Remarkable Trees of Virginia Hike ….the Shenandoah National Park

Tulip Poplars of Pocosin Hollow

It is just one of those timeless places, achieved through a combination of old growth forest and the remains of early settlers' hard lives there. Exploration off trail in the hollow bottom and on the flat ridges will be well rewarded.

This is a partial description of a 5 hour day hike with an elevation change of close to 1000’ and starting on skyline drive at the PATC Pocosin Cabin Parking (Milepost 59.8) that a group of 14 Virginia Master Naturalists did on October 16, 2010. After following the old fire road past the cabin, and taking a short detour to the old mission ruins on the right a little over a mile in, continue down the road and take the Pocosin Hollow trail down to the left in less than ½ of a mile more. There is a signpost there on a concrete marker.

The trail is wide , in great shape and easy to follow downhill for another mile to a stream crossing…after crossing you will look for an old road going upstream, and 2 old wooden gate posts in 300 yards will confirm you are on the right track. The old road has several dead falls , branches lying along it you will need to step over , but is generally easy to follow for about 600 yards to the immense tulip poplar in the photo.

If you continue up the stream valley , you will pass under an unbroken grove of poplars with little understory , for about ½ mile. Small native chestnuts and cucumber magnolias are also found here. Further off trail exploration will show evidence of early settlement here.

The return trip can be done in about 1 1/2 hours, as the trail is well graded and switchbacks often…occasional views across the upper hollow, to Lewis mountain are found in the middle half…The October 16 trip actually left the Pocosin Hollow trail very soon after joining it, and came down the stream valley on the left side of the stream to the poplars, adding additional time. One can truly appreciate the wildness of Shenandoah National park this way …
In the book, Remarkable Trees of Virginia, which spawned this hike, the trees are referred to as the "largest trees in aggregation" in the National Park that naturalist Mo Stevens has seen in more than 35 years of walking there. The trees seem to be about 120 feet tall, and the rich soil along the hollow bottom support this kind of growth, as evident in the oaks and mountain laurels as well. For some reason or another, this grove of trees was spared the axe in early settlement of what is now the park...The poplar in the photo easily exceeds the height of the others! Great hike for those who love trees …

By John Holden,
Virginia Master Naturalist and Blue Ridge Mountain Sports Manager
Photographs © John Holden

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