Lewis Peak - September 22, 2012

Reported by Pete Fink

On a sunny morning with a nip of fall in the air eight of us; Liz, Rita, Leon & Bailey, Marian, Neil, Debra, Bev and I left AHS and headed up to Browns gap where we would meet Connie and Briana for the hike to Lewis Peak. Almost immediately after beginning the northward climb on the AT we encountered the first two of several downed trees and good sized branches across our route. Not having any tools with us, they yielded to brute strength.

We proceeded along Rockytop Trail. Just before the Austin Mountain Trail Bailey made it known she was tired so she, Leon and Connie turned back. The rest of us continued on the undulating trail passing a couple of scree fields and catching a few glimpses of the views to the west through the trees when our progress was blocked by a downed tree. Too big to move, each of us picked our own route through or around it.

Reaching the Lewis Peak Trail Debra went out ahead as we began the descent (which would turn out to be a rather tough ascent on the way back) prior to the final assault on the summit. Although earlier in the week Bev and I had seen bear scat on the trail, Debra was the only one to see the bear today when it crossed the trail in front of her!

Arriving at the summit for lunch, we soaked up sunshine, took in the views of the valley and Rockytop and then turned around and headed back to the cars and on to Waynesboro for ice cream.


Little Devil Stairs - September 15, 2012

Reported by Pete Fink

On a beautiful Saturday morning that you could tell was going to be perfect, 10 of us organized our gear and entrance passes, drove out to the bottom of the Little Devil Stairs
trail on Rt. 614 and prepared to abuse ourselves on the 1500 foot climb up and out of the gorge. Arriving at the trailhead prepared to pay (administratively) we saw that the two year old, new style, weather and vandal proof fee collection box had been transformed into a rather small trash container.

After a short somewhat level warm up stretch with a couple of dry stream crossings the trail turned rocky and headed steeply up. John Brandt, Brad Young and Liz Lyons went out ahead and were barely seen again except for John who was drawn to the barest trickle of water for a sponge bath. It must have invigorated him. When the rest of the group arrived at the top he was reclining against the trail marker enjoying a Chinese takeout lunch. We don’t know if he brought it with him or he had it delivered.

We all continued down the Pole Bridge Cutoff to the Piney Branch Trail intersection where the rest of us had lunch. We then proceeded down the Piney Branch Trail, a long, gentle downhill with two dry stream crossings which seemed like a fair reward for the earlier climb.

Turning onto the Hull School Trail we began a steep climb up to the Bolen Cemetery and the Keyser Fire Road. We all took a break and investigated the cemetery where there is a tablet with a poem lamenting the taking of the settler’s land for the park.

After that it was downhill again to the cars to head out for our apr├Ęs hike rewards. Debra Fisher, Marian Styles and Briana Taylor stopped for ice cream in Sperryville while the rest of us; Eileen Seaman, John Brandt, Brad Young, Liz Lyons, Ken Moss and Pete and Bev Fink continued to the Timberwood for beer and nachos.


Riprap and Chimney Rock - September 8, 2012

Reported by Ken Moss

A pleasantly warm but humid day found nine avid hikers willing to take a Saturday hike. Pete Fink graciously gathered the flock at Albemarle High School and shepherded the better part of them to the trailhead near Crimora to meet up with hike leader Ken Moss. While waiting for the group to arrive, Ken occupied himself with picking up empty beer cans distributed liberally around the parking area, wondering ironically as he did so why any self-respecting redneck wanting to party in the woods would chose to drink lite beer! Michael Seth soon showed up to keep Ken company, followed not long afterward by Pete and his car load of Dan Funkhouser and Beverly Fink. 

Missing in action, though, was the car driven by newcomer Jayson Gale with John Brandt, Liz Lyons and "navigator" Dan Ralston. After a few cell phone attempts, we learned that Dan had "navigated" the car to Weyers Cave, about 8 miles north of Crimora. The group waited patiently for them to backtrack and find the trailhead, noting that Dan is starting to gain a reputation for "misplacing" himself and those following him!

The hike was uneventful, walkking from the park boundary in the Valley up a good, steady climb to Chimney Rock, where we enjoyed fine views for lunch. On the way back down, the plan had been to stop at the wonderful swimming hole in Cold Springs Hollow, but Ken and Michael were so engrossed in a comparative discussion of the Far East and West Africa that they missed the stop completely on the way back down! Those following thought this this may have been done purposefully because the pool was covered in leaves and foam due to low water flow...perhaps only now does the truth come out!

Following the hike, the group split in two, with some opting for a direct return to Charlottesville (with a slight detour for ice cream), while others chose a relaxing stop at Blue Mountain Brewery for refreshments before heading home. It was another successful day on the trail for all.


Nicholson Hollow - September 1, 2012

Reported by Marian Styles

When we arrived at the Old Rag parking area, we were sure glad to be hiking Nicholson Hollow and not Old Rag: the parking lot was fuller than most of us had ever seen it. We got underway on the blissfully uncrowded trail.

After walking beside the Hughes River for awhile, the day was hot enough that some of us wanted to take a dip. We enjoyed a fine time lunching beside and swimming in a lovely pool.

Following our fill of fun, hike leader John Shannon took a poll. The consensus was to head back to make a 6-mile hike rather than proceeding to Corbin Cabin for the full 9. Some of us extended the fun by stopping at the Etlan store for goodies on the way home.


Saint Mary's River and Falls - August 25, 2012

Reported by Iva Gillet

Weather forecasters had been predicting a nice, hot, sunny, summer day for this waterfall hike, but that is not what arrived. Instead our day was overcast, but at least not rainy or cold. In fact, we were unaware that rain fell all day in Charlottesville, while we hiked under just clouds- it pays to go hiking!

The group who assembled at AHS included usual PATC hikers Tricia Neumann, CJ Woodburn, Dan Ralston, Bill Holman, and Kelly Guell, and OASC hikers Ashley Brill, Charles Perkins, Jack Hartnett, Diane Wolfe, and Paige Madison. Upon arrival at the trailhead, Barbara Martin also joined her hiking friends from our July 4 hike in the White Mountains (CJ, Dan, Bill and Iva). Dan Ralston was assigned to lead as the point hike leader, due to his years of hiking experience in such remote locations as Mt Rainier, WA; Annapurna, Nepal; and Machu Picchu, Peru. A better guide, who could find? While I chose to follow from the middle, we agreed that he would stop at the stream crossings, which were plentiful, but not deep this time. So, Ashley, Charles, Tricia and I followed at a distance, enjoying the lush vegetation of this wilderness area and the rugged terrain, despite the popularity of the trail. We reached the first stream crossing and the leading group was nowhere to be found. So we proceeded on, following the trail as it meandered across the St. Mary’s River. We crossed the stream 4 more times, and still never came across Dan’s front leading group. We passed a group of Boy Scouts and leaders who were setting up tents for their night in the woods. We would see more of them later…

Upon arrival at the base of the Falls, I was distraught to see the rest of the group was NOT THERE! So, leaving my small group to enjoy the beauty of the Falls and river, I retraced my steps in search of the missing hikers, whom I was sure was good hands with Dan. When I passed the Scout leaders, they confirmed that they had not seen a group of 7 hikers, so I continued on. At the section of the river that washed out the old trail in a hurricane several years ago, I found them clinging to the bank, trying to find the trail. As is true with much of this area, there are lots of options, but the tricky part is just to cross the river before the banks disappear. I had apparently passed by them, while they followed a deer trail and were sitting on rocks in the river in a spot not visible from the trail. VERY relieved to see my wayward followers, I coached them through the crossing and then retraced my steps back to the Falls, making sure that everyone was accounted for. Perfect timing- LUNCH!

Some of us crossed the low river and sat on the rocks beside the Falls, while others decided to not get their feet wet. Usually, this is the best time for a swim break, with a few brave enough to jump off the rocks. Today, however, the temperature was pleasant and without the sun, it was not so tempting to soak in a cold mountain stream. But, to our great enjoyment, entertainment arrived- the Boy Scouts and their leaders! I would say the age range of their group was 11 years to 60, and all 3 leaders jumped off the rock several times. The boys had a terrific time making cannonballs and splashing each other, scurrying up the slippery rocks beside the Falls without issue. We all enjoyed watching them clowning around and enjoying the freezing cold water. After distribution of cookies, we began our amble back to the cars, this time I lead from the front to ensure all 5 crossings were found.

We arrived without incident, after enjoying the hike back along the clear, blue, stream. As we had worked up quite an appetite, we made the obligatory stop at DQ in Stuarts Draft, as the rain began sprinkling down. Once we crossed back over the mountain, we experienced the downpour that had dowsed Charlottesville all day. But, we were the smart, lucky ones, returning from a trek in the Wilderness, happy with ice cream and dry. Join us next time!