Saturday, March 16, 2013


The Buffalo as seen from Rocky Knob on the  Blue Ridge Parkway 

When I was growing up in Meadows of Dan, I was always fascinated by a mountain that you could see for miles and miles. Everyone always referred to it as "The Buffalo". There were plenty of stories associated with that mountain. Grandma said that all of the young folks would climb the Buffalo every May Day. She also said that quite a bit of frolickin' went on up there too (Frolickin' = partying). My grandpa always talked about the "rough bunch" that lived near the Buffalo. Then there were the tall tales about the Buffalo.  On the steep side, there are quite a few deep openings in the rocks. Legend has it that there is a black snake as big as a telephone pole that frequents those tunnels! Needless to say, if there is, I will never know because I am sure not going to take a peek!

When I was growing up, there was a fire tower on the Buffalo where someone would go sit during fire season to watch for forest fires. One time, we even drove our pickup all the way to the top!  Turning around was a HUGE pain because there was such a small area. When I went up there as a child, I would always try to sneak away from daddy and climb the tower. One time he caught me when I was already half way up.  Yes.  I got into considerable trouble for that!  I'm not sure when the fire tower was removed, but it was prior to 1987.

The last time that I was on the Buffalo was either the Fall of 1986 or 1987. At that time, the tower was gone, but there was still a radio transmission tower used by the Blue Ridge Parkway. The route to get to the Buffalo at that time was pretty cut and dried. You drove to where the current parking area is located, then followed the old road bed to the top. Easy to find and fairly easy to hike.

Buffalo Mountain Natural Area
Burk's Fork, Virginia

Today we parked in the designated parking area. I could see the old road bed that goes to the top, but there were lots of trees down on the road. I suspect that many of the trees were dropped on purpose to prevent people from trying to drive all the way to the top.

Old road bed just to the right of the kiosk and an old trail on the far right
I saw the kiosk to the left of where we parked and actually walked over to it. There was a mud pit in front of the sign, so we didn't get close enough to really read the sign. That was a mistake. So, we took off up the mountain. It was steep  I mean REALLY steep in places. Steep to the point of having to grab a hold of a tree to pull yourself up! About 1/3 of the way up, we looked back down at my car and it was like we were right above it and it looked like a toy car! We kept on going. I could see the old road bed below us to the left. At one point, the trail looked like it split. I said that I thought that we should go left. Steve thought right.  So, I went one way and Steve went the other, but we were always pretty much in sight of each other. Later on, we discovered that we were both wrong!

In the distance, I could hear a huge roaring sound. It was a  fighter jet headed straight for the mountain!  They do test flights in the area and they fly low through Rock Castle Gorge and then come up out of the Gorge and head around the Buffalo. When the jet passed where we were on the mountain, he was tilted almost vertical and I swear that I could see the pilot's nose hairs!  All of you folks that live in the area, know what I am talking about with those jets buzzing the mountain.

Our paths connected back together about half way up the mountain and we decided to sit down and eat our sandwiches that we had picked up at Subway. We continued on up the mountain. We arrived at a  place that actually had red blazes on the trees. Hmmmm. I think we had missed the trail entirely and made our own path up the mountain! No wonder it was so steep and terrible! Now we were on the right path.

YAY!  The summit is just ahead!

The Buffalo in all of its glory! You have a 360 degree view of the surrounding country.

Yes, that is ice in that little pool on the rocks!

This photo was a total accident, but I love it!

Me & Steve
Me looking totally thrilled

Steve pointing out something in the distance

I was disappointed that it was so hazy.
If you look carefully in the distance you can
see Pilot Mountain in Pinnacle, NC.
(about 60 miles away by road)
Pilot Mountain, Pinnacle, NC
(16x zoom)
Point A--Buffalo Mountain, Burks Fork, Virginia
Point B--Pilot Mountain, Pinnacle, North Carolina

I have a photo from circa 1920s of a group of
people standing in front of this rock. 

Plants from the top of the Buffalo

The only thing place that I could recognize (for sure) looking at the surrounding countryside, was the Buffalo Mountain Rock Church built by Bob Childress.  

Buffalo Mountain Church
(16x zoom)

You really should read The Man Who Moved A Mountain
by Richard C. Davids

Now, time for the hike back to the car. We decided that we would actually try to follow the REAL trail down the mountain, even though we were not sure where it was. We were following red blazes on the trees, but sometimes there was one red mark and sometimes there were two. Geez. I was worried because I had read about some folks that thought they were going down the right trail and they ended up on the wrong side of the mountain and had to find someone to drive them back to their car because they were so far away!  Luckily, Steve and I both have a very good sense of direction and both of us played in the woods growing up. It was just a matter of the trail ending at our car . . . or not!

Anyway, here are some cool photos that I took on the way down:

The rock formations on the Buffalo are just fascinating.


The tree in the right two photos was determined to grow even on a rock!

Some more cool trees

I have always loved rocks and I could have filled my
 pockets with some beauties!

LOVE this tree!
I think it is very weird that the orb is directly in the hollow.
That orb showed up in another photo too.

My dyer's heart was IN LOVE with all of this beautiful lichen!
It produces a gorgeous purple on wool.
It is very slow growing and care should be taken to not over-harvest.
I did NOT take any from the Buffalo.

Trees of the Buffalo.
The one on the right is a perfect perch for a
bobcat or cougar!

This tree had uprooted and took this section of the trail with it.
Of course, this section of the trail was majorly steep and it was
very difficult to navigate around this huge hole.  

I have always loved rocks and there are
some huge ones on the Buffalo

If we had ONLY seen that red blaze on this tree
and read the sign more carefully!

So, when YOU visit the Buffalo, the trail 
starts to the LEFT of the sign, NOT the right!

The Buffalo is a very interesting place with some unique species

My Soul on the Buffalo

Alas, my Soul needs to be cleansed 

*Click on any of the above photos to make them larger

Read my blog post about May Day on the Buffalo

Visit this site to learn more about hiking the Buffalo. 

Copyright 2013--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean


  1. An excellent outing. Well photographed. I'll get there someday. Not today.

    1. If you ever get the chance, it is well worth it! (As long as the day is clear!)

  2. Great photos! Never been there, even those it's not too far from our house.
    Followed your link and read the history, and the connection to Robert E. know my Civil War addiction.
    In the near future we will definitely have to "take this mountain". Ha!
    Thanks for the photos and all the information. You do the most interesting things..........



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