Today Mike E and I took the two dogs up near Natural Bridge to visit Devil’s Marbleyard. 500 million years ago, this particular area was a beach of quartz sand (I’ve read very similiar to the Outer Banks). 250 million years ago, the North American plate collided with Europe and Africa, forming the Appalachian Mountains and forcing this terrain upwards. Today what we have left is an entire side of a mountain (8 acres worth) covered with quartzite boulders of various sizes. Fossils in the boulders still record where ancient worms had made their homes way back when the rock was just soft sand.
The hike to the Marbleyard is very easy– the Belfast Trail gradually ascents 500 feet and is a little more than a mile one way (Appalachian Trail hikers– you can take the same Belfast Trail down from the AT). Climbing on and ascending up the Marbleyard is a different story. Much like Mount Sentinel in Missoula, the perspective is misleading. Just when you think you are close to the top of all the rocks, you’ll discover there is another huge slope of boulders.
It is not my favorite hike, but it sure is beautiful. Up on the rocks, we got some great views of the surrounding mountains and valley:
Today I learned Devil’s Marbleyard is actually dog-friendly. When I was there in 2003, we had a dog named Maggie get stuck and Alex Moskwa and I had to carry her down. Keeping that in mind, I tied Jimmie and Henry to trees near the bottom. My intent was humane– they would get to relax and rest while Mike and I ascended up the tougher terrain. The dogs disagreed with my assessment. They cried non stop and did their best to convince other hikers I was torturing them. I finally turned around and fetched them. It turns out they knew better than I. They were fine. To the right of the boulder field, the Belfast Trail continues the ascent. It was steep, but nothing the dogs could not handle. When I did venture out onto the boulders, both dogs knew their own limitations. Henry stayed on some small rocks and watched, while Jimmie followed me out further.
Wildlife and Domestic Life
Jimmie ran into this snake (almost literally!) on the way to the Marbleyard. The snake was beautiful and allowed us to photograph him for some time. Anyone know what kind of snake it is?
The hike was terribly popular today and the parking lot was full. Mike and I had to park down the street next to a pig farm. As we loaded back into the vehicles, one pig took an interest in watching and was apparently not intimidated by the barking dogs. I think he was cuter than the snake. I named him Wilbur.
Additional Links on Devil’s Marbleyard
Kevin Myatt’s article for the Roanoke Times
Washington and Lee University’s Geology of the Blueridge Mountains