Saturday June 13, 2015
Big Meadows Campground
Shenandoah National Park
Because it’s Saturday and the park is full of people having a great noisy time on their week-end, I am up and out and on the trail by 6:30am. I have to say in advance that this is one of the most wonderful hikes I have taken anywhere at anytime so the post is long and picture laden. Settle in with a cup of that evil brew or breakfast or just in a lounge chair and share the beauty of what I see beginning with the sunrise on my way to the trailhead.
Ruby has one pal in the parking lot as I set off.
It’s a rocky trail and I have to watch my footing but that just justifies how slowly I want to go to savor and experience all this.
Immediately the river begins its cascades along the trail
Of course the first part of the hike is down down hill but the pay off is that I arrive right by the river.
So far there is no one else on the trail. I sit a while and listen to the water and watch it flow over the rocks.
Then it’s back up hill but the river is never far away.
Notice the trail here. There really isn’t one. It’s just rocks until you get to the low spot and start back up.
It is interesting that for two small falls in a row a tree has come to rest first on the far side of the falls and then on the near.
Not sure which group of trail workers arranged these rocks but they are quite helpful especially when the ground is wet, muddy and slick as it often is here with the frequent afternoon rains. Of course the rocks can be wet and slick too which in some places is a hazzard in itself.
Just after 8am, two women come marching along and pass me by. They seem to be out for an exercise walk given their pace. I wonder how they can march through such a gorgeous and inspiring setting. They are soon out of sight and I am alone once again.
The trail leaves the river for a while and passes large rock formations. One has a giant ball resting on top just waiting for a giant to come along and toss it down.
I’ve read a description of this trial so when I come to this graveled area I know I’ve arrived at what remains of an old copper mine on the hill to the right. Although I’m not much interested in mining and as you might guess don’t really approve of our striping the Earth, I know David would be right up that hill to see what’s up there. So I go up and take these pictures for him. Notice the large rectangle in the trail ahead just beyond where I’m going to turn right.
All I find is a pipe sticking out of the ground. I do look as David no doubt would but there isn’t anything else remaining unless it’s totally covered with the growth of the trees and bushes.
I return to the trail and here is the rectangle complete with metal rods. Part of the mining operation I guess. Who knows?
There are the most amazing fungi in these mountains. Look at this one.
I know I’m just over 2 miles along the trail when I come to this metal bridge across Hogcamp Branch which also contains its share of pools and runs.
Looking down from the bridge on one side
What a picturesque bridge.
Looking down from the bridge on the other side.
The trail now winds along Hogcamp Branch which empties into the Rose River just beyond where the trail turned away from the river and up the branch. The Rose River then runs south out of the park. I am going to look on the maps and see if there is a way to follow the River on another day
It’s wonderful to be beside the water again as I climb listening to its chatter as it tumbles over the rocks.
The trail becomes steeper, rockier and more difficult as I go.
I’m up above the branch but I can use my camera as binoculars to get up close and personal with the cascades.
And then it’s down again and closer to the water. The entire landscape makes me feel as though I am walking in a wonderland. It is perfect in every way.
Every pool, every riffle is lovely.
Yes there are too way many pictures but I want to relive this hike often until I take it again. Every step is a treasure.
I am just overwhelmed with the beauty and perfection.
I wonder if anyone ever brings a tube and rides this water slide down the rock in the heat of the summer. Although, this is feeling like the heat of the summer at the foot of the mountain with temperatures in the 90’s, up here it’s in the 70’s and the water is cold.
Up and down the trail goes. First above the branch then beside it. Other than the tricky footing I hardly notice the climbs although it’s slow going since the beauty all around me is so breath taking that I stop often.
Hogcamp Branch is every bit as lovely and melodious as the Rose River.
I’m so happy to be here in the fairly early summer before the waters have dried up as they will by late August.
Sweet swimming pool.
When I see the post ahead of me, I know I’ve come almost to the end of my journey along the water.
The Hogcamp Branch Trail meets up with the fire road which I’ll take back to Ruby but first there is a spur to Dark Hollow Falls.
At the junction of the trail and the road, a bridge crosses Hogcamp branch which flows down from Dark Hollow falls. I laugh out loud with glee when I see the lovely falls just to the right of the bridge. I haven’t even hiked up to the real Dark Hollow Falls yet and look at this.
After crossing the bridge, the fire road goes back to Skyline Drive. I’ll take that route but first a left turn up to Dark Hollow Falls.
As I start up the trail, this sign is posted. Although I haven’t seen any black bears, I would be thrilled to and am happy to know that they live in relative peace here in the park although there is an on going problem of poachers coming in illegally from the edges of the park to kill the bears and sell their organs to the orient. Very sad
I pass by the side of the lovely falls at the bridge and see what looks like a fantastic swimming pool to me. Just imagine floating over under those falls. Maybe I wouldn’t mind a 90 degree day after all.
The hike up to Dark Hollow is steep but maintained. There is a trail that comes down from the Skyline drive above Dark Hollow which I understand is shorter, steeper and more tricky. Because of that, I expect to find a lot of people up here. It is now about 9:30am. Sure enough, they are there in large numbers as I approach. But they are coming toward me. That means away from the falls. All righty!!
And when I arrive at the falls another group just as large is headed back up to the Skyline Drive. This IS my lucky day. I actually have Dark Hollow Falls all to myself for some time. Truly AMAZING on a Saturday in mid June at 9:30 in the morning.
The rocks at the base of the falls are completely wet and it looks dangerous to me to walk out on them for a really good photograph of the falls so this is taken from the side but they are wonderful from any angle. These two pictures may look the same but the details are a bit different. In the second one you can see, slightly better, the multiple streams of water coming over at the top.
I try to take a selfie with the falls but they are just terrible. The selfies, not the falls. I’d love to have one of those camera arms but I doubt there is one sturdy enough to hold up my Canon SX50. If I didn’t already have SO many pictures of real beauty in this post I would have put in a few of my hilarious selfie efforts.
Again, lucky me, someone does come down the trail from the drive and takes this photograph for me. Then it’s time to leave them alone with these lovely falls.
Just one last shot of nature’s beauty.
Down the hill and on to the fire road I go. The fire road is a lovely wide walk through the forest and I’m thinking I’ll be really missing the sounds and sights of the water for the remainder of the hike.
But then, off to my right I see a trail through the grass and a sign saying Cave Cemetery. Up I go.
The cemetery is a mixture of formal headstones, wooden markers and small bare upright stones. Most of them have cloth flowers at the base. Family members must have been here for memorial day. The cloth flowers are much nicer than plastic. I wonder how long the simple wooden markers for Bertha Buracker 1923-1996 and Josh Cave 1915-2000 will last.
There are several markers for men who fought in and one who died in the Civil War, known in these parts as the War of Northern Aggression. You should be able to click the pictures and read the headstones.
I was quite moved by the flowers in front of the small upright stones with no markings. This place gives real meaning and individuality to the people who were forced off their land and from their homes in order for Shenandoah National Park to be created. Many have returned in death to the land they loved.
Initially as I enter the cemetery there is a board with this metal plaque listing the names of “People buried here with no head marker before 1940”, thirty seven people. I come back to read it now.
Sadly one of the professionally made markers has fallen over either after Memorial Day or it was too heavy for whomever was here to lift. It was definitely too heavy for me as I tried to see if I could set it upright.
Yet another surprise on the fire road is this duo coming up behind me. There are quite a few horse trails in Shenandoah and it really would be a simply fantastic way to see this park. They turn off the fire road and up onto the horse trail just before we get to the Skyline Drive.
Things have picked up quite a bit since I dropped Ruby off. She has LOTS of company now.
I’m back plenty early in the day because of my early start. David is just finishing his breakfast when I return. Remember he’s not a morning person. HA! He leaves to walk down to the visitor center to take the 1:00 van tour to the Rapidan Camp. I’m glad they have this so he can visit it without the danger of the up hill climb back on the trail. I spend the afternoon relaxing and reading in the glorious temperature and surroundings of our camp site. It’s cool enough for me to make a pot of soup for dinner.
What a great day it has been.
Hope it was worth making it to the end for you too.
I know it was a laoong one.
Thanks for reading