Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dragons Tooth

Dragon's Tooth is the second most popular hike in Southwestern Virginia. It is more physically demanding than nearby McAfee's Knob which is a short distance away. On the day I hiked Dragon's Tooth the trail head parking lot had twenty parked cars, and the parking lot to McAfee's Knob had about 150 cars. Dragon's Tooth is a five mile round trip hike from the trail head parking lot.

As I walked up the path from the parking lot I was greeted by a patch of ripe blackberries.  This area is known for the black bear sightings, and I wondered if I would be seeing any sampling blackberries along the trail.

The trail is well marked by a blue blaze painted approximately six feet from the bottom of tree trunks. Although the trail is well worn from the many hikers who take the challenge to hike Dragon's Tooth, it is well-maintained in an attempt to stop erosion of the soil from occurring.

As you hike along the trail you will cross many low water bridges built to span several of the wet weather drainages at the base of the mountain.

During heavy rainfalls these small wet weather streams can become raging drainage ways that can take large boulders and fallen trees down the mountainside.

A short distance up the trail you will see yellow blaze trail markers leading to the left showing the  beginning of the Boy Scout Trail. This side trail takes you to the Appalachian Trail and another way to climb Dragon's Tooth.

A series of water bars are placed along the trail to direct stormwater across the trail and into the woods, rather than allowing the water to increase its erosive force down the trail. 

Although the water only stays a short time in pools along the wet weather stream you may see some aquatic insects and crayfish enjoying that time.

The trail is steep but manageable by the many switch backs to the top.

Rock steps are constructed where switch backs are not constructed.

I like to try to identify the plant life along the trail. This plant is a young sassafras tree. It is recognizable by its three distinctive leaf shapes. In the winter the sap is stored in the roots for new growth in the spring.  

Many varieties of maple trees are found all along the trail.

The mountain ash has a leaf much like the red maple and it is known for its distinctive green lines running down the tree branch . As I was looking at the different trees I heard a noise as if someone was shuffling through the dry leaves and looked up to see a big black bear and before I could take his picture he was gone.

Poison ivy is known to grow all along the edges of the trail, and the oil from the leaf and stem causes a skin rash. 

If you take the Boy Scout Trail you will pass through an area where pine needles cover the path from a  pine groove.

Before too long you will come to the Appalachian Trail marked with a white blaze. The Dragon's Tooth Trail and The Appalachian Trail become one from here to the top. A map is provided on the post to help make sure you go the right direction.

There are areas where you can stop to view the beautiful 
valley below.

You know you are getting nearer the top of the mountain by the large out croppings of solid rock.

Even though you see large rocks you are still aware of nature's force of erosion by seeing the sand along the trail. The force of wind, water,  freezing, and thawing cause the decay of rocks into sand.

Closer to the top the trail gets very rocky and more dangerous. A sign warns you of the danger in hiking over a steep and rocky trail.

You will walk along narrow ledges and come into contact with loose rocks.

Where there are no trees to mark the path the correct way is marked by white paint on the rocks.

There are areas where there are no easy hand holds and here metal steps are provided.

In other areas where metal hand holds cannot be provided, you are left to rock scramble over these areas.

You know you are at the top when you can turn around and look between the large rock boulders that form the Dragon's teeth and see views of the valley and mountains below.

Once at the top you can make a turn around of about 360 degree view of the valley below.

There is no question in my mind that God created the beauty in all of what we see.
Isaiah 55:12 - You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and the trees of the field will clap their hands.