Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Buffalo Mountain

For years Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve has been on my radar. Once before Carole and I had tried to locate the trail head so that I could climb the mountain and look out from the summit. But that was a number of years ago when the way to the preserve was not signed and you had to know the way there. I had directions but the gravel roads were unmarked and I was afraid that I was going to end up trespassing on private property. So that first attempt was a bust.

This time we found that the way to the Preserve was marked with Virginia State signage and finding our way there was a piece of cake. In no time we pulled into the wide parking lot in the middle of the forest and found the terminus to the trail leading to the summit.

Buffalo Mountain is unusual in that the peak is mainly exposed rock of a type unlike most of the nearby geology. This has resulted in a number of rare plant and animal communities that exist on and just below the summit of the the mountain. Also, here in the South, there is no true treeline, so mountain tops that are naturally treeless are pretty rare.

The trail to the top is relatively short--just about one mile. But it's also a bit steep, gaining about seven hundred vertical feet. That's not difficult by my standards, but some people think that makes it a tough trail to hike. The walk up is through a forest almost totally composed of hardwoods. I saw only a few evergreens along the way--they're pretty rare on those slopes.

When I did get to the top I was rewarded with spectacular views of the local Blue Ridge high country. Buffalo Mountain is a monadnock and stands out alone on the plateau, rising well over one thousand feet above the surrounding territory. The summit is broad and rocky with two peaks, one slightly higher than the other. There are also cliffs along one side of the mountain. Once you see it from a distance you can see why it was named for our American bison--it does resemble one as it stands dominantly on the horizon.

It was good to finally bag this peak. I wouldn't mind going back for another visit one of these days.

One of my first videos made with my GoPro. The last pull to the summit and to the highest part of the peak--3,971 feet above sea level.

The highest of the two peaks at the top.

Looking down from the cliff tops at forests and fields.

Walking along the top from one peak to the other.

Buffalo Mountain from a distance. The high point of Floyd County.


Kent Tankersley said...

Cool summit and nice photos/video! I imagine you're giving the GoPro a good workout. I kept looking at that blue dome of sky. I forget how sunny the winters can be back there.

And that's so true about how rare open mountaintops are in the South. A British friend of mine who's done lots of hiking in the Lake District, etc., has visited Virginia several times (and even once passed through Ellijay!).

He was not impressed with the AT because, as he says, all you see are trees, trees, trees. No views. I guess it's what you're used to.

James Robert Smith said...

I like the trees. It's what makes the southern Appalachians so special. The Great Smoky Mountains have several times more species of tree than the entire area of Europe.

But it is nice to find an open peak now and again.

Your Brit pal should have hiked the grassy balds near Roan Mountain on the AT. Nothing but open country. Or he could have hiked the AT around the Sawteeth and Charlie's Bunion.