a frost in the Valley earlier this week, and a photo from the Sods show that the colors have peaked there right now! That's two days after summer, and a couple weeks ahead of where they've been the last few years.
This hurricane coming up the coast is going to bring in a reinforcing shot of 32-38 degree nights down here in southern VA, I imagine that's got to spell the 20s on the highest peaks from Snowshoe north.
Also, as a final note that may bode well for the upcoming winter: Fairbanks, Alaska has been running 5 to 10 degrees below normal since August, which, in addition to giving the permafrost a nice break for once, could be indicative of an early snow build in the arctic. I've seen other posts-- can't remember if it was on this site or elsewhere-- that say that early snowpack in Siberia is a major predicator of a "bad" east coast winter. Ok, Fairbanks isn't in Siberia, but it's not far away. Could it really be that much warmer across the Bering Strait?
Just cking out mountain lake on the topozone & was a little surprised at the elevations there.Thats a potential "whitegrass south"! That lake should freeze over hard in the winter & with some trail blazing you could have a nordic playground.What are the rules up there?Snowmobiling?To bad the drop off the highest point(4325')is off to the se.Thats a 1000' drop.Have you been to the highest point?Are there any spruce up there?I remember growing up in the dc area & watching football games from blacksburg & seeing snow falling somtimes very early & late in the season.Wintergreen is right up 81 an easy day trip.If you havn't been there i think you will like the place.With 2, 6 man express lifts(1 could be a 5 man) & a view to go with it it will be sweet.If & when you or anyone visits wintergreen you should take a tour of the mtn.There are some trails off the top to some rock outcroppings & such that offer some awesome sights.
If you travel north west on your topo map you'll find some northern/western faces. There are several peaks up there including Butt Mountain which has a good northwestern face with 1000+ ft drops. Most of the land is state or federally owned inculding the Mountain Lake Wilderness Area that is part of the Jefferson National Forrest. I included a description I got off the web below. There are a ton of trails up there already including the AT but I don't know how much snow they hold. I have some pictures of the Cascades, a nearby 70 ft waterfall, that's frozen solid in March and it's about 1000 ft lower in elevation. If I can figure out how to post them, I will. The lake itself is privately owned and has a pretty famous resort on it. It's best know as the place where Dirty Dancing was filmed.
Mountain Lake Wilderness on the Jefferson National Forest
The United States Congress designated the Mountain Lake Wilderness Area on the Jefferson National Forest in 1984 and it now has a total of 11,035 acres. Virginia contains 8,314 acres. West Virginia contains 2,721 acres. Mountain Lake, the only natural body of water in western Virginia, actually sits just outside the southwestern Wilderness boundary. Inside the boundary you'll find a highland plateau resting squarely on the Eastern Continental Divide, isolated stands of virgin spruce and hemlock in a typical Appalachian hardwood forest, a mountain bog, and War Spur Overlook, which yields a panoramic view of this Wilderness. Elevations range from over 4,000 feet on Lone Pine Peak near the middle of the area to about 2,200 feet. Deer, bears, squirrels, and grouse run wild in the forest. Several trails provide access to primitive Wilderness. Approximately one-fourth of the Wilderness lies in West Virginia.
Well is it a Whitegrass south? Yes and no. It definitely has the elevation but the land is a decided mix of public and private property. The Little Meadow Hunt Club seems to own most of the "bowl" below Mountain Lake-- if you look on the topos to the north and west of the Lake there is a depression that ranges from 3000-3600 feet from which the creek that leads to the Cascades starts from. This area looks phenomenal for hiking and/or skiing but in the winter the only true use would be Rocky Mountain Road. Given that the road would not be plowed, that's not too big a deal... but you can't do much besides the road.
Now, there are a lot of trails around there, and there's a golf course I believe you can X-C on, and the roads that aren't plowed are all fair game. Conservatively speaking, you're looking at 20 miles or so of X-C terrain just in Mountain Lake alone, all at altitudes ranging from 3100 feet up to 4300 feet.
Not to be overlooked, however, is Stony Creek just to the north of Wind Rocks (where White Rocks National Recreation Area is). That is an extremely sheltered and COLD valley-- unusually cold for 2000-3000 feet around here-- with a significant north-facing slope and a number of fire roads and trails leading up to Wind Rocks and Rocky Mountain Road. I'd say from 2500 feet up to Rocky Mountain Road there's a potential of another 5-10 miles of X-C skiing there as well.
So between the roads, the golf course, and the trails, you can put together 25-30 miles of X-C trails pretty easily, some of which would be overnighting only. Snowfall would probably be 40 inches down low and as much as 60-70 inches on the ridge, so it's not a serious WV winter down here, but much better than in the valley.
I need to call Mountain Lake to see what their winter policies are...