|The Fridley Gap Trail crosses the Massanutten South Trail.|
Shortly after the cabin, the trail took a 90 degree right turn and continues along a stream bed, eventually climbing from 1650 feet elevation to 2780 feet about 2.5 miles into the hike at a relatively constant grade of 9 to 12%. Before reaching the summit, we crossed a relatively flat section that was somewhat open and could be used for camping. The Fridley Gap Trail intersected here but we stayed on the Massanutten South Trail by taking a sharp left and continuing up the mountain.
|Fridley Gap swimming hole|
The trail is a little confusing here, but we figured out that we had to backtrack a little on the north side of the stream, heading east before reaching a sign indicating the junction of the Massanutten South and Fridley Gap Trails. We turned north (left) and followed both trails together for only a few hundred feet before the purple blazed Fridley Gap Trail turned due east, straight up the mountain.
This section of the hike was exceptionally steep, climbing at a 35% grade. But we ascended the mountain fast, seeing views to the west quickly after attacking this part of the trail. The entire ascent is just under 3/4 of a mile. After popping over the top of Third Mountain, we descended to an intersection with the Martin Bottom Trail and Cub Run stream. The trail here becomes a dirt road, and we walked 0.7 miles south to the intersection with the Massanutten South Trail, at a point we had passed 3:20 hours before.
The trail guides generally say to take the Massanutten South Trail past the Boone Run Shelter, which is the way we came up. We decided to stay on the Fridley Gap Trail, which takes a sharp left turn at this intersection, climbing over Second Mountain, then descending to Cub Run Road. We were hesitant to do this because it meant walking on Cub Run Road for an extra mile, and those Forest Service Roads can be pretty nasty and dusty when traffic goes whipping by you, a lowly pedestrian.
|Fridley Gap Trail across Second Mountain.|
Click on the adjoining photo to expand it, and you can see how the understory in the fire area has come alive since the fire 17 months ago. Most prominent are chestnuts, though they are ultimately doomed to die back from the Chestnut Blight. We saw evidence of the blight already taking its toll on the fast growing shoots. But it was pretty interesting to see clearly how many spots had chestnuts - with much of the forest wiped clean, the chestnuts stood out much more prominently than in a forest that hadn't been cut back recently.
|The town of Shenandoah from the top of Second Mountain,|
with a chestnut in the foreground.
as there is a turnoff at the trailhead.
From this trailhead it was 1.6 miles and 30 minutes back to the car. Not a single car came by in either direction while we were on the road, which was in excellent shape for a dirt forest road. There were plenty of old water bottles containing brown liquid in them, however. Tobacco juice, maybe? We were in the car by 4:10 PM.
PATC Difficulty Factor 240.3
Total Altitude Gain 2923
Total Distance 10 miles
Lowest point 1551 feet above sea level
Highest Point 2929 feet above sea level
Total Time 5 hours, 39 minutes