So, this was a quick trip to record some impressions for the day hikes in the second edition of my Shenandoah book. Several times in the past, I’ve strung together hikes in the northern district to make a “tour de northern Shenandoah.” This was a shorter trip, but I think both rewarding and challenging.
Cassie, Sophie, and I met up at Vienna, and, after a quick McDonalds stop, we rolled out to the north gate of Shenandoah to pick up a backcountry pass. Then, we drove around to a crowded Little Devils Stairs parking lot to meet Chris at about 10:15am. We geared up and were soon climbing a very wet and invigorating Little Devils Stairs. We gathered at Four Way, then set out on Pole Bridge.
I forgot my water bottle at Four Way and had to jog back to get it. After grabbing it, I was jogging back as I encountered a three or four foot long rattler crossing the trail. I proceeded more cautiously as I rejoined the group.
Forward on Pole Bridge, Piney Branch, the SOBO on the AT. We reached Elk Wallow, stopped for a snack. It was the first time in awhile that we felt we could just relax in the sun–no rain!
We left Elkwallow on the AT, but quickly grabbed Jeremys Run, and then the Knob Mountain cut off for our afternoon. On the ridge line, we encountered a mother bear and three cubs, very close to us on the trail. The mother bear didn’t have the time of day for us, but after quietly admiring this ursine family for a few minutes, we detoured through the brush to give them space. We descended into the run chatting animatedly about politics.
Jeremys Run was high, but not dramatically so. We forded the run at the bottom and felt confident for the next day. We camped at the first available site, dined together, and were early to bed without a campfire.
Sunday, we were on the trail by 7am, and were wet almost instantly, crossing and recrossing Jeremys Run. Lots of bonus crossings, but by 9:15am or so, we had climbed back up to Elkwallow and had a break. There was more climbing on the AT than we remembered, but soon we were on the descent to Four Way, and then a long, lazy descent on the Keyser Run Fire Road.
We reached the cars at 12:20pm. My data indicate that this route was 26.8 miles, with splits of roughly 13 and 13. Total gain was about 5,100 feet and a loss of the same. So this was a fun, challenging LM trip that people could repeat.
We had a great group. Only one new person, but Cassie is plainly ready for great things! Welcome to the group.
For the denouement, we headed to Front Royal and the new brewery on Main Street. And then it was home!
Thanks, everyone, for a great weekend!