Riprap Hollow / Chimney Rock - August 20, 2011

A fair day with promising weather brought out a good crowd for a day on the trail, with hike leader Ken Moss gathering the flock at Albemarle High School before heading out in three cars for the Valley. We met up with Michael Seth at the trailhead near Crimora.

The trail rose gently, at first, along Meadow Run as we followed the Riprap Trail through Riprap Hollow and past the famous swim hole we would revisit on our way back to the cars. The climb began in earnest soon after, as we made our way past an old mill site in a narrow gorge in Cold Spring Hollow.

After a long climb we broke out into the open in a former burn area, where we had excellent views of the Valley to the west. Arriving at our destination of Chimney Rock, after about 3.5 miles, we stopped for a leisurely lunch to admire the views and rest.

We retraced our steps back down the mountain, but made a point of stopping at the swim hole this time, only about 1.5 miles from the car. Several hikers gave in to the temptation and took to the waters, among them Marian Styles, Dan Funkhouser, Neil McKinney, Pete Fink, Andy Wilgruber and Ken. The water was quite brisk! Bev Fink and Marie Moss took a tentative wade and judged the water to be quite chilly even for that. Looking on in amusement were Lindsay Brown, Rita Kieffer, Bill Holman, Don Davis and Michael.

Following the refreshing dip, it was a quick stroll back to the cars. From the parking lot we split, with some heading back to Charlottesville while a larger group decided to stop by Blue Mountain Brewery for refreshments...only a slight detour from our return route. The crowd was large and the service was slow on this move-in weekend for UVa, but the company and conversation was good as we toasted another fine day in the mountains.


Flying McLeods repair some trail - August 20, 2011

Today's project was rehabilitating drainage structures on a section of AT near the Loft Mountain camp store. This area, like some others in the area, has few trees, so there is a lot of summer growth. Keeping the trail open with weed eater and lawnmower kept the overseers busy so waterbars were neglected.

I arrived after most others, and was surprised that Al Dahler, for the first time ever, was not on a Flying McLeods trip, but recovering from medical problems, one of which was probably from being out on trails. Many people would be glad to be out fixing trail's at Al's age.

Our work was cleaning and repairing waterbars, and restoring some grade dips to life after they had filled with debris. We also made a couple of new drains, and cut a couple of dead branches over our heads. Probably related to the paucity of trees in this area is a proliferation of exotic invasive plants. I cut and pulled a few, and realized that I may have cut some bittersweet vines a few years ago on a previous trip

After lunch, the overseer learned the basics of trail drainage and outsloping, and some of the invasive plants which were taking over her trail. Thus we saw trickling down of knowledge of building trails which last, from District Manager Don White to Mark Gatewood to me to another overseer.

Back at our start point, Mark found a card showing Don White was in the area, we found him at Sawmill Run Overlook. We talked about the upcoming trail relocation, and provided water to a backpacker.

Although I did not see any bears at Loft Mountain like last week, on the drive I saw a stopped vehicle, and the driver pointed up the hill to a cub.

At McCormick Gap, I stopped to continue what I was doing last week, pulling out more lady's thumb that I had overlooked, and trying to eradicate bittersweet from one patch (not achieved, but I am hopeful that next spring there will not be much growth). Because there was so much bittersweet, it is confusing to know which things are still growing and which have been cut in the relatively small patches remaining. The good news is that natural vegetation seems to be filling in the cleared areas.


Exotic Plants Workshop at Loft Mountain - August 13, 2011

Keeping American parks American, or an unlucky day for some exotic invasive plants

This was one of a series of exotic plants workshops organized by Shenandoah National Park this year and one of two at Loft Mountain. I did not expect a big turnout from the Chapter or anyone else but was surprised that only one other person planned to attend, and she did not show up. After deciding that no-one else was coming, the ranger and I headed to the Frazier Discovery Trail to start pulling stilt grass, which was boring for me because I have been doing that at home. 

The first of 6 bears for the day, taken by Cindy Blugerman SNP
After a while, the ranger noted a bear in a tree, eating something, and reaching out to grab branches, which caused the noise we noticed. Then we noticed that a dark area was a cub which was looking at us. The mother turned around to grab other branches, and then we noted another cub-a mother bear and two cubs!

The ranger pointed out the sight to people walking by, and two people who enjoyed the sight called out that they saw a bear on the other branch of the Frazier Discovery Trail. Soon we saw a bear and two cub scampering up a tree but later they came down and disappeared. We returned to the place where we saw the first trio, and noticed mother bear on the ground, and a cub trying to follow. Several feet above the ground, he stopped, looking for a way down, and then started calling out. Eventually mother went back to the tree and climbed a little way up, and was staring at us. A few days later, Cindy Blugerman, who conducted the workshop was on the same trail before meeting some exotic plant volunteers, and saw a bear again, which stomped its feet and made a "stay away" noise.

Bears, photo by Cindy Blugerman, SNP
We walked away to the other piece of the trail, where we found bittersweet to cut or pull, some of which had been damaged in the past. Also we pulled some Asiatic lady’s thumb. Soon after 2 p.m., we stopped and I ate lunch, and shared some orange cranberry cake with the ranger (she said her dogs would not get any when she got home).

She confirmed some of what I thought, that the Park’s invasive plants group is concentrating on eradicating mile a minute vine (some near the Moorman’s River, and thus could head towards Charlottesville) and wavy leaf basket grass, a new threat.

Shenandoah National Park hopes people will sign up to become Habitat Defenders, volunteers who will visit a priority site for three years to remove exotic plants.

John Shannon removed this  bittersweet root at Loft Mountain
On my way out, I stopped at McCormick Gap. On an earlier trip, Michael Seth had pulled some Asiatic lady’s thumb, so that today it was not overwhelming, so I pulled it in places. The lack of rain left even weeds wilted, and I could not tell if my last little trail regradings had been beneficial. Then on to the northern most known bittersweet patch on that trail section. In previous years, I intentionally did not try to remove all bittersweet. Now I am in eradication mode, and try to kill every piece I can bear to bend down for. All the plants I found had sprouted from roots left after pulling out plants in the past, which is normal, and frustrating. Before I finished cutting all the bittersweet I could see, my watch, my back and sounds of thunder said it was time to go.


Dragon's Tooth - August 13, 2011

Not your normal hike – AT/Dragon’s Tooth

Would-be hikers who didn’t check the blog schedule missed out on Saturday’s adventure: nearly 13 miles on the Appalachian Trail west of Roanoke. Three of us (Marian Styles, Dan Ralston, and Dan Funkhauser) left Charlottesville at 8 a.m. and met hike leader Iva Gillet and Bill Holman at the Dragon’s Tooth parking lot. We left one car there and took another to the end of a dirt road near the Audie Murphy Monument.

The monument is near the place where Audie Murphy died in a plane crash in 1971. The inscription on Murphy’s monument notes that he was America's most decorated veteran of World War II. He served in the European Theatre, earning 24 decorations, including the Medal of Honor, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Service Cross, and three Purple Hearts. Murphy followed his war service by a successful movie career that included To Hell and Back, which was based on his autobiography of the same title.

Following our history lesson, the fivesome took off along the AT, stopping for lunch a couple of hours later beside Trout Creek. Even though the temperatures had eased from the heat of the previous couple of weeks, the post-lunch 1,500-foot climb to Dragon’s Tooth felt uncomfortably warm. A cooling breeze and some clouds provided some relief, but it wasn’t until a thunderstorm hit at 4 p.m. that we really cooled down.The rain stopped before we hit the rock scramble, but the wet rocks led to increased chance for slipping. We made it, though. The long distance, combined with a late start, found us finishing the route at 7 p.m. We piled into Bill’s van and left Iva and the two Dans at the Home Place restaurant in Catawba so they could hang out with the other diners waiting for a table.

Meanwhile, Bill drove Marian back to retrieve her car. The last 3.5 miles of the journey consisted of a rutted, rocky, hilly dirt road, which proved quite the adventure in Bill’s rear-wheel van. We were grateful that with some encouragement from Bill, the van made it, and we were spared having to park the van and hike to the car.

All of us eventually made it to the restaurant to enjoy delicious fried chicken, roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, beans, cole slaw, and biscuits, capped off with peach cobbler and ice cream. (Are you hungry yet?)

Iva and Bill headed back to their campground to rejoin their traveling companions and rest up for canoeing on Sunday. Needless to say, the three returning to did not get home early, although if we’d arrived 45 minutes later, we could have said that we got home early—early in the morning, that is.


Nicholson Hollow - August 6, 2011

Last year we hiked up Nicholson Hollow Trail when it was close to or actually 100 degrees in Charlottesville, so this hike seemed wasted on a mid 80s forecast, but the humidity ensured we did not feel particularly cool. Ten people and one dog showed up in Charlottesville while four members of the Moss family met at the Old Rag parking lot, part of which was roped off.

The first three miles of trail were uneventful, but sticky, and Bailey the dog enjoyed a splash in the river we followed. The Hughes River had more water than I expected after a dry summer. We stopped on the trail when close to a planned swimming hole, but the vocal people said they came to do some walking and to see Corbin Cabin, so we continued up the trail. Then my radio registered a call from Ken who was facing a rebellion by the silent swimmers, so everyone returned to the water. The impatient took a long, overgrown, rocky path to the water whereas those who trusted their leader to lead took a better path to the water's edge. The majority of people went into the cool water, led by Bailey. Back on land, after a radio show that morning on "Why people get fat" (sugar and other carbohydrates were blamed), many people decided that the free radical scavenging properties of oranges and blackberries outweighed the downsides of the carbohydrate matrix in which they came. Even yellow jackets were interested but finally I safely reclaimed the cake container. Six people headed back to care for canine companions or to prepare for travel while the remainder headed to Corbin Cabin.

The overseers have kept the trail clear which may have given Iva Gillet mixed feelings. She did not have to worry about the stinging nettles mentioned in the hike description, but she had worn long pants unnecessarily. We spent some time looking around the cabin and surroundings (including a yard taken over by stiltgrass), and talked other trails which could take us back to our starting point. Iva said that a trail starting on Skyline Drive was much shorter than our route, and much steeper, based on her experience.

On the way down, I noticed an ailanthus sapling but when I found I could not pull it out, I left it fearing that breaking it off with roots left would only encourage it to sprout more.After a few miles, I kept looking towards the river and at my GPS for the promised second swimming hole that Liz Young showed us a few years ago. My GPS seemed to not want to update its position, and we looked at a couple of small splashing pools, and then when the GPS said we were close, a few people found a small pool, while others followed their leader and were rewarded with a nice big pool. In we went splashing around until thoroughly cool. Then the others came and briefly experienced the big pool. And then a couple of young people who had been watching from on top of a large rock decided that it must be good and also went in. After that, it was not far back to our cars. After looking at watches, we decided to skip the suggested Etlan ice-cream stop and head to Timberwood Grill to join Ken Moss for drinks and dinner.

Other hikers included John Shannon, Marie Moss, John Brandt, Adrienne Moss, Raúl Mata, Pete Fink, Neil McKinney, Bill Hollman, Beverly Fink, Briana Taylor, Leon Gorman, Marian Styles and Dan Funkhauser.