Closing out Summer on Massanutten Mountain

George Washington National Forest has been on the hiking list for awhile.  It’s not that far, but it is on the other side of Shenandoah National Park…so after driving an hour to Shenandoah, I’m like, um, this is good!

Well, I scheduled this one with some hiking pals so I would actually go ALL the way down to the trail head which is on Rt. 211 west of Luray, VA.  It was exciting to head off in a new direction, towards a new mountain, a new adventure!

img_20160909_111052.jpg

Route: Wildflower ->Massanutten South -> Bird Knob -> Forest Road ->Roaring Run ->Brown’s Hollow (11.7 miles)

We met up in Front Royal, then carpooled down from there.  The trail head had ample parking and isn’t hard to find…although, I passed by it before I saw the turn off.  No matter, there was a small place to pull off and turn around just afterwards…which I did.  Holy moly, the traffic coming up the mountain from both directions is FAST…had to gun it like a NASCAR driver when I pulled out! My RAV4 enjoyed the kicking up of gravel and trail of dust…

img_20160827_194826.jpg

Trail Head Parking

We set out down the Wildflower Trail, then climbed up on the Massanutten South Trail.  This was a big climb and I purposefully went up while it was still early in the day.  Once on the ridge, the trail is really nice!  Yes, rocks…but enough space in between to place my feet on soft pine needles.  The scent of those pines was particularly delicious on this morning, ahhh.  Back to school for me within a week’s time.  I would miss the freedom of summer, but not the heat and humidity.  This morning, up on the ridge, with a slight breeze, cool temps, and scent of pine …lovely.

img_20160827_195141.jpg

Hiking Pals at Overhanging Rock (almost on the ridge)!

img_20160827_195232.jpg

Yay! A rockpile! No, I’m serious, I love these! 🙂

img_20160827_195706.jpg

Top of the pile, here I come!

Given that I had no idea what to expect on this trail, I found the terrain pretty interesting! Huge rocks, rock piles, pine trees… Once on the ridgeline, we hiked along in comfortable silence until we came upon the overlook.  Wow! and there is a campsite up there.  I am definitely putting this on the backpack list!

img_20160827_195800.jpg

After the overlook, the goal was to visit Emerald Pond.  I’d heard about it, so I wanted to see it for myself!  Believe me, it is every bit as beautiful as I’d heard!  and more campsites!  It would be nice, if more people cleaned out their trash though.  We packed out a couple of bags along the way.

img_20160827_195915.jpg

Right Turn, I’m not getting on the forest road yet!

img_20160827_200233.jpg

Just before Emerald Pond. Camping allowed in the field.

img_20160827_200412.jpg

Emerald Pond

After Emerald Pond, there was a bit of hiking down a forest road which wasn’t super pleasant, but not too bad.  But oh, buddy, when we pulled off the forest road to Roaring Run Trail…wow, that was steep! It didn’t help that it was now the hottest part of the day! Trudge up it we did, then took a sit down break at the top near another campsite.  We then headed down and picked up Brown’s Hollow Trail to complete the loop.

img_20160827_200706.jpg

A few leaves are changing! Ready for Fall!

Brown’s Hollow would be gorgeous to hike through in the Spring as several waterfalls cross the trail on their way downhill to the creek. Loved this hike and Massanutten! Definitely coming back!

But now my summer is over…on to Fall! Hike on!

May 29 Last Full Day Shenandoah Weekend!

Today I revisited a trail I had not hiked in 20 years.  The last time I was on this climb to Hawksbill, I had baby Logan on my hip.  He was about 2 years old and walking like a fiend! So I would put him down to walk for awhile, then carry him for awhile when those little chubby legs got tired.  🙂

I started from the upper Hawksbill parking lot, then after visiting the view at the top, looped down to lower Hawksbill, around on the AT, then up again on the Salamander trail.  Nice loop!  And Sidekick Pauli made three summits this weekend!!  Mary’s Rock, Loft Mountain, and Hawksbill – good job, doggie!

20160529_124657.jpg

“I’m a freakin’ mountain goat.” ~Sidekick Pauli

Coming around on the AT I ran into “JustSue” setting up a table of Trail Magic for the thru-hikers at Hawksbill Gap.  Trail Magic in the form of ham sandwiches, Little Debbie’s  and other delights.  I didn’t have anywhere to be very fast, so I stopped and chatted with “JustSue”.   She had her grandson helping her but he had run off down the trail somewhere so at the moment it truly was just Sue!  Sidekick Pauli also enjoyed meeting JustSue, but was ready to move after a bit, so we said our goodbyes and sidled on down the trail.  I left her in good spirits and was able to pass the joy to thru-hikers coming down the trail.  “TRAIL MAGIC AHEAD!!!”

DSC00849

“JustSue” and her Trail Magic!

I love this section of the AT.  The rocks are beautifully adorned with fern, succulents, and other wildflowers.  The talus slopes (think rock slides) made me a little nervous with Pauli along and no hiking poles.  Thought I would have trouble negotiating through, but nope! We got through like champs, we did!

DSC00855

Arriving at the intersection of the Salamander trail, a great rock awaited us providing a lovely spot for lunch.  With the added benefit of being able to lighten the load in the pack before climbing up to Hawksbill again! 🙂   Ever the opportunist.

20160529_105739.jpg

Salamander Trail to the left, AT to the right, Lunch!

DSC00858

Salamander Trail…going up!

20160529_111800.jpg

Holy cow!!! I found the Keebler’s Elf House! I asked for cookies, but those darn elves didn’t answer my knock on the door. 😦

 

DSC00846

One more look at the summit of Hawksbill, then back to the car we go!

We timed the route around and back to the car just right. Plop…plop…plop, ping, plop, ping, plop, ppppppppplopitypingpingplopplopplop…deluge!  Sidekick Pauli is amazing at getting me back to the car before it rains! We were high and dry!  Not so for many other sorry folks I saw dragging themselves back to cars parked too far away for comfort.  I could feel their shivers as I drove back to the campsite.

DSC00819

Another Momma, not the Dog Hater, but not a dog lover either.  Escorted us kindly, but firmly, out of Big Meadows that morning!

After the rain and back at the campsite, guess who comes strolling with determination towards our tent?  The dog hating Momma deer.  Great.  I took Pauli to the car and waited, but forgot my hot coffee on the picnic table.  “Don’t mess with my coffee, Miss Momma of the Year!”

No trouble here, I’m just visiting!  Hike on!

 

 

May 28 Day 3 of Shenandoah Weekend!

Shhh…I did something totally against the rules today…sorry, sorry, sorry, it was a total blunder on my part, but no one saw us and we left NO trace.

More on that later.  Let’s start at the beginning.  Sidekick Pauli not wanting to get up!

At home she has hours of down time to kick back and relax.  Here in the campground she was on constant alert.  Add that to 7 up and down miles yesterday in the heat…and well, no smiles this morning.

img_20160527_203323.jpg

Don’t worry, once the “Bully Biscuits” were out, ALL was good! 😉

I gave her some down time by heading south to Loft Mountain.  She crashed in the back of the car and came out a new dog once we reached Loft Wayside.  Even so, I figured an easier day of hiking wouldn’t be a bad thing.

It looked like a pretty nice hike could be had by taking the Frazier Discovery Trail up to the AT, then loop around Loft.  Straight uphill, so much for taking it easy! We found a spring of nice, cool water, which Pauli immediately claimed for the next few minutes lapping furiously.

The Frazier Discovery Trail has some pretty cool rocks along it, but I wondered what else I was to possibly discover.  Mostly wooded, I continued to slog uphill.  It was already hot and it was only 8:30 AM!

Reaching the AT, I found an awesome outcropping where we took a short break before continuing along the AT.  Short because I could feel myself getting skin cancer out there on the rocks.  Seriously.  It.Was.Hot. (and super sunny)

20160528_094227.jpg

Summit Smooches are a Sidekick Pauli specialty!

The loop around Loft Mountain on the AT ended at the Amphitheater.  At which point I met up with a woman I had previously passed on the trail.  She was camping at Loft and wanted to do the Loop, but she couldn’t take her dog on Frazier Discovery Trail since DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED!!! “Oh crap!” I exclaimed, “I just came up that way!”  Now, for most people, maybe they wouldn’t care that they had just done something like TAKE THEIR DOG IN A PLACE SHE WASN’T ALLOWED…but I felt really, really, guilty! But there was no sign.  I looked when I went back down the hill, because, seriously, it bugged me.  There was a sign for “no bicycles” but nothing about no dogs.  I can say, though, that my dog was on leash AND I cleaned up after her…left NO trace!  But now that I know, well, I won’t do it again.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Back at the campsite, the neighboring campers came over and warned me about a deer that is especially aggressive towards dogs.  Apparently, this is the deer who has been stashing her baby fawn in the campground area.  I happened upon this fawn yesterday over by the Big Meadow picnic grounds.  I got a picture with a zoom!

DSC00813

Anyway, good for the deer! This place had become a cluster…and so many people had dogs off leash without any kind of voice control. ergh…

When I was a kid at camp, one of the activities we did was to close our eyes and just listen, making note of the sounds heard.  I closed my eyes…wind in the trees, families conversing, buzzing, birdsong, rangers beeping at people out on the main road, motorcycles, Pauli turning over in the grass, and MusicMan’s radio…Hike On!

 

May 27 Day 2 of Shenandoah Weekend!

Appalachian Trail Day: Pinnacle Picnic Grounds to Mary’s Rock

5:30 am, why is it that I cannot sleep in???

Put some water on to heat for tea with my little Esbit stove, then attended to Sidekick Pauli.  She refuses to eat plain kibble when we camp.  Don’t worry, I spiced it up with some doggie yum. 🙂

DSC00779

Do you spoil your dog much? 

Headed out to Pinnacle Picnic Grounds to hike the section of the AT to Mary’s Rock (and back).  Full disclosure here…I didn’t want to run into any bears in the woods with Sidekick Pauli.  I didn’t know how she would react.  So part of my choosing this hike is because it is up on a ridge, and I figured the bears would be down low munching up all the green stuff they could find.

DSC00787

Headed to Mary’s Rock (and back)

Even so, setting off down the trail at just after 7 am, I was verbally pointing out all the sights to Sidekick Pauli!  “Oh, look at that flower! Did you see the fog hanging in the top of that tree?” hahahaaaa  …and so on!

We didn’t run into any bears along the trail, thank goodness!  Although, after the hut, there was bear scat. That sent me, again, into Chatty Kathy mode for awhile.

DSC00798

Looking north towards Mary’s Rock from the Pinnacle

This section of the AT has some beautiful views.  It also has some nice ups and downs! The day felt much warmer than it was as we rolled along the ridge towards Mary’s Rock.  However, I am marking this section as one to come back and do in the fall.  It would be absolutely stunning with the fall colors.

img_20160527_202820.jpg

Just so we are clear that this is the AT

DSC00806

At Mary’s Rock

Sidekick Pauli had a delightful time meeting everyone on the trail EXCEPT stupid people with dogs.  There is a leash law for a reason people.  And don’t look at me like my dog is the problem!!!

img_20160527_202524.jpg

Sidekick Pauli at Mary’s Rock

 

Anyway, no reason to get too hot under the collar because we, well I, was already sweating buckets by the time we had hiked back to Pinnacle Picnic Grounds.  I was so hot, I literally soaked my head down before driving back to Big Meadows.  Ahhhhh refreshing!

So another micro-section of the AT completed! Hike on!

Fogged in at Tentsite #43 (Day 2 – Saturday 9/26/2015)

I left this story as Sidekick Pauli and I were preparing for a night in the tent.  She was on her cushy mat covered with a fleece pad and I made myself as comfy as possible on my Thermarest pad. I had my 20 degree bag underneath and my 35 covering us both like a quilt.  It was quite cozy as darkness fell and Sidekick Pauli’s little snores kept me company as I read my book with a headlamp.  The soothing pitter-patter of raindrops soon had my eyes lids drooping, so I called it a night and drifted off into dream land.

Campgrounds!!! Boom-boom-whack-boom…a family had rolled in after dark and by the sound of it were constructing the Taj Mahal.  No need to worry about the bears…back to sleep…

Peeking my head out of the tent in the morning I couldn’t see more than ten feet in front of me!  That was pretty wild. I waited about an hour for a little more light to filter through the fog, then headed to the car. “Let’s go, Pauli!  This is car camping, I need coffee!”  and I found it at the Wayside…gladly paid $3.04 for a coffee they branded as a “large” but would have been classified as a medium (or a “grande” for you Starbucks folks 🙂 )

Need coffee...what a welcome site on a chilly, wet morning.

Need coffee…what a welcome site on a chilly, wet morning.

Then I headed south with the intention of finding a place to hike where the fog was not as heavy.  This turned into quite a quest!  I drove into the southern section of the park and found a few beautiful views.

Southern Section Overlook

Southern Section Overlook

We hiked a little of this and little of that as I drove back north towards Big Meadows, where it was just as foggy as I had left it!  I decided we could walk down the road to Rapidan.  I was NOT going into the Meadow in that fog…good God, I could have been lost for hours!!

I can't see anything!

I can’t see anything!

We had a good time and eventually the fog lifted in the Meadow, so we entered and found many beautiful wildflowers, in addition to an apple tree dripping with apples!  We were ready for lunch soon after stomping up, down, and around Big Meadows.

Walking into the Meadow on the Rapidan Fire Road.

Walking into the Meadow on the Rapidan Fire Road.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Heading back to the tentsite I took in the spread of the Taj Mahal campers.  Two huge tents, food everywhere, and the number of red Dixie cups would positively have the Leave No Trace peep’s panties in a twist.  It even made me cringe…seriously, I think these campers produced more trash in two days than I produce in a month.

“Okay…stop judging them!!!” I made a conscience decision to STOP JUDGING them…I was camping.  “Just let them camp, girl! It’s fine…everything is fine!”  So I left it and enjoyed my lunch. 🙂

And it was fine!  Their kids came over and met Sidekick Pauli, and she adored them.  Mom was very nice, as was Grandpa!  How cool that the whole family was getting together for good times outdoors…I love that!

The fog had lifted, but it was still chilly.  Here is the issue with bringing my dog on a rainy weekend…there is not much to do with a dog on a rainy weekend if tenting.  I certainly wasn’t going to tie her to the tree and let her get cold, while I sat in a comfy chair reading my book.  She wasn’t allowed inside anywhere…and we didn’t come out here to hang out in the backpacking tent…so only one thing to do…hike!

I picked up the AT where we had left it yesterday and hiked south to a cemetery, then looped back on a horse trail.  Not a long hike, but long enough to stretch our legs once more before the rain started up.  Which it did, right on cue at 5 pm.  Even so, the tent was a welcome respite and kept us cozy one more night. 🙂  Hike on!

After our last hike of the day...time to relax in the den!

After our last hike of the day…time to relax in the den!

AT – VA Rt.725 to Jim&Molly Denton Shelter (and back!)

Here I am at my desk preparing for the semester, but thinking of the trail!  It is a needed diversion to calm my nerves as I head into a semester fill with many unknowns.

My mind is wandering back to last weekend when I completed a big, three new miles on the AT in Virginia.  This is the crux of the solo hiker…no shuttle means an out and back hike.  But…Excitement of stepping on a new section of trail overrode any misgivings I might have had about retracing my steps! I turned my car towards the Virginia state line, Sidekick Pauli riding shotgun.  🙂

The parking area off of Rt. 725 is quite pleasant and shady.   Hmmm…2:30 in the afternoon.  Starting mid-afternoon is not usual for us and created its own challenges in terms of the heat and our energy levels.  After crossing Rt. 55, up the hill we went, headed south to the Jim & Molly Denton shelter.

wpid-wp-1439837355866.jpg

The lull of the afternoon had me drifting off into trail daze soon after starting down the soft dirt path.

So I don’t remember if the Bee Lady’s dog rushed us before or after the train tracks, but it was shocking none the less. I yelled up the hill, “I have a dog!!!”  I heard a young woman call to the dog, but of course, the dog was too excited to stop.  Sidekick Pauli, always on a leash, gave a snarl as this young, energetic, white dog came crashing down the hill and right into, then onto her.

The woman, who was calling out louder now (in a way that told me she had NO control), rounded the corner and I could see she was carrying a child.  Luckily, the dog was not aggressive in a “I am going to kick your butt” kind of way so Sidekick Pauli got over her initial annoyance and tolerated the dog until we passed.  After passing, the young woman and I talked a bit.  Her son had been stung by a bunch of ground bees…ouch.  She described where the bees had been and was quite worried that we would get stung if we continued.

Okay, I forgive the Bee Lady and her dog (and hope her son is okay).  On with it!

Soon after stepped across Railroad Tracks

Soon after stepped across Railroad Tracks

On up the hill we went, enjoying any breeze that managed to reach us on this muggy afternoon!  Then an older gentleman came towards us with a full pack.  He asked if I had run into the Bee Lady.  I replied that indeed I had and wondered whether the bees were going to be a problem.  Turns out he had checked it out and apparently the bees had gone back to the ground and were not on the trail.  “You have a trail name?”  “They call me Chicken Farmer.”

Well, Chicken Farmer’s story hollowed out my soul.  My eyes watered as he told me his wife had died on June 17 (my anniversary).  His son came to watch the chicken farm so he could retreat to the woods along the Appalachian Trail.  Starting his hike in Port Clinton, he had come south to Harper’s Ferry to visit with friends.  That morning he had again set his feet in motion starting at Chester Gap near Front Royal, then headed north.  I bid him safe travels and again headed up, with a heavier heart and a desire to drop everything and head back to Hoosierland to see my Mom & Dad.

Are there ANY trails without rocks??? Sidekick Pauli is happy regardless!

Are there ANY trails without rocks??? Sidekick Pauli is happy regardless!

Ahhh, we were nearing the top of the hill, I could feel it and I welcomed it. Finding a nice rock to sit on, Sidekick Pauli and I stopped for a long water break.  Tops of mountains are so peaceful.  There is always a breeze that pushes the treetops aside and finds its way down to the weary hiker. 🙂 A chill went down my back as the wind met with my sweat soaked shirt. I enjoyed it…I can definitely tell you I enjoyed that moment!

Once over the ridge, we were excited to see a large field.  We ran a few steps, channeling Maria from “The Sound of Music”, until the reality of a 92 degree day brought us back to our steady plod, plod, plod.  There were several lovely butterflies, even a monarch, that joined us in our trek across the field. 🙂

wpid-wp-1439839388890.jpg

A little road walk between the hills.

Then it was down to a road crossing, then up again to the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter.  I was just plain, old hot at that point, so arriving at the shelter was a happy moment!  Two college guys were hanging on the porch as we walked up.  Pauli was happy to make their acquaintance and I think they were happy to meet her too!  I hung out for a while at the shelter, drinking even more water, and talking with the guys.  Envious, I was! Oh, to be young and on the trail for however long you want to stay out…no responsibility, no timeline other than the beginning of the semester…

Well, the afternoon was quickly heading into early evening and we had to get back to the car.  The crickets sang to us and the cicadas chirped.  Shadows grew longer as we walked slowly back.  No need to rush.

Hike on.

AT – VA Compton Gap to US 522 with the Trail Dames

I will remember this day as hiking through the sky with Dames, then descending into the valley with Angels.

Before all of this, however, was donuts.  Tenacious D was driving and I had hitched a ride to the trail head since my car is no longer to be trusted on long trips.  I felt very grateful to have a ride down to Virginia for this section hike and stopped at Dunkin Donuts on my way to meet Tenacious D for coffee and donuts as a token of appreciation for the ride.

Wow, it was raining. and cold. and windy.  Glad I put gloves and hat in the back pack before I left!

We were the last to arrive at the trail head…Tenacious D says being a bus driver for so many years makes her just drive slow all the time!  I didn’t mind, we weren’t more than 3 – 4 minutes late, and the drive had been lovely.  We pulled over and rolled down the window as Dirigo (the hike leader today) approached. She asked “Can you all help shuttle?” “Sure!”  Another Dame jumped in and away we went up into Shenandoah National Park.

We met up with everyone at Compton Gap trail head, about 10 miles into the park.  Donning our layers, rain jackets, hats, gloves, and grabbing our hiking poles we set off into the foggy woods.  Pretty easy walking, although it began to rain making me wish I hadn’t left my big red poncho back in my car before riding down with Tenacious D.  Oh well, my rain jacket, plus layers did a fine job anyway!

wpid-img_20141101_072122.jpg

Tenacious D enjoying the trail!

The forest was magical with the heavy fog.  Lines between heaven and earth were smudged giving everything a soft ethereal glow.  It felt like we were part of the sky.  Then my eye would catch a tree with its brilliantly colored leaves in the forest reminding me that the sky had descended on the mountain, we had not risen to the sky.

We reached Possum’s Rest, which on a clear day has a beautiful view, without much trouble.  Today, all one could see was the fog.  Coming down from Possum’s Rest was a little tricky!  We were climbing down from the ridge and it was a sharp decline, even with the switchbacks, littered with wet leaves and rocks.  It was slow going…but no one fell, no one slipped!

Just before reaching the Tom Floyd Wayside, we heard barking.  Lake Front Royal is a neighborhood which backs up to the AT, so the dog was probably over there.  Happy to get out of the rain we sat down for lunch at the shelter.  A PB&J and half a bag of cheezits later I was feeling quite content.  I stretched out my legs and sat there looking out into the mist.

Tom Floyd Wayside

Tom Floyd Wayside

There is was…that barking again…louder this time.  We discussed where the dog could be, then brushed it aside as we packed up and left the shelter.  Headed downhill, then all of the sudden there it was, a small older beagle, lost, cold, wet, shivering, and very scared.  She came right up to me.  It was clear she needed help.  At first we got her to follow us, but soon realized she needed to be carried as her paws were rubbed raw.  I carried her for awhile,

then Python cleared out her backpack and together we fit her inside.  She loved that! So cozy!  And that is how Python packed her out.  As we continued towards Rt. 522 we passed directly by a few houses in Lake Front Royal.  Python asked a guy out on his deck if he knew anyone who had lost a beagle.  He didn’t but turned to get his wife.  Turns out the wife works in a vet clinic and offered to take the dog so they could follow up on the license number and scan for a microchip.

So you see, the Dames had become Angels arriving at just the right time and place for this lucky little pup.  I am ever so happy she spent the night inside, safe and warm.

A Journey Taken

A Journey Taken

Hike on.