Hiking has become a lot more important to me since getting out of college. Here's what I've done since then.
After a week that included a few storms, I was hoping that these falls would be running stronger than on my last visit. Thus, the wife, Aidan, and I drove out yet again to the park. The day seemed to threaten rain, and indeed I was expecting it. We managed the hike easily enough, without seeing any wildlife, and only a few other hikers. It was also grand to have the wife hold Aidan so that I could climb down onto the rock below the falls, which let me set up my tripod for this low-angle shot in the dim light under the trees.
After this experience, I'm really hoping to see the falls when they make a torrent among the rocks. Perhaps during the snowmelt, or even during a rainy day I'll have the chance! The wife and I are hoping to return as well during the Autumn to see the rest of this trail, which includes a number of falls that may be more impressive than this one.
Hoping to see some early Autumn color, I hauled Aidan down this steep trail to see Rose River Falls. The river formed a series of pools in its narrow canyon, and plunged over a few sudden falls. It was a very pristine sight.
I also did indeed get a few photos of early autumn foliage. You can see a few of them in this special gallery here.
We had been planning this towering hike for months. I was extremely excited to be seeing this craggy mountain with its sweeping vistas at this time of great color, and I wasn't disappointed. I felt a bit apprehensive about my ability to actually climb the thing, but it was surprisingly easier than I thought. The woodland trail portion was steep and painful, but after three miles or so, we were presented with the really fun portion, a steep rock scramble of just over a mile to the peak. It was at times daunting to find our way through crevices or to take minor leaps of faith to a distant handhold, but this just added to the fun. And the view from the top was absolutely stunning! This should be an Autumn tradition for me! I'm glad Ickes accompanied me on this one, even if the mountain had its vengeance on him...
In a Culbertson tradtion, when the wife is only days away from delivering a new baby, we went for a hike. This time it was a short and cold hike to view the falls and rapids in the quiet woods of the Blue Ridge. Aidan enjoyed climbing, and the wife was glad to get out of the house for some easy walking. It'll be great to bring Fiona here this summer!
Aidan and I visited here for a short hike on a hot August day (see above), and we made it only slightly further then. I'm really looking forward to doing this hike when I'm either more determined, in better shape, or at least not carrying a baby. Hiking up to Skyline drive from the base may be the only way when it's closed due to snow.
I rescheduled some vacation from a botched snowboarding trip for a day of solo hiking in the Blue Ridge. The park's Skyline Drive was closed, but entrance parking was still available, so I made this short, steep, and frozen hike to the summit of Mary's Rock. Most of the hike was along a stretch of the Appalachian Trail. I have a few snowy pictures starting here.
I never knew that I would enjoy cold, snowy hiking this much! Though I wonder when we will ever have a Winter quite as epic as this one again in these parts...
After thawing out from my high-elevation hike at Mary's Rock, I relaxed for a bit in the weekday solitude of the White Oak parking lot. Then, after gearing up, I was determined on my third hike to see the actual falls. I walked in with all of my photo gear, and had enough energy left to reach the first set of falls, pictured here. They were pretty impressive, and I'm glad I made it. However, in my attempts to find a more pleasing angle, I explored a bit on the slippery rock faces near the cascading water. I nearly fell in! After this, to preserve myself and all of my gear, I carefully made my way back to the base of the falls for perhaps a less impressive picture, but certainly a safer one!
While the Don was on a visit back East from California, I dragged him along to one of my favorite places in the world, Shenandoah National Park. We hiked a trail new to both of us, enjoyed the finest of fermented beverages, and gained some exciting sunburn. All in a day's work, I suppose. However, seeing Overall Run Falls was, I believe, worth the steep suffering. This boisterous cascade has carved out a steep and narrow gorge in the West flank of the Blue Ridge. Just wading through the plunge pools was reward enough for me!
I managed a few decent photos of the cascades at the falls, and along with some "heroic" poses, they are in this small gallery.
Having caught the hiking bug once again, I carried Aidan on my back down the precipitous South River Falls Trail. After a number of switchbacks, the trail passed though some wonderful open woods beside the river's rapids above the falls. Then we entered the gorge and followed the trail along the Northern edge to the viewpoint, where we had a distant view of the sheer drop. We didn't walk to the base of the Falls, owing to time constraints, but we may try again some time. Aidan and I did bushwhack a bit to the top of the falls, though my photos don't really do the place justice. There were maginificent flowers everywhere, and I may be putting them into a special wildflower gallery in the future. For now, however, my favorite photo from the hike is the one shown.
This marvelous small park along the swift, rocky Youghiogheny River is a fine place to visit. A short loop trail leads down through stands of virgin hemlock and white pine to the river and Swallow Falls. The trail then follows the river to another wide set of falls, before coming to the most impressive plunge, that of Muddy Creek Falls. This great cascade happens just yards above the creek's confluence with the Youghiogheny.
This short hike of perhaps a mile or less (round-trip) leads to a splendid vista above the deep, rugged canyon of the Blackwater River. The flat trail leads through some dense thickets, but soon emerges onto a constructed overlook next to some interesting rock formations. Though I was there on a wet and overcast day, I nonetheless found the view inspirational, and certainly worthy of a return in better weather!
It's only a quick, though steep half mile from the parking area to the grand cliffs of Little Stony Man. This is a fantastic place to watch the sun go down over the Shenandoah Valley, with New Market Gap directly opposite. It would be great to be here at the time of year when the sun sets directly in the gap - another reason to come back!
Also of interest are the small pools formed in the cliffs by rainwater. These evaporate, of course, but make for a nice compositional element in photos if they are full. This is only one of the great features of these high, prominent cliffs. They're quite the joy to explore while waiting for the light to change.
This is the biggest hike I've done in a single day, and despite its length (over 13 miles, half of which was spent climbing out of the narrow river valley),it was well worth it.
I usually get my information from Midatlantichikes.com, and I reviewed this hike there. Here's what I thought about it:
This is a really beautiful hike filled with many magnificent views of the Page and Shenandoah Valleys, Masanutten Mountain, the Madison Run watershed, the mountains named in the hike, and of course the main line of the Blue Ridge as you get far away from Skyline Drive.
I enjoyed the plotting of the hike along very narrow ridge tops, which were often in quite a bit of shade. The routing through the talus areas on Austin Mountain was also a really interesting experience. I liked resting on Madison Run, where I saw the only motor vehicle on my hike - an NPS utility pickup truck. This was the only place to refill my water, so you should be sure to carry quite a lot! I do wish there were more stream crossings, though I suppose that it's not possible in this particular area of the park.
After Madison Run, I had to pay the park back for the long descent I had made from the hike's start. This portion was often very exposed to the sun, though even in early May quite a lot of blooming mountain laurel made up for it. It did seem endless, so I took many breaks here.
Part of the way up, the side trail to the Furnace Mountain summit branches off. It's an interesting big rock ledge, and the views are nice, though the perspective from Black Rock is much better. It is a good way to break up the long climb, though it adds another mile to the trip.
I found the view from Black Rock to be the best of the entire hike, and climbing through the enormous boulders was great. It should be noted that quite a few spiderwebs are among the rocks, so tread carefully.
After the huge climb, the rolling AT ended the hike. This was a merciful end to a great but strenuous hike. I don't hike long-distance often, but I was able to finish this hike in seven hours with a good number of breaks. It did really take it out of me though!
Highlights: mountain and valley views, rock fields, many wildflowers, mountain laurel
Recommendations for warm weather: strong bug repellant, trekking poles for the many steep parts, three liters of water (plus a filtering method), a hat, and lots of sunblock!
I recruited Ickes to help me with the kids on this hike, and I'm certainly glad that I did. We each carried one of them on the steep but well-trodden trail.
I had been to the lowest of these falls twice before the previous Summer, having come via fire road without great information. This time, we parked at the proper parking area and took the trail past all of the falls. I finally saw what I had been missing! The main set of falls is very graceful and well worth a visit. It doesn't take long at all to get there. Of course, its short length and beautiful falls means that quite a few hikers will be thronging the trail. Patience is necessary for a clear shot of the big falls - I waited long enough to get mine!
Ickes helped me with the kids on this one too - a short, steep climb to an excellent summit view. I hear that the fall from Hawksbill, 2,500 feet, is the highest in the park. Our trip was on a cloudy day, though it was still lovely.
The wife and I made our first attempt on this steep loop hike with the kids strapped to us. Although we didn't make it around the whole loop due to conditions, we did still see some fantastic falls. I still can't wait to go back for the whole route!
This is a fine hiking area just outside Wilkes-Barre. There's not much opportunity for distance, but there are a number of trails to explore in the woods, which meander along the banks of the creeks and above the cliffs. It's a nice place to appreciate the effects of water on stone.
This is the highest mountain in the state, though the kids and I didn't do anything like hiking the entire height. We actually left Alexandria very, very early to see the sun rise from the summit, which is easily reached by a road to the top. After seeing the beautiful dawn, the kids and I walked along some of the trails at the top, which were often wide enough to permit the wide stroller to pass. The very top of this mountain suits its name, with many dark spruces that favor the very peaks of the Alleghenies.
Scott and I did a bit of camping here, using it as a base camp for a number of hikes listed below. This campground, especially in the "A10" tent sites, has fantastic views into the Shenandoah Valley. It's also the highest campsite in the park. The walk-in sites are spacious and fairly well secluded.
We returned to the massive collapsed cliff at Black Rock, which I had visited the previous month toward the end of a long hike. Although only a short mile-plus on the AT, this hike quickly isolates you from the nearby road. Scott and I arrived at Black Rock just in time to scramble to the top of the boulder pile for a fine Summer sunset.
This hike descends quickly past the spring at the source of Doyles River. Soon you're walking along a noisy stream splashing down the mountain. There are a few nice cascades before you reach what is apparently the main waterfall. Each place offers great opportunites to scale slick mossy rocks by the falls. I nearly fell in at one point!
At the lowest, largest fall, Scott and I crossed to the other side and enjoyed the sights and sounds for a while. We encountered a handful of other hikers, though none of them were willing to cross to the far side.
It would have been nice to hike this with the water flowing at full force. Perhaps I'll be revisiting this after some heavy rains, or maybe when the falls are frozen in the depths of Winter.
This trail often goes through very high grass, at least in mid June. It should also be noted that virtually all of the blooming mountain laurel is gone by this time. There are, of course, some other interesting wildflowers to be seen. I think I saw some very new Indian pipe stems rising up, though I can't be completely sure.
The trail was nicely plotted on a ridge seemingly at right angles to the main line of the Blue Ridge. Though steep, this passed along a fine route that often passed through ferns. Once we reached the junction with the Gap Run Trail, we started to climb steeply, having taken the left branch. Despite having read the trail notes, we were still tricked by the false summits. We didn't find the true summit to be obvious, though we did suspect it. We scouted along for a few more bends of the trail, but it started to fall steeply again in deeper woods, so we figured we were at the top. It appeared that after the true summit, the trail was much less used and consequently more overgrown.
The exposed cliffs at the top, just below the trail, were truly a spledid place to rest and take in the view. They offered a great vista of the lesser ridges and the main line of mountains, and narrow views of the Shenandoah Valley. The cliffs were many broken, protruding piers of rock, rather than a continuous wall.
We were here for only a few minutes before strong winds began to blow out of the valley. Soon we saw lightning in the distance, so we packed up quickly and departed, heading back the way we came rather than through the longer Gap Run portion of the hike. Fearing a downpour that never materialized fully, it took us about two hours to get back to our car at Two Mile Run Overlook.
I believe we encountered eight other hikers on this particular trip.
Rated a three, since the trail is quite overgrown (though definitely passable), and the only real views come once you get to Rocky Mount's top. They are great views, but you have to work very hard for them!
This hike was also reviewed at MidAtlanticHikes.com
Our extra-wide, rugged, rubber-tired baby stroller filled me with quite a bit of confidence. Enough, even, to climb Shenandoah's tallest mountain! Hawksbill is indeed the park's tallest peak, though the starting point for the hike on Skyline Drive is not too far below the top. I did manage to slowly push the stroller up the wide, gravel trail. Once at the top, however, there just wasn't enough room for Aidan to run around, so we turned around for the much easier descent. Fortunately, the stroller came with a safety leash, so I could stroll down firmly attached to the baby chariot. This has gotten me excited for more stroller hikes in the future!
I love this hike, even with the honest-to-God fear that comes along with shimmying on boulders above sheer drops or making leaps-of-faith. This year, I hiked Old Rag with Ickes and the Don. I can't wait to do it again! Climbing it during a snowy period would be impressive, but I don't know if it could be done without crampons or ice axes...
Aidan and I hadn't been here for over a year, and Fiona had never been, so I strapped the kids into our ever-versatile stroller and wheeled them up through the quiet woods to the top of Stony Man, the park's second-highest peak. It really was a lot of fun, and I came away with some nice photos of the kids despite the overcast sky.
Since it really is so easy to get around on even some very rocky trails with our stroller, I hope to use it for some mid-level hiking. So long as it isn't the height of Summer or the depths of Winter, I should be able to do this with a good deal of comfort for my passengers!
I hurried out to this magnificient vista again, this time on a vibrantly sunny Autumn day. With the deep canyon stretched out below me, I took in the breeze and a few fine photographs. Autumn in these mountains is a real treat!
This time I set off down the steep but well-trod trail with no one but the kids in their double stroller. Fortunately, with its big pneumatic tires it can roll over almost anything. It's not exactly an easy walk, but it was worth it. The falls with colorful leaves all over is simply one of the finest destinations in the park as far as waterfalls are concerned.
The wife and I were staying at the North Fork Mountain Inn, which happens to be nicely situated on a spur trail leading up to this trail. All we had to do was step out the front door and we were able to begin the steep climb to the long summit of North Fork Mountain. It was a fairly mild day for February but the mountaintop was extremely windy, so we sheltered in the lee of some upthrust rocks and enjoyed the inn's packed lunch. There were some fine views to take in from the flat summit before we worked our way back down. It looks like hiking the length of the mountain would be grand.
Our Winter trip to West Virginia put us very close to this natural monument, so we resolved to climb it. The hike was on a well-graded trail with some spots of gravel, though quite muddy in places. The bare Winter trees allowed us to get a few long views before we made it to the top. Once there, it was nice to take in the sights and peer carefully over the sheer drops, though we didn't venture past the observation platform. Certainly some hikers and climbers venture out onto the knife-edge of the Rocks' true summit, but we didn't want to take the risk!
I think I'm always going to find this trail to be awesome. It's steep, but you get the great feeling that you're descending into a gorge. Even with most of the leaves on the trees, the gorge doesn't feel too close when you can see some distant mountaintops. The falls and Autumn colors really were excellent this time. I did cut my hike short due to high water so I still haven't seen the falls on Jones Run - another reason to come back! The high water did make the falls more impressive than on the last visit.
It's often fun to set out on the AT, not knowing how far you're going to walk, even if you have to turn around and come back the same way. On this particular day I set out directly from my tent and made it almost to the Ivy Creek overlook. This section had great variety, from the rocky heights at the Frazier Discovery Trail to the deeply shaded bottomlands around Ivy Creek. Along the way I had sweeping vistas of the Shenandoah Valley and the Piedmont, a walk among baking pine needles while climbing out of the creek gorge, and finally a grand lunch high above Skyline drive among the windswept table mountain pines.
I had a fine walk and a test of my snowshoes on my birthday. Climbing up to Sunset Rocks in the pre-dawn darkness was only slightly less exciting than changing clothes in the frigid air before the hike!
It was pretty cool to see the AT and Tom's Run with almost completely undisturbed snow. The only real snow I got to see all season too...
After a meandering tour around Fort Valley, we stopped the car at a familiar place and went for a bit of a hike. Snow was on the ground but it was only enough to please the eye rather than hinder travel. We brought the stroller to push Fiona about, but she walked a good distance too. Aidan, of course, loved making snowballs and running far ahead. We had a grand time and finished our out-and-back walk with a campfire to roast hot dogs!
It was the same hike from almost two years before, though I brought the Don along this time. The picture to the right almost conveys the "Daniel Boone" feeling I got, since it feels like you're looking out across verdant wilderness from high on Austin Mountain.
At the lowest elevation, we cooked up freeze-dried food with no issues, but realized we didn't have any utensils. Mountain House meals aren't at all easy to eat via squeeze-action from a very hot bag! This added to the memorable nature of an otherwise problem-free hike...
We got lost. Yes, it had been a while since this happened, owing (I hope) to what might be better preparation and skill at reading maps. This time, however, we didn't win. The Don and I were tired from the day before, and the hot sun was really making us not want to do the entire loop of the hike. So we took a shortcut, which was expcted to cut off half the distance and climb. We made only a slighly wrong turn, and wound up having to walk a fair distance along Skyline Dr. and the AT to get back to Skyland. The falls were very impressive though, and we enjoyed listening to some Russians (apparently) frolicking in the frigid water.
Also, we nearly forgot utensils again. Only after walking a few yards down the trail did we realize. Fortunately, plastic forks were easily gotten at Skyland nearby.
I took my own former reasoning to heart and did this hike on a frozen Winter day, bringing along light "crampons" (Yaktrax) to help. They truly did stop me from slipping on many occasions, though I did often need to use my trekking poles to provide further traction. On previous Old Rag hikes I put the poles away when the rock scramble started, but here I kept them out the whole time and took things much more slowly. With most every boulder covered with a thick glaze of ice, an ice axe truly would have been helpful!
I didn't have any serious falls, and as the snow and clouds cleared I was greeted with marvelous blue skies and sweeping vistas. It was really an extraordinary experience, especially as the sun began to melt the ice clinging to branches (video). This began a cacophonous barrage that carried on until I rose above the forested sections.
Besides the photos on the side, have a look at two more in the gallery: