During our courting days, Linda brought me out to Shenandoah National Park to stay at a cabin in Big Meadows. We completed several loop hikes from the top of Skyline Drive, some in heavy downpours. This is were we resolved to find some land and build a cabin. When I mentioned our trip to Shenandoah National Park to a friend in NYC, whose name was Virginia, she told me that she was named such because that’s where her parents conceived her. TMI Alert! TMI Alert! TMI Alert!
As I mentioned in our walk on Massanutten Mountain, Shenandoah National Park is the eastern boundary of the Shenandoah Valley. We countined, after the Bird Knob hike, down to Lurray, then up over Thorton Gap in the park, and back down to Sperryville, in the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were actually going to spend the weekend at the Hopkins Ordinary (bed and breakfast) and attend the Castleton Festival, of which I shall write later. After our hike, pulling into a bed and breakfast, was a relief, for soon we could put our feet up and massage them. When the proprietor offered us a complimentary glass of beer or wine, we knew that we were in the right place. While we enjoyed those cabins at Big Meadows 22 years ago, the BnB route is just a little more pampering. We already live in a log cabin, you know.
After a solid night’s sleep and hearty breakfast with a couple of robust cups of coffee, we verified our route for the morning’s hike. Rather than go to the top of Skyline Drive and walk down and up, we would enter the park from a bottom point to hike up and down. Hazel River originates from a cove that few hikers put on the top of their list. Those who want to check one off the bucket list are on Old Rag, White Oak Canyon, or Little Devil’s Staircase. Those who want the Skyline views are on Old Stoney Man or the Appalachian Trail. For us, passing a couple of folks in flip-flops and with the dogs within the first few hundred feet of the walk, then being alone for the next 4 hours was fine solitude.
The hike was only about 5 miles with a 1500 foot elevation change (up and down). We took about two hours to do the first grade which follows the Hazel River. With camera batteries charged, we could hardly walk a hundred feet without finding something fascinating to capture. Recent rains had filled the cascades over sandstone boulders and shelves. This did make for some dicey stream crossings though.
Once past the river section, the hike circum-navagates Hazel Mountain. The vegetation changes from deep ravines with 100 foot poplar trees, to laural thickets, oaks and pines. Wild flowers appeared again, along with that poison ivy. One must be carefull for ticks too. While the copper-coat of the 4 point-in-velvet buck was beautiful to watch bounding across the ferns on either side of the path at one point, that also ment that ticks were leaping off and looking for my calves.
The mountain views from the Sams Ridge Trail are mostly along the descent. These are not as evident at sitting on a rock ledge at the top of the mountains. Rather, you look through windows between tree branches to nearby valleys and peaks. The downhill is on the steep side and our toes were glad to back on the gentler trail along river.
Back at the Hopkins Ordinary, we snacked on a light lunch while washing away the layers of humidity and dirt from the hike. Our first concert for the music festival would be at 4 p.m. I thought of our divergent interest in culture and country life. I thought about those cabins in Big Meadows two decades ago… TMI Alert! TMI Alert! TIM Alert!
*TMI = Too Much Information