Jones Run / Doyles River - May 21, 2011

Jones Run Tra
Eleven eager hikers met May 21 on a beautiful morning to hike the Jones Run – Doyles River loop.  Ken Moss and Marit Gay led the hike and were not sure if the intended circuit hike would be attempted due to high water because of recent rains.  Marit had pre-hiked it earlier in the week and was basically walking in rivers of water on the trail.  Fortunately the levels had subsided and the decision was made to do the circuit hike.

Jones Run Trail
We began at Jones Run parking lot and enjoyed a wonderful downward hike along the raging Jones Run which includes three major waterfalls.  Dan Ralston crossed the stream where Marit had done so earlier in the week and was separated from the group for the remainder of the hike, making his own adventure for the day.  Dan is an experienced hiker though, so he used his map and GPS to find his way back to the parking lot at the end of his route.   

Big Falls on Jones Run
Meanwhile the group was admiring the beautiful flora and waterfalls. We had some excitement at the point where we forded the river.  Some chose to walk through and others donned their sandals and crocs to cross.  Ken and Lindsay Brown shared a pair of Crocs and treking poles to get across. Refreshing!

Lunch along Doyles River
Once we intersected the Doyles River Trail we split up for a while to try and determine where Dan might be.  Ken and Lindsay stayed at the intersection and the others went on to the lower falls to enjoy a rest and lunch.  We were lulled by the cascading water until the others rejoined us.  From here we continued on the Doyle River Trail.  We met many other hikers now, as this is a very popular trail.  Many pools of water invited us to swim, but we held off knowing the spring water temperatures would be a little too frigid yet.

View from Doyles River Cabin
Doyles River Cabin
Eventually we met the Browns Gap Fire Road.  Lindsay Brown branched off with Dave Borszich and Leon Gorman (with Bailey) to scout for our missing hiker and the rest continued on to the Doyles River Trail.  The view at the Doyles River Overlook was spectacular.  We also took a detour to see the Doyles River Cabin.  Finally we met the AT and headed south on the trail to make our way back to the Jones Run Parking lot.  We were reunited with the others including our missing member.  Phew!  Other hikers included Pete Fink, Bev Moresca, Liz Lyons, Nancy Hall and Barbara Shenefield. All in all, it was another exciting and wonderful day in Shenandoah National Park!


 Submitted by Marit Gay


Rose River Falls, Dark Hollow Falls and Lewis Falls - May 14, 2011

According to one senior PATC-Charlottesville official, speaking on condition of anonymity, “Reports of our hike’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.” Thus can be summed up the reactions of participants concerning dire weather prognostications which had necessitated a change of venue from the originally scheduled Mount Pleasant/Cold Mountain circuit in Amherst County to a quest for waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park.

Part One – The Rose, By Any Other Name...

Eight avid hikers cast caution to the wind as they joined hike leader Ken Moss in assembling at Albemarle High School and then departed under grey skies for the Central District of Shenandoah National Park. The predictions of impending doom seemed to bare fruit as our vehicles assaulted the eastern ramparts of the Blue Ridge, socked-in by heavy fog. The resultant limited visibility seemed to confirm our decision to forego the much longer drive to the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area in George Washington National Forest.

Rose River Fire Road
Upon entering the park, in response to a question from the ranger on duty if we needed anything, President and Omnipotent Leader Lindsay Brown responded jokingly with, “Yes, some clear skies!” The ranger only smiled in return. But within 500 yards of entering Skyline Drive we broke out of the fog, revealing the rolling green terrain of the Valley to the west. Most of the drive northward was in the clear, even with hints of sunshine, and we saw several deer as we rode by Big Meadows, but we then entered a thick cloud, making it difficult to even find the turn-off into the parking area at Fishers Gap Overlook.

Dark Hollow Falls
The hike turned out to be uneventful as we initially descended along the Rose River Fire Road to the sturdy metal bridge across Hogcamp Branch. After a quick group photo, we headed a short distance up the Dark Hollow Falls Trail to reach the base of that waterfall. The fog was heavy at this point, with the top of the falls almost obscured. We then retraced our steps back to the bridge, where we left the fire road and continued to descend along the Rose River Loop Trail. Following a long descent, we recrossed Hogcamp Branch on a picturesque arched bridge, before joining the Rose River shortly afterward and beginning our ascent.

Rose River Loop Trail
The trip back to Fishers Gap was a steady, but moderate climb. A major point of discussion along the way was whether to make an attempt to visit the abandoned copper mine which John Shannon, Don Davis and Ken had bushwhacked to during our previous trip in July 2010. John and Ken had the location plotted on their GPS devices and were wondering if a less arduous route could be found which wouldn’t require such a difficult climb. Finally, in a commendable demonstration of democracy at work, the majority ruled that such an attempt would not be made on this trip, and we continued the hike. Along the way we noted many potential swimming holes for future exploitation during summer hikes before finally arriving back at the cars after slightly more than two hours on the trail.

Hogcamp Branch
According to plan, we then drove to Big Meadows for lunch before continuing on to the Lewis Falls Trail. We found two picnic tables between the Byrd Visitor Center and the Wayside overlooking the meadow and broke out our lunches. Many took advantage of the camp store at the Big Meadows Wayside to purchase drinks. Ken brought back a bag of Route-11 potato chips, claiming he just wanted to support the regional economy. The “puffed up” (inflated) condition of the bag elicited comments from Lindsay, who was dubious about Ken’s explanation about altitude and air pressure. Lindsay picked up a Gatorade while Marian Styles purchased a Rockstar © Energy Drink, claiming that she had been dragging all morning.

Big Meadows
Following lunch, as we returned to the cars with our digestive functions kicking-in, accompanied by the inevitable urge for a post-lunch siesta, the discussion turned to whether we should continue with the planned hike to Lewis Falls or consider ourselves fortunate to have avoided rain to this point and pack it in for the day. Several hikers mentioned that a nap sounded like a good idea, while Stuart Brown expressed an interest in seeing his son. Lindsay immediately jumped at the opportunity to serve his fellow man by volunteering to drive those so inclined back to Charlottesville, courageously foregoing his remaining day on the trail in a moving demonstration of self-sacrifice (wink, wink). Don, Stuart and Dan Funkhouser thus joined Lindsay, as Leon Gorman also left, as planned, with Bailey. Those in Ken’s car, including John, Marian and Marie Moss, debated their own course of action, eventually deciding to follow suit and return to Charlottesville as well.

Part Two – The Adventures of Wonder Woman

As soon as the hike leader’s car left the parking lot to head back to Charlottesville, Marian suddenly expressed doubts about what she had done with her wallet, so we quickly pulled off of Skyline Drive to verify that it was in her backpack. By chance, we had actually pulled into the small parking lot at the Lewis Falls Trailhead, our erstwhile destination. The other two cars drove by with quizzical looks from the occupants, but we waived them past with assurances that we would soon be on the road again behind them. We had gotten back into the car, ready to resume our return, when Marian suddenly exclaimed, “You know, I feel like hiking some more now…that energy drink really picked me up!”

Lewis Falls
After a short discussion, during which the embarrassment of only hiking 4 miles was mentioned, it was determined to continue with the original plan and do the 3.3 mile Lewis Falls circuit. As soon as we hit the trail Marian took the lead, setting a blistering pace and eliciting surprised remarks from those struggling to keep up with her. Simultaneously, the sun actually came out, and we spent much of the rest of the day under partially sunny skies. The steep descent along the Lewis Springs access road finally crossed the AT (our return route) and became the Lewis Falls Trail.

Lewis Falls
Upon arriving at Lewis Falls we continued to the observation platform, from which we admired the 81’ plunge of the cascade and found someone to record the moment for posterity (and proof!) with a group photo. We then continued to descend the Lewis Falls Trail for a bit before beginning the long, challenging climb back up toward the Big Meadows Lodge area over the rocky trail, passing many day strollers from the Lodge out for a walk in the woods, whose ability to make the climb back out we questioned.

Wonder Woman -
post-Rockstar Energy Drink
At one point, Marian noticed a crooked tree by the trail and determined that she absolutely had to climb it, her bubbly spunk likely due to the Rockstar © Energy Drink still doing its job. Thus sprang the legend of her transformation into Wonder Woman, able to climb tall trees with a single bound (and the assistance of her two burly boy-toy companions…once again proving the value of men’s strong backs and weak  minds). Following this momentous exploit, the remainder of the hike passed without further incident, and we returned to the car via a pleasant jaunt along the AT.

Immediately upon returning to the car and heading south along Skyline Drive, the sun disappeared and the fog rolled back in. A short stop at Timberwood Grill on the return, allowing Marie to regain her car, permitted time for well-earned refreshments on the terrace. Only then did it finally begin to rain, as we raised our glasses to toast our exploits and good fortune, smugly admiring the falling torrent from the comfort of our terrace table.


Big Run Loop Trail - May 7, 2011

The weather on Saturday was made for a hike and Shenandoah National Park was full of hikers, bikers, and people on Skyline Drive enjoying spring.  Our group of 14 hikers headed to the Big Run Loop Trail.  We started at Doyle's River Parking Lot for the 7 mile outing.  Dan Ralston and Eric Clepper volunteered to handle the sweep responsibilities as we headed down from Skyline Drive toward Big Run.   One stream crossing proved a minor challenge for some but Brad Young managed to throw a few more boulders in the stream to help out with the rock hop crossing.
This also provided an impromptu shower for a few hikers waiting to cross, including Helen Reutlinger.  After climbing along a ridge we found a trail junction perfect for a lunch stop.  Soon after the group finished off the chocolate provided by Hike Leader, Lindsay Brown, we were on our way again, heading toward the AT and the return to the parking area.  Other hikers included Sue Tansey, Neil McKinney, Barbara Wilson, Dan Funkhousen, Liz Lyons, Don Davis, Andy Wilgruber, Ken Moss, and Ed Yu.
View from Doyles River Overlook


So Many Waterbars, So Little Time - May 7, 2011

After a report of some trees down on the Chapter’s section of Appalachian Trail, and realizing spring rain had fallen, and plants were growing again, I decided it was time to visit the chapter’s section of the AT again. With Marian Styles, I headed to Rockfish Gap where I cleaned out waterbars and other drainage structures which had accumulated a lot of leaf material over winter. As usual, I did a little reshaping as well. On one steep downhill section there was some visible erosion, but not as bad as seen on a trip elsewhere two weeks earlier. I did some more trail regrading to reduce future erosion. Marian removed some vegetation that should not be in the trail corridor. Finally the waterbars were finished, so we headed south. First stop was an area where we have reduced the amount of bittersweet over the last few years, but as expected, roots keep sprouting, and there was a patch I probably missed last year. By now it was time for lunch. With just two of us, a small chocolate raspberry cake was plenty, and there were left overs. We left bittersweet looking for blowdowns reported earlier, and through hikers confirmed there were some trees down. The first did not match the report I had, but the next did; Marian did most of the cutting. Then a large log we saw in the snow earlier in the year. I removed one branch, but the trunk was too large for my saw. However, people can easily walk around it, especially after I removed a pointed piece sticking out. Then the question was if there was another tree down. By now, all the north bound backpackers had passed so we could not ask anyone if there were more trees down, but then we found the second reported tree. It was relatively small. We also stopped at a spring which in the past was overgrown with multiflora rose, which the chapter has largely cut back, so that now we can go a little further back to see major bittersweet growth. Today we neutralized and suppressed some large vines, so that next time it will be easier to see more and hopefully a couple of tree will survive. During the final descent to McCormick Gap, we removed the garlic mustard in flower; there is more, but perhaps we selected against the early bloomers, leaving the weaker plants.

During the day, several through hikers walked by, and all who stopped to speak to us thanked us for our work.


Doubletop Mountain/ Wilhite Wagon Trail - April 30, 2011

With  impeccable spring weather on relatively unchartered trails, we had an unprecedented group of 31! While some folks had not hiked with us for year, we all had a lovely hike to catch up on past activities. We were also fortunate to have all of outr hike leaders out, except for Michael Seth, which has not happened in some time, and was especially helpful with such a large group. 
John Shannon provided walkie-talkies for communication with Erick Clepper returning from injury and running sweep with Dan Ralston. We also were pleased to have Debra Fisher, Dan Funkhouser, Helen Reutlinger and Eric Seaborg back hiking with us again. Our first in command this day were Jeff and Will Monroe who led us through the woodland beauty of Doubletop Mountain along the Wilhite Wagon Trail, which PATC maps indicate is not maintained. However, we found it a lovely and not too steep trail, complete with stone retaining walls from many years past. 

Wildflowers were just begining to show and views were still accessible while the leaves are still growing in size. Our break was along the Doubletop Mountain trail on the most enormous lunch rock I have seen in the Virginia mountains. It was easily able to accomodate our vast group, so we admired the view across the Rapidan River toward Bear Church Rock. 

Goodies were shared after lunch in preparation for the optional spur trail that took us to another impressive rock close to where the Doubletop Mountain Trail begins its descent, prompting hike leader Iva Gillet to recount the harrowing night she and 6 friends attempted to negotiate this trail with horses in the dark, eventually having to spend the night on the trail. Most all agreed they did not want to go on a trail ride with her. 

Leon Gorman and Baily waited patiently for the return from the spur trail as we prepared for our descent. OASC members Beth Goodell, Alex Popkin, Steve Cohen, and Yao Lu led us down the trail, which provided glimpses of trillium, wild geranium, and other lovely early flowers. Barb Wilson, Liz Lyons, Marit Gay, Brad Young, and Rita Kieffer chatted as we meandered through the wooded trail toward the Rapidan River. Bev and Pete Fink, Eileen Seaman, Neil McKinney, and Lindsay Brown appreciated the lovely flowing waters of the river as we arrived at the Rapidan Fire Road to head back to the cars. Ken and Marie Moss charged ahead with visions of a post hike brew in their minds. Many were surprised that Marian Styles and John Brandt did not take a cooling dip in the water, but the perfect temperature must have made this seem unnecessary. New hikers Steve and Nancy seemed to enjoy this hike which ended up at 8.5 miles, after adding the out and back spur trail. During the hike Andy Wilgruber photographed the spring glory. Not sure how many photos we took of the wedding party that was posing on the banks of the river as our vigorous group hiked past, admiring the tuxedo-in-the-woods look. After briefly counting to make sure all had returned, many of us headed to the Tastee Freeze in Madison for some much deserved ice cream treats.

Submitted by: Iva Gillet