We wanted to explore some territory close to home, so after browsing a few websites, we decided a six mile loop sounded perfect for the day. We would be connecting three different trails, and closely following directions, as we have been known to make a wrong turn, and a wrong turn turned into an 11 mile hike. BIG oops!
To get to the trail origin, you will take 58 out of Damascus, about five miles east, and park in the Straight Branch parking lot. This will be on your right. There are plenty of signs, so you can’t miss it.
Then cross over 58 and look for this sign.
You will hike up the Beech Grove Trail for one mile. Which is a pretty easy hike on easy terrain, but pretty steady upward in elevation. (Don’t forget to smile and wave at the AT thru hikers at the AT intersection!)
When you get to this sign, turn right to continue your hiking journey on the Iron Mountain Trail.
There is really not much to see on this trail other than the occasional mountain biker and trees, with a view of the neighboring mountains here and there. It is just a peaceful time to spend in the trees and the perfect place to get a sunburn. This is where you should apply your sunblock, my friends, as you will be in direct sun throughout the remainder of the hike. This is also where Charlotte began panting like a mad woman and it got down right embarrassing when we would pass people because they probably thought we were the worst pug parents on the planet based on the ridiculous sounds she was making. I promise, we stopped every five minutes to give her water and she showed no signs of wanting to stop. (Sorry Charlotte. No more summer hikes over two miles. I just can’t take the stinging looks of judgement.)
At the best shady spot we could find, behind a huge fallen tree, we stopped for lunch and a gallon of water.
We also picked this spot because there was a sign and another trail, and we just didn’t feel like figuring out which way to go until we had some food. After refueling, we realized this sign was not on our directions. Hummmmm. We could continue straight on the Iron Mountain Trail or turn left to reach Feathercamp Ridge. Thankfully, we did not turn and continued trucking on the Iron Mountain Trail until we came upon this sign, which was on our directions.
Take a right here to hit the hikers trail.
At the bottom of this trail is the intersection of the Feathercamp Trail and a big mud puddle that is obviously just too enticing not to lay in.
Ewwwwwwww. Kissie picture.
Take a right onto the Feathercamp Trail to begin the two mile descent back to the parking lot. This trail seemed rather odd, as it is very wide and feels like you are hiking down a deserted road. It didn’t seem as though it was well traveled, but it offered a nice hike along the creek, with a number of crossings, and quite a few great spots to stop and dip your feet (or tongue) in.
True story: About half way down, we were almost ran over by two mountain bikers that paused their ride to chat. One was an original trailblazer that helped build the trail. He told us he had been riding his bike on that trail for three years and we were the absolute first people he has ever ran into. Huh! How about that! We’re famous! In his book anyway.
After you come to the end of the Feathercamp Trail, you will be standing on Hwy 58. Take a right and, carefully, walk up the road about 1/4 of a mile. When you come to the parking lot, you will have reached your destination. Happy trails!
(This post was originally published on our sticks or stones blog, which is no longer in publication.)