White Oak Canyon "Wiking" - June 16, 2012

This lovely June day was the perfect setting for a combined hike with the PATC - Charlottesville Chapter, the Outdoor Adventure Social Club, and the Nature Conservancy to White Oak Canyon.  As a benefit of this coordinated activity, the Nature Conservancy had arranged for a wine tasting at Ducard Vineyard, a short drive from White Oak, and a short video from the Nature Conservancy about land preservation.

Joining us this day from the OASC was Dallas Branum, Steve Cohen, Jennylynn Vidas, Katherine Maus, Karen Thompson, and CJ Woodburn. The PATC included regulars John Brandt, Eric Christensen, Brad Young, Bill Holman, and Dave Borszich along with distant member Pat Skelly (Augusta, GA) and our special guest hikers Neil McKinney and Tricia Neumann. At the trailhead, we were joined by Trish Carter and Sue Ellen Davison of the Nature Conservancy.  We began our hike meandering along the banks of the creek in White Oak Canyon, enjoying the plentiful water.  We stopped to admire the Lower Falls, and even John Brandt figured he would wait a little while before his swim. With Steve Cohen in the lead, we climbed the 1000 feet at our own pace, admiring the water seeping from rocks that would attract ice climbers during the winter months. While the fabulous weather did bring out others, it was not congested. We took a ½ hour lunch break at the overlook at the top of the Upper Falls, a welcome site for the over ½ the group who had never been on this trail. Some in sun, some in shade, we enjoyed our food and shared the cookies of the day.

Descending back the way we came, we marveled at the wonderful weather. Once reaching the Lower Falls again, only John and Pat were hot enough to fully submerge themselves, with Tricia, Iva, and Jennylynn getting our feet wet. We returned to the cars and headed to Ducard Vineyard for the winetasting part of the day. Only about 10 minutes from the trailhead, it is the perfect spot for post hike relaxation. Scott Elliff, the owner, and Rich Leahy, a long time PATC hiker and wine expert, were there to help us understand and appreciate the entire wine growing and tasting experience. We were treated to both red and white samples while the Nature Conservancy showed a video about the importance of conservation efforts and their successes and efforts for the future. After the film and some questions and answers from Doug, Scott took us outside to see the vines and tell us the Ducard story. Such a lovely spot and an enthusiastic proprietor made this a special day. Thanks to Trish Carter for making the arrangements for the PATC’s first “Wiking!” 


Three Falls - June 9, 2012

17 of us gathered at Albemarle HS and headed up to Big Meadows to meet Lindsay Brown and hike the Lewis Falls, Rose River Falls and Dark Hollow Falls loop (Three Falls). It was a beautiful sunny day and walking down the fire road toward Lewis Falls it was obvious the trails would be crowded. Arriving at the overlook we had plenty of time to admire the view while waiting for the spur to the falls to clear out.

Leaving the falls we began the 1-1/2 mile ascent up Lewis Spring Falls Trail to the junction with the AT. On the way up Pete Fink assured several hikers that this was the biggest climb of the day. After regrouping we headed north enjoying the easy walking and great views of the valley, stopping for lunch below the Fishers Gap Overlook. Greg Fernandez seemed to enjoy it the most by lighting his stove and heating his beans.

Crossing Skyline Drive, we headed down the Rose River Loop Trail and arrived at the falls. Beyond the falls we encountered a traffic jam of hikers on the way to the copper mine, which no one cared to explore. Itching to get in the water, John Brandt finally broke away and we found him sitting in the water under the bridge over the Rose River.

At the bridge we began to ascend. To everyone’s surprise, including the leader’s, this turned out to be the major climb of the day. Reaching the Dark River Falls trail we unexpectedly encountered a young bear foraging for berries and giving everyone a great opportunity for pictures. After 15 minutes of up close and personal posing the bear ran across the trail and up the side of the hill to continue his berry hunt.

After the bear sighting we continued up trail to Dark Hollow Falls where we met up with Brad Young, Dan Ralston and Dave Borszich who, showing off their fitness, had gone ahead and missed the bear sighting. Farther up the trail we passed several deer which were definitely ho hum after watching the bear.

Arriving at Big Meadows we all enjoyed an ice-cream treat. Not finding this sufficient, some of the group stopped for beer and food at Timberwood Grill.


Pete & Bev Fink

Joann & Maynard Davis

Eileen Seaman

Dan Ralston

Greg Johnson

Dave Borszich

John Brandt

Rita Kieffer

Greg Fernandez

Ken & Marie Moss

Brad Young

Eric Christenson

Marian Styles

Debra Fisher

Lindsay Brown


Special Trail Maintenance Trip - June 9, 2012

Appalachian Trail Maintenance - June 2, 2012

Planning for today’s activities started on Memorial Day when Lindsay Brown and I (John Shannon) checked on the condition of Charlottesville Chapter’s section of the AT. We both noticed summer growth, including poison ivy. Lindsay found two large blowdowns, and I removed some invasive plants near Rockfish Gap.

The following Saturday morning was the scheduled maintenance outing, and several workers answered the call. We shuttled a car from Rockfish Gap to McCormick Gap, where a cool breeze prompted some people to put on jackets.

On the trail, Ken Moss and Pete Fink traded a swing blade and loppers during the day. Dave Borszich used a swing blade all day. Bev Maresca mainly used clippers. She also carried a bag that I filled with garlic mustard from what I hoped was a small, isolated patch and thus potentially productive to clear. With garlic mustard looking like trees, we could have easily filled all the bags we could carry.

I also stopped to pull a few bittersweet plants, which either seemed isolated or were located in patches previously partially cleared, but leaving hours of potential clearing. As usual, some bittersweet was growing with poison ivy; this arrangement is believed to be a protection racket, although what the poison ivy gets out of it is unclear. The quandary is that standard trail clearing may help the spread of invasive plants by disturbing the soil and spreading seeds.

About halfway through, we stopped for lunch. Given the number of workers, it was a good thing that I had not earlier agreed to give away chocolate raspberry cake to some non-workers.

After lunch, there seemed less to clear, which was fortunate—we realized that we could not clear growth as thoroughly as we wanted if we wanted to finish the same day and avoid exhaustion.

During the day, many through hikers thanked us for our work, and one even shook our hands. One of the groups who thanked us was from Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club, whose members maintain the AT south of McCormick Gap. Toward the end of our workday, at the entrance station trail, we met a couple who had made news when one of them was rescued from Three Ridge after suffering a kidney stone. Now, after a trip home for medical treatment, they were back on the trail.

As to the fallen trees reported by Lindsay Brown, near the middle of the trail we saw a large, dead tree that someone had cut into movable pieces, and we wondered who had done the cutting.

It was a successful day. We cut growth along the entire McCormick to Rockfish section of trail, which often takes two trips, but with the combined efforts of several people, we finished the work in one day.


North Fork Moormans River - May 26, 2012

It was Memorial Day weekend, and while I really wanted to join John Shannon for his 11 mile hike, my social calendar did not allow for such a long hike and drive this particular day. So, while hoping to have a few folks join me for this magnificent first weekend of summer, I did not want to detract from John’s hike. We had a great crowd in the parking lot, and both John and I presented our respective hike options. While we both promised post hike ice cream, my drive time of 20 minutes and a 4.5 mile hike, seemed to have appealed to many others this day, too. As such, 10 sun loving hikers joined me and waved farewell to John and Brad Young, as they drove north to meet Michael Seth for the big hike of the day. Once Dianne Anderson retrieved her dog, Amber, we set off in several cars to allow for the flexibility of our various social schedules.

We collected a new hiker, Kim Fitzhugh-Higgins at the Piedmont Store in White Hall on the way, and Barbara Martin met us in the Sugar Hollow parking lot. Once assembled, we began the lovely walk up the road to the trailhead. As we approached our first stream crossing, only one balked. With weather in the 90’s, most of us were very happy to walk through the Moormans River, but Amber found it intimidating and I carried her across the stream while Dan Funkhouser and Paige Madison stepped nimbly across the rocks to keep their feet dry.

This was the point where some realized that it would have been beneficial to bring shoes more appropriate for water crossings. Brian Muszynski and Briana Taylor led us onward. The hot day made the stream crossings all the more enjoyable, and we passed by the best swimming hole, saving it for our return trip. As the number of stream crossings increased, so did the number of folks who figured it was easier to walk through the stream as opposed to negotiating the stepping stones. Dennis Templeton and Jeanne Bono abandoned their boots for crossings and just tied them on their packs.

The day was clear and hot and when we reached the side trail to the falls for an early lunch, some scrambled up the rocks in the stream bed and others walked around. Bill Holman climbed beside the waterfall to the top and lunched alone, looking down on the rest of us sprawled on either side of the pool. While the pool was not deep, John Brandt was the first to go fully under, while Marian Styles was not far behind. While most of us relaxed in the sun Brian restacked the rocks in the stream, making a scenic piece of rock sculpture for the next visitors. He also spotted a snake- the first of at least 4 seen this day, on a quiet log on the far side of the pool. Several folks (NOT me!) investigated. We shared 3 different types of cookies prior to our departure.

We retraced our steps taking time at the large swimming hole for a final dip and the sighting for those interested of 2 more small snakes. By now the Memorial Day crowd was starting to increase and we were glad to be leaving while so many families were arriving. On our way back John Brandt demonstrated his love of animals and chivalry and carried Amber through the remaining stream crossings, making her trip back easier. Upon returning to the parking lot, some of us proceeded to Dairy Queen in Crozet for ice cream, while others returned to their Memorial Day plans. We were all back in time for our respective plans and had some fun in the sun on this hot summer day.

Jeremys Run - May 26, 2012

The interesting but slippery pool
A long weekend was a good time for a long day of hiking, although many people had too many other things to do. Thus, only Brad Young and John Shannon met Michael Seth near Neighbor Mountain Trail to begin this 11-mile hike.

One of the crossings of Jeremys Run
Light cloud kept the temperature down most of the time, so we kept moving until we reached Jeremy’s Run trail and walked a little distance to a favorite pool for lunch. Two people were sitting by the water watching their dog swim, and we discovered that the rocks here are as slippery as they were 2 years ago when Lindsay Brown slipped and hit his head. When the dog tried to climb out of the pool on the side opposite to the humans, she slipped a couple of times and hit her head, and then would not return to her humans, despite their calling. Eventually the woman waded over and slipped also, hitting her hip. After further attempts to get the dog to move from the bank, the human and dog swam back across the pool, only to have an unfriendly meeting with some free-range dogs.

Jeremys Run
After eating cranberry-oatmeal cake, we continued up the trail to our first stream crossing. We all changed into our walk-in-water shoes, which we wore until the end of the hike. The route entailed 14 stream crossings, and though the water was not very deep, it was too deep for boots. None of the crossings had signs warning us “Slippery when wet,” which was true for many of the rocks in the stream.

The waterfall
Along the way we pulled a few of the towering garlic mustard plants and occasional bittersweet and followed the old advice of “Hang ’em high” to deter other invasive plants from growing there (and to prevent plants from rerooting). However, our efforts merely slowed the growth of invasives a little, because many of the bittersweet left roots in the ground, which may regrow, and there were so many garlic mustard that others nearby will supply seeds, even if the seeds of the pulled plants are too young to germinate.
At the top of the valley

 All sections of this riverside trail were lush, although sometimes from invasive plants, so tree cover kept us at a pleasant temperature. A waterfall was one of the many picturesque sights on the stream.

A final section of climbing seemed less steep than remembered. Because no one chose the option to walk 3.3 miles back to our starting point, we continued to Elkwallow Wayside for large servings of ice cream before heading home.