Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
- Site Contact: (276) 228-5551
- Site Access: Free, Daily
Site MLN13: Polecat Trail
Elevation: 2248 ft. The Polecat trail takes the wildlife watcher deep onto the slopes of Walker and Little Walker Mountains in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest. The 1.5-mile trail is moderately difficult and should be taken at a slow pace. However, explorers will be richly rewarded with plenty to see along the way. The trail works its way through massive white pine accompanied by a thick under-story of rhododendron lining both sides of the trail. This undergrowth is filled with ovenbird, Carolina wren and eastern towhee and can produce hooded warbler in some of the moister sections near the stream. Deeper within the forest, pileated woodpecker are often heard, although catching a glimpse of one in the dense forest is quite a challenge. As the trail heads uphill, the forest becomes more open with pine warblers chipping at the tips of the tallest trees and common ravens calling raucously by their side. By carefully walking the trails, remaining very quiet and observing the canopy closely, some of the forest's shyer residents may be found. These include broad-winged hawk, and barred and great horned owls, while ruffed grouse, wild turkey, white-tailed deer or even fox could be spotted wandering along the forest floor. In the few open areas the trail passes through, look for butterflies perched in the sunshine. Gems to look for include eastern tiger and pipevine swallowtails, silver-spotted skipper, common wood-nymph and eastern-tailed blue. Damsel- and dragonflies in the area include common whitetail in open sunny areas and ebony jewelwing along the shady stream courses. The forest here also hosts a fascinating array of fungi and mushrooms with beautifully distinct species such as false American caesar and yellow blusher alongside a variety of miniscule and downright bizarre coral fungi.
From the Falls of Dismal, return to SR 42 and turn right (west). Follow SR 42 for 2.2 miles to Mechanicsburg and Rt. 634. Turn left onto Rt. 634 and follow it 0.5 miles to Rt. 738 (Robinson Tract Road in Pulaski County). Turn left on Rt. 738 and follow it for 8.8 miles to Rt. 601. Turn right, following Rt. 601 for 0.1 miles to Rt. 738 and turn left. Travel on Rt. 738 for 10.9 miles into the Town of Pulaski where it becomes Randolph Avenue. In Pulaski, turn right on Commerce Street/Rt. 610 just after crossing the railroad, follow Rt. 610 for 12.5 miles to Rt. 712. Where Rt. 610 curves to the left, turn right onto Rt. 712. Follow Rt. 712 for 6.2 miles to FS 707. Continue 1.8 miles to the pullout on the left just past the gated dirt road.