Sugarloaf-Keyser Run Fire Road – Hogback Mountain Lariat

Our final hike of the week was farther up on Skyland Drive, just off of mile 21. This hike starts on the Sugarloaf trail. The forest is newer here, with fewer trees and more bushes, such as rhodendeandrum. Although we didn’t get started until 11 am, we were clearly the first on the trail. Talk about spider webs! I must have looked like a mad women as I used my trekking poles to try to get the spider webs before they got me!

The gentle descent brought us to a T junction with the PineyBranch Trail. After going left we quickly ran into the Keyser Fire Road. This, quite frankly, was a bit boring. However, it was an easy trek back up to Skyline Drive. From here, we crossed the road to go on the A.T. The ascent to the summit of Little Hogback Mountain offered a very nice few.

We then continued on until we started zigging and zagging up to Hogback Mountain. After all our big ascents and descents, it was nice to have one more opportunity to huff and puff up a hill! Luckily, we seem to be getting better at this and we didn’t complain the entire way. It was fun to be on the A.T. in Virginia. We’re getting a real sense of the trail and I’m really enjoying it.

We completed the 4.9 mile hike in about 2 1/2 hours. Not bad! I’m happy we had a chance to do this trail and experience a different part of the Park.
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A “Beary” Good Hike: Rose River Loop and Dark Hallow Falls

The Rose River Loop is a wonder to hike, with all the beauty of the Cedar Run hike, but with less of the physical exertion. Tod and I started  from, mile 49.4 on Skyline Drive and took the trail down, about one mile before seeing the stream. We followed the small cascades of water until we came to a large falls. Several young women were hanging over the tree trunks taking pictures. Tod, not much for idleness, said “Let’s get out of here before one of them falls and needs to be rescued!” We left them behind to continue the hike.IMG_2779

The first big falls was one of many spectacular water features. If this had been the good ‘ol film days, my I would need big bucks to process the film. I took a million pictures! How could I not? It was beautiful.

All this time, I had been wondering about bears. Fortunately, I guess, we had not seen any. Then, a hiker stoped as as we approached, warning us that a bear was on the trail ahead. Of course, Tod wanted to move forward. I was more cautious. All of us watched as the bear meandered up the hill.

Not long after, I was engrossed in taking pictures of a waterfall when Tod shouted, “Look over there!” Sure enough, a bear was on the other side of the stream. I took pictures (of course!) and we moved on.IMG_2787

The second part of the hike was pretty much uphill, hugging the water as we ascended up with the river. Eventually, we got to a bridge that led to the turn off for Dark Hallow Falls. Since it was only 1/4 mile up, we decided to go.

Dark Hallow can be approached from above as well, and since it is a short but steep hike, there were a ton of people there. The Falls are stunning, but I wish there were fewer people. On our way down we ran into the women who had been hanging from the tree trunks so, luckily, it appears that they didn’t need any assistance. IMG_2799

Just to add a bit more excitement to the hike, we saw another young bear while walking the fire road back to the car. (Three bears in one hike!) Overall, this 4.5 mile loop was well worth the trip.

Breathtaking: Cedar Run-White Oak Canyon Loop in Shenandoah National Park

After weeks of hiking in Maryland, Tod and I planned a week of vacation in Shenandoah National Park. We set up camp in Big Meadows Campground on Sunday.

On Monday morning we took off hiking the Cedar Run-While Oak Canyon Loop, described in one guidebook as “a very strenuous loop hike through two gorges” that “passes nine beautiful waterfalls.” It is located at mile 45.6 on Skyline Drive.

Our hike began on Cedar Run, a bath that descends along a staircase of smooth rocks. The light was almost surreal, reminding me of a filtered camera lens designed to soften the picture. Before long we heard the roar of water, a sound that would accompany us on much of the hike. To my delight I saw cascading water, gently falling over rocks. We were alone on the path, and the solitude of the moment was wonderful.

As we continued to descend, I couldn’t believe how we continued to see water, bubbling over rocks, falling over small overhangs, cascading through the canyon. Breathtaking! A hiker’s version of paradise.IMG_2667

The trail crosses the water several times. We stopped near one watesfall to rest and, while there, a friendly butterfly decided to keep Tod company. She hung out on this back, arm, hand and knee until it was time for us to leave. On our way, we were  lucky to come across a team from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club working to install rock stairs along the path. What an amazing group! (Thank you!)

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After lunch by a stream we began our ascent back. We took the White Oak Canyon Trail, ascending a very step path that zigged and zagged up. Way up! although the guidebook says that the path goes “straight up” for 2.5 miles it felt like 10. “2.5 miles?!?! 2.5 miles?!?  No way! No way!” I kept shouting. Tod was too breathless to respond but I could tell he agreed. We were very thirsty and all the way up, all we could talk about was what we would drink when we got back. Diet Pepsi? Lemonade? Gatorade? Our bottles of water were not cutting it.

Finally, got to a cement marker. Tod read from the guidebook about what to do next but, in our stupor, it was hard to understand. My glasses were too foggy from all the sweat to read the book myself! Eventually, we turned onto the White Oak Fire Road for the last two miles of our hike. It was a gentle, steady, uphill trip back to the car.

In all, we went approximately 9 miles over a 6 1/2 hour period, descending and ascending about 2000 ft. “Never again!” we said at first. Of course, by the next day we had a different opinion.


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