Revisiting the Bartram Trail
My favorite trails take me deep in the woods, forcing me to notice and be a part of the abundant life all around me. The Bartram Trail from Jones Gap to Whiterock Mountain is just such a hike and offers bonus views of the mountains along the way,
The trail starts off wide, narrowing as it goes along – a gentle transition from the wide-open chaos of the world at large to the peaceful simplicity of nature.
A fraction of a mile in is a side trail to a vista at Jones Knob. Take it, and you’ll know how William Bartram felt when he “…beheld with rapture and astonishment, a sublimely awful scene of power and magnificence, a world of mountains piled upon mountains.”
Backtrack to the main path and continue deeper into the woods. In the middle of summer the trail is smothered in every shade of green – mosses, trees, ferns, evergreens, all those little leafy plants whom I call “friend” because I can never remember their names. Colorful wildfowers glint like gems against the green backdrop. Walk softly and pay attention, and you’ll likely spot certain small delights, such as frogs and turtles, who are lucky enough to call this paradise home.
A little over halfway to Whiterock you’ll come to another overlook from which you can see your final destination – this one is my favorite. The rocks are covered with a thick carpet of moss that squelches underfoot – a comforting sound after last year’s dry summer. There’s a particular flat slab of rock that’s a perfect spot to take a nap or just look at the sky and endless mountains in contemplative wonder.
Whiterock is not much further from here. You’ll pass through Whiterock Gap on the way, and at a V in the trail a sign will point you to the left, away from the Bartram Trail. At the end of the trail you’ll find a rather steep rock outcrop – you don’t want to trip and tumble here! Carefully poke around and enjoy the 180-degree views, minding where you step – a beautifully camouflaged rattlesnake grumpily greeted me here recently when I interrupted his morning nap.
This moderate out-and-back excursion is only close to five miles round-trip, including side trip to Jones Knob. To reach the trailhead from Highlands, head down Highway 64 toward Franklin for a little over seven miles and turn left onto Goldmine Road. In just under a mile, take another left onto Dendy Orchard Road. Drive two and half miles to a forest service road on your right, and it’s another two miles or so to the trailhead.