August 24, 2014.
After looking at many topo maps, we finally figured out a way to get to Blue Rock without having to boat in. We drove down smoke hole road, near the ranch, and parked across from a culvert. After that, we just crossed the road and followed the culvert down until we found the path. It’s blazed with orange spraypaint and is a wide, gentle downhill trail. It is covered in leaves, though, so beware of rattlesnakes. The path winds down to the valley floor and follows a small stream. You’ll come upon a gate that the US Forest Service has put in place with a sign that says something along the lines of, “Foot Traffic Welcome, but please close gate or cows will get out. Thanks. USFS.” The stream is lined with some really awesome rock formations and what look like small caves. We continued on until we reached the Potomac, then turned right and followed the trail. The trail zig zags across the river several, several times. Be prepared to get your feet wet! Even in the late summer, the river came up to my thighs at a couple of spots (and I’m 5’8″.) Also, beware of rattlesnakes! We ran into several on this path, including a very narrow ledge that you cross above the river. They all rattled and slithered away from us, so no harm done.
As we were crossing through a densely wooded area, we found a hat that was embroidered in a language that neither of us knew. It looked pretty fresh, so we picked it up to see if we could find who it belonged to. After we emerged from that area and crossed the river, we could see Blue Rock on the horizon.
We also noticed some canoes. We figured the hat must belong to the owner of the canoes. We rounded the corner and saw a ton more. We walked up to the first person we saw, a kind looking woman, and asked if the hat belonged to anyone she knew. She explained that her group was either from, related to someone from, or married to someone from Czech Republic. They make an annual trip out to Blue Rock, either by boat or by hiking, and teach their children various survival techniques and recreational activities. We spoke with a few more from the group, who told us about a trail up to Blue Rock. We took the trail, which involved a lot of scrambling on rocks and climbing up ropes, and led us to a cave entrance. We decided to pop in, but didn’t want to go too far in (we still had a lot of exploring and a long hike ahead!)
We decided to head behind Blue Rock after that instead of on top. It was one of the famously foggy days in the North Fork region, so the view would’ve been rubbish. Instead, we headed to the 40 foot limestone waterfall that’s behind Blue Rock. There’s also an old school and some evidence of a homestead back here.
The waterfall. After this, we decided to head back- we were already exhausted and it was starting to get late. We followed the same trail back, mindful of rattlesnakes. This is right next to where you exit the river and take up the trail again: Somehow on the way back, we managed to stir up some yellow jackets that we’d missed before. That part wasn’t so awesome. Aside from getting stung right where my backpack straps sit, the hike back was relatively easy, with the steepest part being at the very end of the trail.