May 13th 2007 1:15 pm
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Dad and I just completed a week long hike in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The weather was quite agreeable, being sunny and pleasantly warm all week. A brief description of the hike follows:
Sunday May 6
Dad and I arrived in Shenandoah Park around 10:30 am after almost a 6 hr drive from Phila. The weather today was cool and rather windy,but the sun was shining brightly----GLORIOUS conditions for hiking!
We hiked the Appalacian Trail north from Thornton Gap,following the old fire road to Pass Mt Hut. We saw evidence of a recent fire in this area,as some trees were blackened and there was the smell of smoke in the air. Upon reaching the Pass Mt Hut (a small wooden shelter for hikers) we followed a side trail which lead us to the Appalacian Trail. A few miles of hiking on the Appalacian Trail---or the "AT"--- lead us to the Neighbor Mt Trail.
We hiked the Neighbor Mt trail over the summit of Neighbor Mt and down into the wooded valley which is home to Jeremy`s Run---- a lovely mountain stream! There were fine views of the Shenandoah Valley as we descended the Neighbor Mt trail. The mountains were draped with rich green foliage and they seemed to rise majestically from the valley floor!
We reached Jeremy`s Run late in the afternoon and saw some bear scat or droppings along the trail---- a few days later, Dad would see a bear on this same trail! We hiked north for about a mile on the Jeremy`s Run trail and set up camp beside a thundering waterfall.
Monday May 7
We hiked approximately 4 miles along the Jeremy`s Run trail this morning,crossing Jeremy`s Run several times and passing some lovely small pools and waterfalls along the way. We merged with the Appalacian Trail after passing the Elkwallow wayside where dad stopped to pick up some cold drinks! Hiking the AT north, we turned off on the Piney Branch trail---a lovely side trail that passed thru isolated sections of forest and small streams. Dad and I had our lunch here and relaxed beside Piney stream,both of us enjoying a dip in its cool waters.
We hiked the Piney Branch trail out to the Keyser Run Fire Road. There was a profusion of wildflowers along this road. Rejoining the Appalacian Trail, we hiked north in the late afternoon to the Gravel Springs Hut----another wooden trail shelter. Dad filled up at the spring here and we hiked on out the Bluff Trail. The Bluff Trail cuts off of the Appalacian Trail and follows along the slopes of Mt Marshall. It`s a rather secluded trail,affording fine views of the mountains and valleys of northern Virginia. Following this trail, we reached the Big Devil Stairs trail late in the afternoon.
The Big Devil Stairs canyon is one of the most impressive features of Shenandoah National Park. The trail lead to a rock cliff with a view down into the valley about 100 ft below! Dad up the tent near this spot for night 2 of our trip. Dad snapped a few pix of me standing on this cliff being careful not to get too close to the edge and take a GIANT leap for mankind! A small waterfall poured off the cliff far below.
Tues May 8
We enjoyed some morning views of the Virginia countryside from the heights of Big Devil Stairs canyon then proceeded back out along the Bluff trail to rejoin the AT and hike south along it. We ascended Hogback Mt via switchbacks and came upon a hang glider launch site at the top of the mountain! The weather continued sunny and warm----a contrast to previous years in this Park when we`ve endured cold rains and even sleet and snow!
We left the AT at the Tuscarora Trail and hiked along it for about 2.8 miles descending into a valley which opened up to afford sweeping views of the Massanutten Valley. Dad and I sat on some rock ledges here soaking up the warm afternoon sunlight and gazing at Overall Run Falls which has a 93 ft drop---the highest waterfall in Shenandoah Park.
We circled back around to the Jeremy`s Run trail late in the day and as the last of the daylight was fading, began our descent into the valley of Jeremy`s run. Dad spotted movement and looked up to see a black bear ambling away into the woods beside the trail. He sat down to wait for me to catch up ( I was having problems with my arthritus and was lagging a bit behind) lest the bear attack a lone dog! We camped for night 3 in a small clearing overlooking Jeremy`s run. The stream gurgling outside the tent in the dark lulled us to sleep!
Wed May 9
We hiked the Knob Mt trail up from Jeremy`s run this morning. There were several spots along the trail where trees had fallen thus blocking the trail. There were paths beaten down in the dirt around these downed trees indicating where other hikers had passed around them. This indicated to Dad that the trail was indeed hikeable, so we proceeded on to the summit of Knob Mt. The weather was rather hot today and Dad and I stopped for lunch at the summit of Knob Mt. The 2 beers that Dad had purchased earlier in the day at the Elkwallow wayside were still cool. After the long hike to the summit, Dad remarked that they were 2 darn good tasting beers!!!
After the 3.5 mile descent of Knob Mt via switchbacks, we came to the cool waters of Jeremy`s run. I "smelled" the water as we switchbacked down the last few sections of trail and charged ahead to plunge right in! AHHH!!! Dad enjoyed a dip here as well. An idyllic spot!
We filled up with water here and ascended the Neighbor Mt trail camping along it a few miles up in a grassy clearing that afforded fine views of the mountains. After the tent was set up and we were safely inside, the winds became quite gusty. Later in the evening, Dad noticed that there were a number of tiny ants crawling all over the tent floor! He did his best to squash them. Some were even crawling on his bottle of Mt Dew! He may have inadvertantly drank some ants down,but I told him that ants are a fine source of protein!
Thurs May 10
Dad and I reached our car at mid day to resupply for 3 more days of hiking. We drove south along Skyline Drive to Milam Gap. Here we set out along the Mill Prong trail which lead us down to Camp Hoover----a former presidential retreat of----you guessed it---- Herbert Hoover! We explored the wooden cabins here then ascended the Fork Mt trail to the Jones Mt trail where we set up camp for the night. Overnight it rained and it was soothing to hear the patter of raindrops on the tent as we were warm and safe inside!
Fri May 11
We hiked the Jones Mt trail out to the Jones cabin. The final section of trail descending the mountain to the cabin is rather steep,reminding dad of Happy River Steps or Dalzell Gorge on the Iditarod trail. The Jones Cabin sits in an isolated mountain valley surrounded by the immense forest. No roads are nearby. We relaxed here on the porch in the warm sunshine,enjoying the birdsong and had our lunch here. Dad gained access to Jones cabin through an open window and explored around inside. The cabin has a nice fireplace and even a loft lit by 2 large skylights! Video of this cabin will soon be posted on my page.
We returned from the cabin via the Staunton River trail and enjoyed some dips in icy mountain pools here! We camped once again along the Jones Mt trail for night 6 of the trip.
Sat May 12
Ended the hike this morning by hiking out to the Appalacian Trail. The weather was cloudy and cool,a bit refreshing after the warmth of previous days. We enjoyed some fine mountain views from the Laurel Prong trail as we hiked toward the AT. It was a wonderful week in the mountains of northern Virginia,but my arthritus really wore me down at times. Rimidyl only helps so much and Dad and I are thinking that maybe it`s time for my "retirement" from long distance hiking. Dad may adopt a younger dog soon for long journeys and let me take it easy at home with his brother when he`s off on long hikes.
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