Thursday June 4 - Sunday June 7, 2015
When we came up to Stony Fork in Southwest Virginia, we knew David had to return to Charlottesville on Thursday for a Friday morning blood draw. It’s 192 miles from Stony Fork so we had thought he would drive his car and just stay at the farm through this round of shots. Since Stony Fork allows a 3 week stay, we could be here next week and the week after so he could come back up on the day of the last shot which would be a Wednesday. I’d stay with Winnona and Ruby. Sounded like a great plan.
But as I mentioned before, the creek flows through the campground which is subject to flooding and evacuation if there is a lot of rain. No problem, you just evacuate, unless you have a tow dolly. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if the dolly weren’t an EXACT fit. If there was a little bit of wiggle room when you are putting the car on it, one person could do it much more easily. As it is, one person has to line it up, get in try it, check it out and if it is up on the side walls of the dolly do it again. This is all AFTER you hook the dolly back to the RV and find a straight place to load the car. The only straight place here is in the narrow campground road. Of course, no one can get past you. If it only takes one try to get the car on the dolly, no problem. But that’s pretty rare and multiple tries would irritate especially if evacuation is the order of the day.
SO, since it won’t stop raining and the forecast also says days more of rain, I throw in the towel and go back to Charlottesville with David. We need a new toad that can be towed 4 down that’s for sure. I think I want a Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo so I’ll have 4WD for those trailheads where you need it. Now to find one at a price I can afford that isn’t too old with too many miles. If you have better suggestions please let me know.
So that’s the long story of how we end up back in Charlottesville this past Thursday. If it’s going to rain all summer around this state, we’ll have to pick some spots closer than 192 miles away to show Winnona. Of course that’s tricky because it’s summertime and everyone else wants to be out and about too and most of them have already made their plans.
Friday is the blood draw with all the myeloma tests to see if this latest treatment is doing any good. The results won’t be available until mid next week.
With all the rain we have noticed water on the dashboard. Apparently Winnona has developed a leak above the windshield so in the afternoon David uses windshield sealant adhesive from Napa parts to try to seal it up. There is more rain on the way so we’ll know soon enough.
By Sunday the weather predictions here include less rain and more HOT! To be specific 4 days of mid 90’s starting on Wednesday. We have never taken Winnona to our local National Park, Shenandoah, so I don’t really know anything about the campground other than that it is complete boondocking. No water, no electricity. Good chance to use our solar set up if there is an appropriately flat site that isn’t in the woods.
So off I go to check it out. The farm is 17 miles from the southern end of the park and about 45 miles from the middle. I head up to Big Meadows campground in the middle saving the more southern campground Loft Mountain for another time.
I take Route 33 to the Swift Run Gap entrance, use my wonderful Senior Pass (the ONLY great thing about getting older) and am soon headed north toward Big Meadows.
It is a bit warm down in the foothills but up on the mountain it’s perfect. Since I’ve come this far, I figure I might as well make a day of it so I stop at the first falls hike I come to on my way from the Central entrance to the park at about milepost 66 to Big Meadows at about milepost 51. South River Falls Trailhead is at Milepost 63.
Once on the trail, I’ve barely gone any distance when I cross the Appalachian Trail. I’ve hiked lots of the sections of the AT in Virginia over the years. Virginia has the most mileage of any state with 550.3, more than a quarter of the trail. The first time I broke my ankle was on the AT in 2001. It wasn’t the AT’s fault and I love seeing its familiar cement metal banded posts again.
Today, I’m going straight ahead and down. It is going across.
The trails in SNP for the most part start at the top of the mountains and go down. This is not my favorite way to do my mountain hiking. I prefer my uphill first and my down hill at the end. But tough luck for me here. It’s down all the way to the falls and then up all the way back.
After a bit the trail goes along the river. I stop to enjoy the water and of course in doing so attract others including two families with numerous children. After they leave heading on down to the falls, I decide they may be going there for lunch so perhaps this lovely spot is where I should have my lunch and I do. The music of the river is enchanting. The scenery outstanding.
Lots of rocks on the trail, big ones at a distance, some on the trail side and some as the trail base.
These are the oldest mountains in North America and their bones are showing.
All along the way I can hear the water tumbling down toward the falls. I am glad I have the trail to myself now and there are no other sounds but the water and the birds. The oven bird is yelling his “teacher, teacher, teacher” and the vireo is asking “see me, here I am”.
There are some flat sections of the trail but here too you have to watch for the rocks and the roots.
One nice thing about all the rain, although the trail is a bit muddy, it is green green everywhere.
I am getting pretty close, I can hear the waterfall and wonder if I might be able to see down into the gorge from this rock platform which has a clear path going down to it.
But nope, trees block the way.
I reach the stone viewing platform constructed in the 30’s by the CCC and find it seriously muddy. Underwater at the edge actually. I also discover that the ‘don’t mess with it’ policy of the National Parks has pretty much allowed the gorge to fill in and the waterfall is now difficult to see. Can you even find it in the first picture below?
South River Falls is the 3rd highest falls in the park. You cannot see its complete 83 foot drop down into the gorge. I don’t believe there is a trail to the foot of the falls.
I’m not sure how I feel about this don’t touch policy. I certainly don’t want them landscaping my National Parks but if there is a viewing platform, I think perhaps they should maintain the view. What’s your opinion about this quandary?
I try some other angles to see if I can get any better picture of the falls. Zooming in does a little better but it’s just not the same not being able to see the falls tumbling all the way into the gorge.
Just below the viewing platform, there is what I believe is a Rosa Rugosa bush. The bee is doing his part to make sure the rose hips will appear this fall. I’m worried about the bees. What will we do without them.
I arrive just as the big groups are leaving so I have the platform to myself until another couple quietly joins me and also comments on the lack of view.
The trip back up actually goes faster than the one down. Probably because I don’t stop for many pictures. Just a few of the really great huge rocks lining the path and one to show the incline. It’s up all the way. A good work out but not one David would want to do at this point I don’t think.
Ruby and I drive on up the road to Big Meadows where I go into the Visitor Center and get some maps more recent than the ones I have of trails in the area.
I go on to the campground where Ranger Lori gives me some site suggestions and after checking them all out I pay for two nights in C 137 which is the flat enough, long enough and sunny enough for Winnona. With full solar gain we’ll be able to stay boondocking as long as the tanks will last.
Luckily for me, SNP allows me to pay for tonight to hold the site until we can bring Winnona up in the morning. This is the first National Park where I have ever been able to do this. Sure makes it easier so I don’t have to rush back and bring Winnona tonight.
Lori also gives me some suggestions of where in the area I might get a verizon cell signal and/or be able to get internet. Neither of these is available anywhere in the large campground. So I check out the amphitheater parking lot and from there I am able to call David and tell him about the site but no internet.
I am also able to make calls from the National Park Lodge parking lot and when I go inside the lodge, wifi is available in the great room but the wifi is very iffy so I tether my phone and I’m in business.
Having finished all I wanted to accomplish, I head back down the mountain to get ready for tomorrow’s move up the mountain into hopefully cooler climes for this next week of very early extreme summer heat in Virginia. It’s really been a great Sunday. Can’t wait to return to “my” National Park.