We made our way to the Case Camp Ridge trailhead on FS 475 B. This is off 276 north of the Sliding Rock Rec Area. FS475B is a gravel road and is in pretty good shape. Parking at the Case Camp trailhead is off to the left on FS5041. The road is closed after you turn the corner but lots of parking here.
Case Camp starts off benignly enough but after it crosses Seniard Ridge it starts its climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is said to rise 1000 feet in 1.7 miles. I can tell you that most of the group did pretty well with a few well-deserved rests in between. I found it rather difficult and warm as I am usually pretty slow going uphill. My companion in the back and I drank lots of water and persevered. We saw some beautiful flame azalea as we made our way to the top and stopped here and there to take photos of fungus. An occasional unidentified bird gave us a little song as we hiked up and up. We finally and happily topped the ridge and walked down the paved parkway towards Cherry Gap where we got some good views.
After a few minutes of recuperation, we made our way across the parkway to the Mountain to Sea trail where we headed in a southwesterly direction towards Skinny Dip Falls. The MST undulates up and down the ridge line. I noticed that some kind souls had done some trail maintenance so it is in pretty good shape.
We had lunch at Skinny Dip Falls with other days hikers and swimmers who had hiked in from the parkway. A cool pool of water lay before us, as we perched on rocks surrounding it, its hypnotic sounds creating a tranquil setting in the woods.
After lunch, we made our way back to the parkway and stopped at Looking Glass Rock Overlook for more beautiful views. Looking Glass was obscured by the haze but it was still beautiful. The view of the rock is much more impressive than the views from it but that’s just my opinion. There’s a sign at the overlook that explains the history of the rock and one fact I found interesting is that it is volcanic.
Next stop Seniard Ridge trail which requires a walk down the parkway. We tried to stay to the left and out of harm’s way. This was my least favorite part of the hike as I was worried about the cars but we made our way to the trailhead without incident sidling into the grass as needed to let the cars pass. I did see some beautiful pink rhododendron over the guardrail on the last turn before the trail which is a foretaste of next week’s hike to Craggy Gardens.
The group made the turn down Seniard Ridge which at its start is really a very nice trail as it winds its way down the side and away from the parkway. The sun peeked in and out of the trees as we hiked. Another hiker and I stopped to take a quick photo of a flame azalea and found ourselves far behind the group. We finally caught up to them as they had stopped to wait for us. One of our hikers had apparently stepped on a baby rattlesnake in the interim but no harm to either party.
We made our way across several water features but did not need to take off our boots thank goodness. Finally, we hit a portion of the trail that appeared to be an old forest road. As we turned one corner, a stunning view of Looking Glass Rock lay before us on the trail. Cameras came out for a photo opportunity. Unfortunately I was having a hard time with mine, maybe the heat in my pocket. Mr. T did manage to get off a shot with it. As an aside, lots of blackberries on this trail and I imagine August will be very good here.
Continuing on we ran into several snakes one being a rattlesnake and the other some kind of harmless black snake. The rattlesnake was very docile and did not rattle or move. It looked to be about 4 feet long. I was happy to pass by quickly but some of us wanted a closer camera shot. Thank goodness for zoom lenses.
The group continued on as we got closer to our destination. We hit a trailhead where it touched the road and I stopped briefly to look at the map. The sky had started to darken again and I decided the trail was shorter than the road so we continued on at one point stopping to put on our raincoats. Have you ever stood in the woods and listened to the wind kick up and the rain move towards you? You can hear the drops hitting the ground as it comes on.
It rained only briefly but we moved quickly down the trail towards the trailhead and then back to the cars. Everyone loaded up and as we moved out the rain started in earnest. Despite the threat of rain in the forecast, we made it to 4 p.m. without a major downpour. What a great hike! Loved it. Approximately 9 miles.