Shockeys Knob Circuit: 6.5 Miles in the Sleepy Creek WMA

Our starting point: the parking area and the white blaze of High Rock Trail

Our starting point: the parking area and the white blaze of High Rock Trail.  This is the Brush Creek Access Area.

Elevation profile for today's circuit hike

Elevation profile for today’s circuit hike

Today’s hike started at a small parking area off of Historic Packhorse Trail, a dirt road about two miles out of Glengary on Route 45 (Apple Harvest Drive on some maps).  The small lot is well-hidden:  in fact, a local resident we asked didn’t know it was there, and I wound up driving past the split turnoff three times before finding it.  The best advice I have is to look for a turn on the right that is divided into an upper and lower option.  In this case take the lower (left hand) route.

This is early in the hike along High Rock Trail.  There are some signs of fall color, but the greens of summer are still holding strong.

This is early in the hike along High Rock Trail. There are some signs of fall color, but the greens of summer are still holding strong.

The skies sporadically changed from partly sunny to cloudy and back all day long, and the prospect for a cold soaking loomed large from beginning to end.  Likewise, I’m not one to take cues from the weather man, and my attire was more in tune with the recent heatwave than the sudden cold snap.  As a result, things were a bit uncomfortable in the strong winds at higher elevations.

The High Rock Trail is pretty easy to follow, but these blazes are pretty confusing.  If they were opposite of each other on the tree...ummm...maybe.

The High Rock Trail is pretty easy to follow, but these blazes are pretty confusing. If they were opposite of each other on the tree…ummm…maybe.

From the gate, our walk began on an unfamiliar end of a familiar trail.  The High Rock Trail follows a forest service road for about 1,5 miles before taking a sudden left.  Last week we headed in from the opposite direction and took a right, but for the next .7 miles (heading up the mountain) we briefly took the same course as the previous week’s hike.

Getting started on the Mini Knife Edge Trail.  Unfortunately, this would have, what's for me, a "normal" ending.

Getting started on the Mini Knife Edge Trail. Unfortunately, this would have, for me, a “normal” ending.  Look for a white blaze near the end of the formation along the Tuscarora Trail.

At the top, we took a right (northward bound) on the Tuscarora Trail and went in search of the Mini Knife Edge Trail, which traverses the narrow topside of High Rock.  The view is spectacular, but about sixty feet out, the rock narrows to about three feet in width, and my old enemy–acrophobia–reared its ugly head.  Looking down, roughly 150 feet of air was the only buffer between the top and bottom of the cliff, so I made as graceful of a retreat as possible.  Candee turned around with me because, at that point, I literally needed to be talked off of the ledge.

Shockeys Knob Overlook--looking to the west along the Tuscarora Trail.

Shockeys Knob Overlook–looking to the west along the Tuscarora Trail.

After my bout with heights, we retraced our route back to the High Rock/Tuscarora junction.  Over the next couple of miles, a forest road (bearing right on the blue-blazed Tuscarora Trail) turns into a narrow footpath  and weaves its way through both public and private land, all while bobbing up and down along the top of the ridge.

Looking out from the Tuscarora Trail

Looking out from the Tuscarora Trail

Between High Rock and Shockeys Knob Shelter, we did come across the occasional pile of bear scat.  However, with a stiff breeze blowing, the only sounds were flailing tree limbs, and we even swayed a bit on the overlook near the four mile point of the hike.  I’m guessing that the bears we didn’t hear were probably the same ones that smelled us from a mile away in the breeze.

The rustic Shockeys Knob Shelter has a beauty all of its own.  It's even equipped with a metallic tree branch ornament.  Very cool!

The rustic Shockeys Knob Shelter has a beauty all of its own. It’s even equipped with a metallic tree branch ornament. Very cool!

After the long stretch atop the ridge, a white-blazed trail leads to Shockeys Knob Shelter, a rustic, three-sided resting place for both long-distance hikers and overnight campers.  About fifty yards from the shelter, there’s a bright red bear pole that allows campers to hoist their food bags well above the reach of our furry friends.  Bears, of course, are a problem, but trailside shelters are notorious for housing mice and other varmints with an equal liking for human food.

Bear pole.  It also works for mice, but a kamakazi squirrel might have a chance at raiding a food bag.

Bear pole. It also works for mice, but a kamakazi squirrel might have a chance at raiding a food bag.

Beyond the shelter, the Tuscarora Trail heads down the mountain in a series of switchbacks, and at about the halfway point, a left on the Millrace Trail starts the homestretch of the hike by continuing the descent.  At the walk’s lowest point (see profile), the trail crosses Brush Creek before a moderate uphill stretch back to the parking area.

Millrace Trail from the Tuscarora

Yellow-blazed Millrace Trail from the Tuscarora

This hike doesn’t have a dramatic gain in elevation, but there are a couple of magnificent views from the top.  High Rock is a stunning rock formation, even if I couldn’t conquer the full out-and-back along the Mini Knife Edge Trail, and the Shockeys Knob Overlook ranks with the best we’ve seen on our many journeys.  On a Sunday, the excursion as a whole promises to be a very peaceful one, but the WMA is currently open to hunters, so hikers beware!  Nevertheless, I would strongly advise anybody to find the right time to take this amazing hike.  It’s definitely worth it!

Crossing Brush Creek.  This is the lowest point of the hike at a bit  under 1000' above sea level.  The high point is slightly over 1800' above sea level--near the shelter.

Crossing Brush Creek. This is the lowest point of the hike at a bit under 1000′ above sea level. The high point is slightly over 1800′ above sea level–near the shelter.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Jim Hopkins on March 5, 2018 at 12:05 am

    Thanks for the nice trail write up. I have mountain biked the northern section of the Sleepy Creek WMA, and have wanted to return to check out this area. Hopefully will check it out soon.
    Thanks again!
    Jim

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