On Friday afternoon, Bryan, Logan, and I met Karan at Vienna for our trip to the Wild Oak trail and Shenandoah Mountain. The weather was beautiful but the forecast was calling for rain on Saturday. A downpour during our drive to George Washington National Forest added to our foreboding. We did see a rainbow though!
The four of us met up with John M. near Camp Todd and we all started up Horse Trough Hollow just as the sun went down. It was a moderate but humid climb so we relished the breeze that greeted us at the top of the ridge. We set up camp around 10 p.m. on Little Bald Knob. It was not the best campsite but it was good enough for some tired hikers looking for a few hours of sleep.
It rained a little overnight and was foggy in the morning. The sun was strong though, so by the time we left camp around 7am it was already clear. We enjoyed the beautiful, sunny views through the trees as we walked down the Chestnut Ridge trail. It was somehow already more humid than the previous evening.
After crossing North River Rd, we stopped at the footbridge to regroup and fill up water for the next 10 miles. After some time, Karan appeared on the other side of the footbridge. Apparently, he had relied on his memory rather than his GPS and ended up taking a detour through the nearby campground. From there, we had a long climb up to Lookout Mountain and then a ridge walk across the forest road to Hankey Mountain. Along the way, we disturbed a rattlesnake who luckily was far enough off the trail not to disturb us. We stopped for lunch at a viewpoint marked on the map. There was no view there but it was a fine place to rest our feet for a while.
We descended to the road and then started climbing up the Dividing Ridge trail. Our last water source was supposed to be somewhere along the trail. About two-thirds of the way up, Karan heard water so he, Bryan, and Logan followed a small side trail to fill up. We waited there for John but after about an hour we decided to move on and sent him a message. The climb got steeper but we made it to the top of the ridge and turned left on Bald Ridge.
Along the ridge, Karan heard from John. He had bushwhacked to a water source marked on the left side of the trail, as shown on the Nat Geo map. He was beat from the 25 mile day and decided to head over Big Bald Knob back to the cars. Karan and I came to a tricky turn where the trail drops down to the left while a herd path continues straight. We decided to wait there to make sure Bryan and Logan saw the trail. Logan showed up first, even though he had been behind Bryan. Logan had not passed Bryan so we figured he must have turned the wrong way at the top of the ridge. We did some extra trailscaping to mark off the herd path and continued on.
Logan, Karan, and I got to the campsite just past the Peak at 6:30 p.m. Bryan showed up shortly thereafter and confirmed that he had gotten turned around at the pond. It was a beautiful evening. We cooked by the overlook and watched the impending rain draw closer. The four of us scurried into our tents around 8 p.m. when it started to rain.
The rain had mostly stopped by the time we had packed up in the morning. When Karan went to put on his sock, he discovered something had chewed straight through it. I later saw that something had nibbled on the handle of my umbrella. Karan believed that the culprit was an obstinate bunny we spotted near camp.
The four of us walked down the Bridge Hollow trail and forded the stream at the bottom. From there, we climbed up Road Hollow to the Shenandoah Mountain trail, which was a nice, fairly flat walk. The vegetation was already starting to crowd the trail at this time of year though. We passed the junction with Jerry’s Run, which was marked with four signs. This caused us to wonder why there were so many signs at this particular junction when some major intersections had none at all.
Eventually, we turned on to the Ramsey’s Draft trail and passed Hiner Springs. There was still smoke coming out of the fire ring so it looked like at least one person had camped there. The trail then descended down Springhouse Ridge to Camp Todd, where we walked the rest of the way back on the road to the cars. Just as we began to drive away, it started to sprinkle. Good timing.
Overall, it was a challenging but successful trip. We really lucked out with the weather considering the forecast.