Tuesday, July 31, 2012

near the entrance to the Sand Cave

The Sand Cave and White Rocks overlook are conveniently located only a mile apart in Ewing, Va. The only problem with their location is it requires a strenuous four mile hike to the top of the mountain to enjoy them. The trail head starts at the base of the mountain in Thomas Walker Civil Park and follows an old logging road up the mountain. The trail is wide and easy to follow, and the switchbacks take a little of the strain off your legs. After a few minutes of hiking, you arrive at a trail registry and I was pleased to see that there were only a few people ahead of Amber and I, especially since it was a Sunday. From there the trail climbs steeply up a dried up creek bed for about half a mile and finally levels off and begins the switchbacks on up the mountain.
The picture doesn't do this place justice, it's massive!
Amber dwarfed inside the cave
Far left side of the cave

As elevation is slowly gained, the valleys and towns of Ewing and Rose Hill can be seen through the trees. There are several rocks along the trail for good resting spots and Amber and I took advantage of them, we brought Cash, our dog with us and we stopped occasionally to let him rest and drink water due to the afternoon heat. He seemed no worse for the wear and practically pulled Amber up the mountain at times. About an hour had passed, and we arrived at a sign for the White Rocks overlook spur trail, the trail here rises dramatically for almost a mile to the overlook, to save our legs I continued on the main trail for another mile (this is the horse trail) and crossed over the mountain and began the descent to the sand cave. The vegetation on the mountain changes significantly on the Kentucky side of the mountain. Ferns and Mountain Laurel begin to spring up everywhere, and as you draw closer to the cave you can hear a mountain stream falling from a high elevation. When the trail finally levels before the sand cave there are white pebbles and sand literally everywhere and as you round the corner a waterfall about fifty feet high greets you at the mouth of the massive sand cave.
Tree growing with arch of cave
Pillars of pure sand formed from years of wind erosion

Amber was visibly impressed with the sheer size of the sand cave and the cool air generated here made it the perfect spot for lunch, our subs from subway really hit the spot after over four miles of downright grueling hiking. I rewarded Cash for his efforts with some chicken from my sub and Amber poured him a bowl of water. I never imagined that little dog would mean so much to me, but he is a good hiking buddy! The cave was formed over time by wind and water erosion, and the sand is deep and tiring to climb through to reach the back wall. I was surprised by how well Cash enjoyed running through the sand, he got covered! I thought I had found a good rock to sit on near the wall but it crumbled under my weight, just some wind worn sandstone. Amber and I spent a lot of time here resting and taking photos before heading out and up toward the White Rocks. At the trail head for sand cave (at the horse gate) a trail leaves to the left and is a much easier way to the overlook. It winds gently up the mountain and levels on the ridge line. The white rocks become visible and are somewhat intimidating, the first time I saw them I thought it would be impossible to climb them, but as the trail winds around behind the rock face, a crack in the rock is the trail to the top. There are plenty of roots to hold on to and even though it's really steep, it's a short trip to the top. As the trees clear you step out onto the bare rock and can see into the heavens. In the winter it's a 360 degree view and on a clear day, buildings in Knoxville, TN can be seen. The Kentucky side is mountain upon mountain with the occasional mountain top mining scar smearing the landscape. The sun had beat down on the rocks for over eight hours the day we arrived and you could literally see the heat rising off them. I sat down and emptied my shoes which were still full of sand, and Amber and Cash rested nearby.
nearing the top of White Rocks
looking off the top of White Rocks
Ewing, Virgina

Eventually the heat was downright annoying and we had to pack up and retreat to shade. The day was coming to a close and we had a long hike down. After an hour and a half of fast downhill hiking we staggered out of the woods and to the wonderful air conditioned truck.
Cash taking a water break
We deserve to relax!

The Ewing Trail is a beautiful place and the Sand Cave and White Rocks are an incredible one two punch for hiking enthusiasts, this is a can't miss if you find yourself in southwest Virginia. Take plenty of water and some food, and most importantly leave things as you found them! I run into so many beautiful places ruined by trash and graffiti, so please keep this natural wonder, well, wonderful, and until next time, happy trails.
Finally some level hiking!
under the falls, cooling off.
What's that smell?

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