Back to Dragon’s Tooth – 5/7/2011

I headed up to Dragon’s Tooth yesterday for a tough day hike. I had been to Dragon’s Tooth last summer, but had gone up the shorter but steeper side of the mountain. Yesterday, I decided to start at VA620 and Trout Creek and complete the entire hike around Cove Mountain.

The beginning of the hike started with a crossing of a foot bridge across Trout Creek. Immediately after the bridge, a set of stairs marked the beginning of the ascent. The trail followed a spur of the mountain through scattered oaks, pines and mountain laurels. The ascent was steep but not too bad.

The trail made its way around the end of Cove Mountain and made a small descent into the cove. The trail hit a forest road and there was a sign for the Pickle Branch Shelter. I had plenty of water, so I skipped visiting the shelter 1/3 mile down the blue-blaze side trail. The main trail followed the forest road for a bit and then entered a grove of trees and ascended the main ridge of Cove Mountain. There were series of large switchbacks that made the way easier. A trail runner passed going southbound.

There were nice views from the ridge of the mountain to the north. The mountain ranged in color from deep green at the base to brown at the top. This was a nice indication of how far spring had progressed on the mountain. I a few weeks the whole mountain would be green. The trail going northbound passed over several rocky knobs as it made is way around the curve of Cove Mountain. There were a couple of low gaps, but the trail steadily climbed toward the Dragon’s Tooth.

Along the trail there was an abundance of wildflowers. I was especially excited to see Lady Slipper Orchids. I had never seen these before on my hikes. There were many dogwoods still blooming, a few red and pink azaleas, lily-of the valley, violets and many others.

I finally made it to the top and the tooth just after 12. There was a crowd of hikers there who had come up from the other side. I sat in the shade of the rock and enjoyed lunch. After lunch, I climbed up through the gap in the rock and saw the extraordinary view from the top. You could see all the way to the Peaks of Otter in the far distance.

The trip returning passed over the same path. The trip down went smoothly, much easier than the trip up the mountain. At the trail to the shelter, I decided to take the forest road down to Trout Creek and VA620. This path was very easy and made the final distance back the beginning of the hike very quick.

Total Miles Hiked – 10.2, New AT Miles 5.2

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