TLC taught us in the mid-90s not to go chasin' waterfalls, but AB and I didn't heed that advice yesterday as we ambled into the Shenandoah mountains. The advice proved true, but the hike was still well worth it.
With an urge to hike largely inspired (at least on my end) by reading through Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, we headed west from the city toward a trail called Overall Run, about fifteen minutes outside of Front Royal, Virginia. We didn't want to pay to park on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which partially determined our parking spot. To get to this trail head, we parked at the end of quiet Thompson Hollow Road (which, gratefully, was not a creepy road, like some we've parked along in West Virginia) where a couple other cars were parked, and we forged into the woods, down a gravel path and finally to a sign subtly demarcating the park boundary.
(i believe it was about at the start of this hike when i excitedly told peter he now had as much hiking knowledge as i did since he just read 'a walk in the woods'. he was not impressed seeing that i'd led him on all those other hikes, spouting my hiking knowledge like an expert. i wasn't, i was just quoting bryson. quickly i looked for something to distract him from this point.)
Other than the free parking, the trail promised a 93' waterfall, or at the very least a water trickle. Other than Little Devil's Staircase, where you actually amble up a waterfall, we had not seen very many waterfalls in our hikes around Virginia, so were to excited to see one, especially one this big.
The first part of the hike is relatively flat. We started at an altitude of 930 feet and over the next mile and a half went up about 400 feet, occasionally crossing a dry creekbed and seeking very few hikers.
*hiking note. if your husband is taller than you always let him walk in front. for the spider webs*
And then we hit the waterfall. We think. Over the next .6 miles, we went up 700 feet over switchbacks that seemed to cut back and forth across a nearly straight-down gully. Some piece of that gully, we think, was the waterfall.
Halfway up the first part of this big ascent we crossed two women who were hiking from the other direction. They asked if we had seen a waterfall. We told them we hadn't, and asked them the same question, fairly certain of the answer. No signs on either side of the trail of trickling water. They did, however, promise beautiful views ahead.
We continued up, spurred on by at least having a pleasant view. And up and up. AB promised we could have water when we got to the end of the hill, but the mountain showed an amazing tenacity to continue climbing into the sky. We crossed another group of hikers that had come from the Parkway and were similarly interested in finding the elusive waterfall. We shared reports, though this group did not know about the views. We pet their dog. We continued up.
Through the trees, you could see what promised to be a fairly astonishing view of the distant peaks - if you could find a clearing. Finally, a side trail appeared a seemed to cut to a clearing. It opened onto a rocky outcrop on the edge of a chasm and while you couldn't see the distant peaks there was still a nice view of the gap between our mountain and the next, and we could see people way up high. We wondered if they were on our trial or a different one.
Our GPS said we were at 1750'. We decided to push on to 2,000' and then head back to the car. The final 250' went pretty fast - no switchbacks, just straight uphill. But we ended up at the spot we had been looking up at from the rocky outcrop.
i love the blue ridge mountains. i love looking down over a valley and watching a hawk slowly glide far below. it always makes me start to sing my favorite song by eddie from ohio, where they refer to the rockies as blue ridge wanna-bes.
These were the views the women had mentioned. Here's a shot of the view, and you can see on the right the rocky outcrop where we rested for a bit.
It took us an well over an hour to get to 2,000', but the 2.4 miles back we managed in about an hour. Just before crossing back over the park boundary and onto our car, I spotted a deer in the woods. Close. When I pointed it out to AB, I had to tell her to adjust how far into the woods she was looking because she expected it to be about 10 yards away or so; it was about 8 feet. She pointed out that the sharp spines coming from the deer's head meant it was a buck, and perhaps we should move on. We did.
All told, we hiked 4.9 miles and ascended - and descended - 1,100' - and saw no waterfalls. But still, this was a great hike.