Spring at Big Schloss

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12.25 mile loop-hike

Uncle John and I enjoyed a 12-mile loop hike to Big Schloss last year on a 100+ degree summer day. We wanted to share the experience, minus the heat, with my dad and our friend Greg today. And of course, my dog Hunter joined us as usual. A very light drizzle greeted us this morning, and fog hung on all the mountains, but the air was a nice cool low-50s, and perfect for uphill hiking.
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The thin fog was actually a good backdrop for photography of the little details of the flora today. There was a tremendous variety of color in those details, including pinks, yellows, purples, whites, reds, in addition to all shades of Spring green. We saw plenty of lady slippers, azalea, mountain laurel, buttercups, daisies, blackberry, and so many other varieties of flowers that it was difficult to keep track.
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We followed the Little Stony Creek Trail three and a half miles to the Sugar Knob Cabin, then turned left and followed the Tuscarora Trail a half mile to the juncture with the Mill Mountain Trail.07
The Mill Mountain Trail spends most of its time straddling the Virginia-West Virginia border. I remembered this as some of the most boring trail last July, but today the brilliant azaleas made this section one of the highlights.

After a couple more miles, we passed the Sandstone Spring and eventually made our way to the unnamed vista. Fog was still crowding the peaks around us and we couldn’t see much from here.
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A few more minutes down the trail, I couldn’t help but try out the new approach / climbing shoes I was wearing and tackle a rock wall on our left. The others waited for me as I climbed up some lichen-covered ledges and found my way to the top of a giant boulder perched atop the wall. The fog was now beginning to clear, and I had a great view of Little Schloss from this (I’m sure) seldom-visited high-point.
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At the Big Schloss Cutoff juncture, we passed another of many nice camping areas we would see today. And from here it was another mile to the main event: the Big Schloss Spur Trail. We would see a total of 15 other hikers today, mostly people on this quarter-mile spur trail who were coming up from the much shorter approach of Wolf Gap. By the time we made it up to the wooden bridge and main rock outcropping of Big Schloss, however, we were the only ones there. We had it to ourselves for a short time, before others did join us to take in the view.

The fog had cleared out completely, by the way, and there was a very light breeze for a perfect summit break. And of course, lots of pictures to take.
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Next we retraced our steps down the spur trail, then the mile back to the Big Schloss Cutoff Trail. We turned onto this trail, making it down the pleasant series of switchbacks to the road in about 50 minutes. Along the way we enjoyed the best mountain laurel blooms of the whole hike. Once back at the gravel road (92), we had just under half a mile of road-walking back to the truck.

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