A week ago at this hour (9 am) I was on the Iron Mountain Trail. This trail was adjacent to our campground at Comer’s Rock, 25 miles from Wytheville, Virginia.
About 30 yards or so down the trail the hiker is faced with three options: they can turn right and go down a sloping trail called Little Dry Run, go up a hill to the left and continue to the overlook (1/2 mile), or turn directly left and stay on the Iron Mountain Trail. My boys and I chose this last option.
The sign at the turn off says that Hale Lake is 2 miles from that location. We determined to reach the lake.
The Iron Mountain Trail to me was moderately difficult. I do not know how people who rate trails come up with their designations, but here is how I came up with mine. The trail is narrow and full of embedded rocks and loose stones. It follows the ridge line, so on the right is a downhill slope. For someone like me who has a weak ankle (broken seven months ago), a stumble could result in injury.
The hike down the trail is worth it, though. This is because Iron Mountain Trail is loaded with beauty and interesting sights.
It is covered by a forest canopy which prevents the hiker from seeing the opposite ridge line very well. However, it can still be glimpsed occasionally through the trees. The green all around just adds to the exotic feel of the place.
In addition, the trail is lined on both sides with small trees full of rhododendron. Mixed with the other green fauna, the pinkish coloring all around adds to the beauty of the hike through the forest.
The plant life isn’t the only attraction on the Iron Mountain Trail. There’s always something to see. On the trail itself are mountain bike imprints and animal footprints. We observed a big worm on a tree burrowing underneath some moss. We even found horsehoes as we walked.
One surpise as we hiked was the sudden noise of a vehicle up the slope on our left. As it turned out, the trail follows the Forest Service Road at certain points.
One drawback of the Iron Mountain Trail is inadequate signage. We reached a t-intersection on the trail and had to decide to go left or right. We didn’t know how to reach the lake and there was nothing there to tell us.
My son Lukas went some yards to the left and found the service road. We decided, therefore, that the lake must be to the right. So we continued on the trail in that direction.
However, we the ran into the service road after a while. The trail crossed it, but the only sign was a small one with a hiker symbol on it. When we turned around and faced the way we had come, there was a sign that said the campground was 2 1/4 from where we stood. We were confused because the sign at the beginning of our hike said Hale Lake was 2 miles away, and there was no lake in view.
We decided to follow the trail across the road and in a few minutes found the lake. Hale Lake is really more of a big pond. It’s very relaxing there despite its small size, though.
Across the pond was a extremely green hillside reflecting its color in the sun, and a couple fishing. They were representative of the few humans we saw during our stay at Comer’s Rock.
I rested my head against a tree and enjoyed the peace and quiet. My oldest son went around and took photos. Then we hiked across an old wooden bridge, something that added to the ambience, and went to the hill and chilled for a while.
After a rest room stop, we decided to take the shortest route back to the camground, a steep hike back up the Forest Service Road. With the backpack, I was pretty whipped by the time we got back. It had been a very nice time of exercise and fresh air. Why else does anybody go outdoors if not for that?!
PHOTO CREDITS: MATTI FOWLER