Vining Tract/Mutton Hollow District Trail Maintenance and Hike - May 20, 2017

     We had a great turnout of volunteers for the May 20 trail maintenance and hike at the Vining Tract- Mutton Hollow District trails in Greene County, VA.  Marit Anderson (hike leader) and Bill Holman (Mutton Hollow District Manager) headed up the day with Iva Gillet (and pooch, Remy) also assisting.  The group of fourteen folks included the three leaders and the following volunteers: Lisa and Kyle Lampe (and beagle, Maxwell), Hunter and Meghan Cloud, David Crowe, CJ Woodburn, Jeanne Siler, Taylor Putney, Dave Borszich, Michael Seth, and Mark Perschel.
     The industrious group divided into four teams - Marit, CJ, and David inspecting/removing blow downs/clipping vegetation along  5 miles of trails starting along trails of Boundary East to Boundary West, Mutton Top Trail, Cliff Trail, CCC Road West, Matties Run Loop,  and Vining Trail. Iva, Taylor, and Jeanne started from the southeast side down the Wineberry Trail to Conley Morris Trail, Orion Trail then Vining Trail to Matties Run, and ending at the CCC Road West, also doing inspection, removing blow downs, and clipping vegetation with an accumulation of nearly 5 miles of hiking and over 1,000 feet of ascent, similar to Marit's group.
     Lisa, Kyle, Meghan, Hunter, Michael, and Dave trimmed vegetation on the CCC Road East and Conley Road.  Bill and Mark made the last grouping and were responsible for chainsawing the large blow downs throughout the tract.
David and his new Corona saw at work

Dave helps cut the overhanging limbs and vines

David and CJ at one of the many viewpoints
CJ, Iva, and Jeanne -clippers extraordinaire
     At 12:45 pm the groups stopped for lunch and chocolate chip cookies at Andy's Overlook. Since the work along the roads was mostly complete, four members of that team headed for home, and the remaining two joined Marit's crew.  The volunteers continued to trim, cut, saw, and clip until 4 pm when Happy Hour was officially proclaimed.  Everyone rejoined at the Butternut Cabin, the overseer cabin, for cold beer and other refreshments.  Bill, Iva, Marit, Mark, Jeanne, CJ, and David spent the night at the cabin, enjoying a shared camp meal and a night in the cool Shenandoah Mountains. Thanks so much to all the wonderful volunteers- much was accomplished to clear the trails for all those coming to the cabins of Vining Tract. Thank you...thank you!

submitted by Marit Anderson


Pete's Cave, North Mountain Trail - May 13, 2017

 submitted  by Jeanne Siler

     Until last weekend, I would have declared that river trails were my favorite. Now they vie for top honors with ridge trails. But then I’ll sing the praises of any hike that boasts of flat land. Blame it on my growing up in Ohio.
     In any case, on Saturday, May 13, PATC hikers recently found their way to the Longdale Furnace exit from I-64, just west of Lexington, and from there up a twisting gravel road (Rt. 770) to a trailhead that runs along the ridgeline of North Mountain. The stunningly clear and cool day and the fine views both right and left of the trail combined to keep camera shutters clicking and the compliments coming. “Hiking Upward” and at least one guidebook go so far as to declare this hike “Rockbridge County’s finest trail.”
     They made the hike an out-and-back, with a turnaround at Pete’s Cave for a total of close to seven miles total, or for the Fitbit wearers, upwards of 18,000 steps.
     To be fair, Pete’s Cave is more a refuge made of tumbled rocks than an actual cave, but the rock outcroppings just beyond proved to be a great location for lunch and provided fine views west toward the Allegheny mountains. Being a ridge trail, we had already benefited from several overlooks at the beginning of the hike that revealed expansive views to the east. In that direction, given the afternoon’s blue skies, we could see the peaks VMI cadets call “Big House” and “Little House,” as well as the eastern end of the Short Hills.
     As is often the case, our band of ten quickly spread out accordingly to differently paced legs, with hike leaders Andre Meyer and Barbara Martin out in front. Marit Anderson explained the merits of the Appalachian Trail itself to our newest hikers from the University of Virginia’s Graduate School of Engineering. Iranian twin brothers Mehrdad and Farzad Dijazi proved to be able to keep up with the best of us, leaving Iva Gillet to walk and talk with Mark Perschel (aka Mark Trail) and catch up on recent tall tales from Peru. (Perschel, Anderson, Meyer and Martin all were less than a week returned from guided hikes to Machu Picchu and Peru’s significantly higher elevations than our 3,200 or so feet of height along the North Mountain.) Jeanne Siler and Rudy Karsch ambled along as well, followed by Bill Holman in his favored position as sweep.
     Without major changes in verticality, hikers were free to comment on the massive fields of invasive garlic mustard—too widespread to even think of uprooting—the mountain laurel just about to pop everywhere, and how GPS coordinates have practically made bearing trees obsolete. We saw lots of flutter-bys and heard some daytime spring peepers near a vernal pond—those ephemeral shallow bodies of water in the woods that fill up with spring rains, but disappear by summertime.
     Being social creatures as well as outdoor enthusiasts, most of the original group followed Andre to his nearby mountainside bungalow for a hearty late afternoon potluck, complete with birthday cake, ice cream and party favors for the ever-maturing Mr. Holman.


Hightop Mtn/Vining Tract bushwhack - April 29, 2017

submitted by Jeanne Siler

     Bushwhacking isn’t what it sounds like.

     Whacking bushes happens on trail maintenance hikes.

     When ten folks took off from the Hightop Mountain pull-off near the Swift Run Gap entrance to Shenandoah Park entrance for a PATC bushwhack hike, it meant leaving the maintained and blazed trails of the park for a scramble through the not-yet-overgrown spring undergrowth.

     We joked that it should have been called a “Tramp Thru the Trillium,” so many of the lovely white and pale pink, three-pedaled wildflowers were still in full bloom as we made our way south and east toward Mutton Hollow.

     Trail leader Mark Walkup led the way, with help from Bill Holman and multiple GPS readings. Iva Gillet followed as sweep, with her ever-enthusiastic hiking pooch Remy alternating between sweep companion and leader of the pack. Both helped with hiker herding as the rest of us - Jeanne Siler, Dennis Templeton, Bev and Pete Fink, CJ Woodburn, Dave Borszich and Patrick Cory clambered over fallen logs and carefully picked our way downhill. We rarely wandered in a straight line because on a bushwhack everyone finds their own path of least resistance.

     Investigations continued all day with findings of three separate piles of bear scat, the stone remains of some mountain homes, an abandoned cemetery, a bear-chewed water bottle and trail sign post, several rare deep red trillium, and even a couple morels.

     CJ managed her first-ever morel sighting just beyond the site of the abandoned cemetery along the Park boundary near the Vining tract.

     Lunch was at a perfect picnic spot on the edge of a east-facing cliff with terrific views of the hollows and flatlands below. Drone photos were taken during lunch, with Remy providing extra amusement as she attempted to tackle the flying camera, which sounded ever so much like a giant bumblebee.

     After lunch the group headed down the to newly “refound” cemetery.  Mark, Bill and Iva had located the unnamed cemetery on a pre-hike a few weeks earlier. Bill plans to continue researching its history prior to being known as part of the Graves family property. It is detectable now only by a series of depressions and the remnants of a few pairs of fieldstone markers.

     The hike out was a simple affair once the Cliff and Boundary West trails on the Vining Tract were intersected, with hike leaders directing the troupe past the PATC’s popular Mutton Top cabin. The last stretch was completed thanks to Iva’s trusty F250, its pickup bed providing spacious seating for the raucous crowd, plus being a convenient spot for one muddy dog.

South River Falls rainsite hike - April 22, 2017

submitted by Iva Gillet 

     While the planned hike was a bushwhack from Hightop Mtn to the Vining Tract, the rainy forecast postponed that hike for a week. Instead 10 hearty hikers traveled to the nearby South River Falls to get in some exercise before the forecasted 3 days of rain.  Hike leaders Mark Walkup and Bill Holman herded Brian Muszynski, Dave Borszich, Patrick Cory, Pete Fink and Iva Gillet (with Remy) to the trailhead. We were joined by others we hadn’t seen in a while: Leon Gorman, Bill Westen, and Grace Ni, great to have them join us, even without ideal weather.  
     The descent through the lush forest let us glimpse early wildflowers and much garlic mustard. The falls were flowing nicely, and we had a quick lunch at the base, while Remy chased sticks thrown into the water and we took photos. Brian heeded John Shannon’s concerns and pulled garlic mustard as he could, dropping them on the road to prevent spreading. When we returned from the falls, we met up with some other hikers who were concerned that the garlic mustard droppings were ominous cult markings. Once we showed them Brian, they understood the issue.   
     As we began the ascent, the rain began, though not heavily. We completed our circuit by 1:30 and several of us headed to the Piedmont Environmental Council’s Heritage Event near Stanardsville which provides an opportunity for descendants of families who were living on the land inside the Shenandoah National Park to share their photos, stories, and maps.  We met some wonderful local folks who helped us further understand the people who lived near the Vining tract, Hightop Mountain, and Lydia. We all shared an appreciation of the land, while acknowledging that many local families were not treated fairly. There is so much to learn from these wonderful local residents, and we look forward to their event again next year.