Tuesday Afternoon June 8, 2015
Big Meadows Campground
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
The Lewis Falls Trailhead is on the back of the picnic area/amphitheater parking lot. To start out, we get to walk a short way on the Appalachian Trail again. You almost can’t hike anywhere in the park without ending up on a piece of the AT.
And sure enough, there goes an AT hiker.
The Lewis Falls Trail takes a right hand turn and from there of course we start DOWN. There’s no where to go but down when you are already on the ridge. And like most trails here there are a lot of rocks to watch out for. You have to stop if you want to look around. In many places, there is no looking away from the trail if you are moving.
We do stop along the way to watch what I think is an Appalachian Azure rather than an Eastern Tailed Blue because of the absence of the small orange spots on the hind wing. I get several shots of her as she moves in and out of the light. I could have stayed all day but she had to be on her way.
Back to the rocky trail.
But then there is this big tree to hug.
And Mountain Laurel along the trail to appreciate.
Rocks get bigger. The trail goes more steeply down.
We can see the Blue Ridge behind this rock through a break in the trees.
A great old tree has fallen and been cleared from the trail leaving this gorgeous burly bark which seems as beautiful to me as any painting.
Back to the rocky path this time with roots to make it more precarious.
And finally we’ve come to where the Lewis Falls Trail continues back up there on the left of this photo. Time to take the yellow spur trail on the right down an even steeper short trail to the observation point. We’ll go back the trail on the left.
On the way there is another lovely view of the Blue Ridge although the haze does block the Alleghany Mountains beyond.
We are following one of the streams that makes up the falls and stop to admire it.
At this point it is not only very rocky but now the rocks are wet and slick and we have stupidly left our hiking poles back at the campsite. DUH! I have picked up a nice volunteer pole to help me along but even though I suggested he do the same, David has not. Is that a guy thing?
The last bit has apparently been so slick and treacherous for the past 75 years that the CCC originallyl installed a hand rail to get to their viewing platform.
The platform looks a lot like the one from my South River Falls Hike on Sunday. Because of the rains, it is full of water. So rather than stand in water over my shoes, I climb up on the wall and look for the falls.
Also like my South River Falls Hike, the view is very obstructed. Can you see the falls there in the middle?
These are the best shots I can manage from here. They look nothing like pictures I’ve seen of these falls. The pictures even from recent books, must be years old. Is that really fair to lead your readers to believe that’s what they will see if they take this trail?
The falls is called Lewis Falls and Lewis Spring Falls in different trail books. At 81 feet in height, it is the fourth highest falls in the park. It is described as a “gentle falls cascading from two creeks and then descending to a false bottom where it spills once again.” In a 2006 trail book I have I quote “You have a commanding view of the falls from an overlook constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. Not sure I’d describe even my zoomed in pictures below as a commanding view.
I can see both streams tumbling over but I can’t get a picture of them. You can see the “false bottom” in both of these pictures below but you can’t see it tumbling further down.
It’s really really lovely, what I can see of it and I do fear that people may start trying to make their way down for a better view. This would be very foolish but people are, aren’t they.
We eat a bit of our lunch here and when another couple descends the slick rocks and tries to find a picture point, we let them have it to themselves and head back up with the help of the railing. I wonder whether the park service will repair this overlook if it becomes deteriorated.
We’re back at the rocky intersection of the continuation of the trail and our return to the top. That means only one thing. UP UP and more UP.
Unlike last year in the Rocky Mountain National Park, David is having trouble with the inclines and has to stop often. He tells me to go on ahead so I climb to top of the Lewis Mountain Trail where we will pick up the AT for the rest of the return. I wait for him there.
I find the door to the Big Meadows water supply which apparently comes from Hawksbill Creek which feeds Lewis Falls.
I also find these interesting shelf fungus. You certainly can’t miss them with their color.
Since yesterday I have learned that these little rocket shaped flowers are called Fly Poison. All parts of the plant are toxic. Apparently it was used by Native Americans to poison crows that attempted to damage their crops. Early Americans round up the powdered root and mixed it with molasses to kill flies in their homes. Why do we need Dupont?
This last section of climbing on the trail will take us to Big Meadows Lodge.
There is a spur off to the Black Rock Overlook. As we approach it, the rocks increase in size.
These are known as Black Rock cliffs.
Black Rock is at 3721 feet. Here too the views are hazy. But the big problem is that we are facing west and it is late in the afternoon so the sun is turning everything white including big sections of my photographs.
The views from Black Rock are better in person than in these photos especially with the giant white sun. It is a nice ending to the falls hike. We definitely hiked down and then back up to the very top.