Sunday, September 19, 2010

Three Peaks in Shenandoah - September 7, 2010

I have not posted in a long time on this site because I have not been hiking in Virginia.  I spent a month traveling, some with my son, some with my son and wife, some with a friend, and some by myself.  I drove to San Francisco and back and managed some life list hikes during the trip - hiking below the South Rim of the Grand Canyon for an overnight with my son, scaling Half Dome and the 4 Mile Trail in Yosemite with my wife's niece, and climbing the 13,000 foot summit of Mt. Wheeler in Great Basin National Park with a friend.

I returned to Virginia in late August and had little incentive to go to the gym until I noticed the calendar for the PATC's Vigorous Hiker's Group.  There were a number of appealing aspects to joining this group.  First, they hike on Tuesdays, and I work 9 hour days so can take a day during the week twice a month.  Second, they go on aggressive hikes with elevation gains in excess of 4,000 feet, which would force me to stay in shape.

I checked out this group's calendar and found that some of their hikes are in Pennsylvania, but probably 1/2 are near enough to Charlottesville so that I could meet them at the trailhead.  The next hike was on September 7th, the day after Labor Day, and started and ended at the White Oak Canyon parking lot.  I decided to join them.

Here is the group's description of the hike:

To celebrate the return of sub-90s temperatures we'll take on a tough hike. This hike hits three of the biggest peaks in SNP in almost 17 miles and 5600 feet of ascent in the Central District.  
 
We'll start at White Oak Canyon parking at the entrance to Berry Hollow.  Our route starts with a straight-forward ascent of Hawksbill via the Cedar Run Trail.  After regrouping, its on to Stony Man summit for lunch via the Salamander Trail, the AT, and the Summit Trail.  After lunch we return to Stony Man parking, cross the Skyline Drive to find the Skyland-Big Meadows Horse Trail, which we can take a mile or so to the Old Rag Fire Road.  Turning left on ORFR, its again less than a mile and a half to the Robertson Mountain Trail, where we turn left and ascend our third peak for the day.  Continuing on we eventually descend to the Weakley Hollow Fire Road, turn right and follow it and the Berry Hollow Fire Road back to the cars.
 
This dog hiked with us and is a full blooded Walker Hound.
Gives me hope that the family pup will someday be a hiker.
The others all came down from the DC area, so I met them at the trailhead.  I was the first to arrive, at 8:30.  Shortly afterward, a woman arrived in her car, then a van full of five men showed, along with one dog.  A couple of the men did not actually hike with the group as they are in their 80's and can no longer keep up.  So they took their own hike. The rest of us started up the Cedar Run Trail, ascending over 3000 feet in 3.6 miles to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain, the tallest peak in Shenandoah National Park.  The ascent took me an hour and 55 minutes.  

At the summit of Hawksbill was a group of Princeton students.  I didn't actually go to the summit because of the crowd of students, and instead hung out at the Byrds Nest day use shelter 100 feet from the overlook to wait for everyone in our group to arrive.  We didn't wait long, and were quickly back on the trail.

From Hawksbill, we descended to the Appalachian Trail and headed north to Stony Man.  I remember last climbing Stony Man on my first trip to Shenandoah, back when I was about 12.  I had never bothered to hike it as an adult, and had forgotten how beautiful the views are from this mountain.  Stony Man is not as tall as Hawksbill; my GPS measured it at just under 4000 feet high.  We stopped here for lunch and talked with a nice young couple from Austin Texas.  The Vigorous Hikers are not ones to stay in one place long, however, and we were back on the trail after exactly 10 minutes.  We descended the way we came up, then cut across the Skyline Drive to a horse trail that led to the Old Rag Fire Road.  

View from Stony Man summit.
I spent most of the rest of the hike talking with Bob, a retired researcher for the Feds in their weather department.  He is quite an accomplished hiker, having completed the entire A.T., the Long Trail, and vast sections of the Pacific Crest Trail.  I learned about how weather prediction is related to physics, and the history of the Vigorous Hikers.  Together, we scaled the final mountain of our hike, near the 3296 summit of Robertson Mountain, and caught views of Old Rag.  From there we descended to the Weakley Hollow Fire Road, which is part of the Old Rag Loop.  We saw our first hikers since the summit of Stony Man on the fire road.  This road took us back to our cars.

We returned to the parking lot at 4:12 PM, 7 hours and 23 minutes after beginning the 17.7 mile hike.  I enjoyed the day and look forward to joining these folks again when they return to this part of the park.  A future hike will allow me to return to Monkeyhead, which is a particularly appealing destination.  

Hike Details.
PATC Difficulty Factor 418.8
Distance:  17.7 miles
Total Time: 7 hours 23 minutes.
Average Uphill: 17% grade
Lowest point: 1141 ft.
Highest point: 4028 ft.
Total uphill: 4954 ft.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds TOUGH! Congratulations on the accomplishment! I have found that I don't enjoy hikes longer than ten miles in a day. I can go longer and feel fine, but after ten miles, it just stops being fun.

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