Trip Report: Northern Shenandoah Loop

The crew converged on the Little Devils Stairs trailhead. It was a mild mid-autumn morning, a great day for a hike. Up we went, criss-crossing Keyser Run, stepping with care so as not to have wet feet this early in the day. After the recent rains, water was flowing fairly high.

On to the Sugarloaf Trail, where our climb grew more gradual. Hearts pumping, we crested the Blue Ridge. A sweeping view, and a brisk breeze, awaited us. Time for a break.

Nowhere to go but down…the western flank of the mountain. But the sun came out and cheered us down the Tuscarora/Overall Run Trail to an eventual lunch stop by the creek.

From there it was up again, the Weddlewood Trail to Knob Mountain Trail, with more climbing than I’d remembered on the latter. But sun-soaked evergreens to make up for it. Oh, and watch out for those leaves in your trekking poles…

Mid-afternoon, we reached the top of Knob Mountain, basking in the sunlight and following it down as the day died. (It’s no coincidence that this route followed the arc of the sun!)

Once at Jeremy’s Run, it was time to search for a suitable campsite. Somehow we didn’t see one where I recalled camping years ago, on the near side of the Run. After hiking up a bit, it became clear we’d run out of options and had to cross. Shoes and/or socks came off, and soon, we all were on the east bank. It wasn’t long till we found enough flat ground to settle down for the evening. Just as dusk fell. And it cooled off quick.

Dinner followed and, while no fire roared, we enjoyed one another’s company nevertheless. By 7:00 or so it was pitch black and ‘backpacker midnight’ had descended upon our campsite. What else to do but turn in? Overhead, the stars shone brightly.

The group roused at 6:00 the next morning and was moving by 7:00. Straight up Neighbor Mountain: enough to get one’s blood pumping.

Clouds gathered and the wind picked up. Somehow we seemed a month closer to winter than we were even yesterday. Was a storm upon us?

Somehow, the rains held off, save for a sprinkle here or there. Neighbor Mountain is more pine-y than I’d recalled…it reminded me a bit of the western flank of the North Massanutten Loop.

Our first bear sighting took place just beyond the top of Neighbor Mountain. A mile or so later, we had our second, on the Hull School Trail! The fresh scat didn’t lie. Bears were out and about this weekend in Shenandoah. Meanwhile, a couple more creek crossings or so took us back to our cars in the parking lot.

The chilly weather and threat of rain ended thoughts of a post-hike meal outside, so we went our (mostly) separate ways after the trip. After 26(-ish) miles in 26 hours, though, and some 7,000 feet of climbing, we felt like we’d made the most of our weekend. Or at least, I sure did. Thanks to everyone who made this a memorable outing.

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