Wednesday June 24, 2015
Big Meadows Campground
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Today we head out to do what was listed as a scramble on Bearfence Mountain. The guide books say there were two ways up to the top. One is a “moderate” scramble path and the other is mostly a section of ………..You guessed it…………..the AT. The choice of the same trail with two difficulties seems made for us.
As you can see from the map, the parking is right on the Skyline Drive and the trail leads up, of course, and beyond where it crosses the AT.
When we reach the crossing shown at the bottom of the map, I will go straight, David will turn right. We’ll meet at the top.
The first leg to the crossing doesn’t seem too steep so we think it will be OK for David. We hike up from the road to the tree line and into the woods to the crossing.
Of course there are trees to hug along the way.
David takes the low road, so to speak, and I take the high road. “See ya at the top”.
I’m scouting it out to see if he can come back on the scramble given that his arm is still in the brace from his cardiac procedure.
At first on my trail I’m just climbing up but soon I come to the “scramble” part.
Follow the blue blazes right through these rocks.
And over this one and these. Can you see the blue blazes?
Be careful not to get your ankle stuck in here.
Yes up here. I’ve marked the blue blaze with a red arrow.
Nice view, but now where? To the left I guess.
A break from the scramble.
But not for long.
Down there? Where?
Good thing David didn’t come this way. You really have to use your arms to pull yourself up and to help you get down.
A bit of a break but check out the foot work to get through here.
and around this ledge
and up there
I thought for sure that I had taken a picture of the family with a 4 or 5 year old and a baby in a back pack trying to do this and finally realizing it was just too dangerous. I waited behind them at one of the more difficult climb ups while she went on ahead to scout it out. When she returned, I told her there was another way to the top and they turned around.
Some of the spots were just too difficult for pictures so remember that these pictures are only the ones I could take.
I’ve been hearing voices for some time and am not surprised since we didn’t get on the trail until “late”. At this point, I catch up to a gang of over a dozen. Some are dressed in the same color of blue as the trail blazes. They are yelling back and forth at members of their party who have gone on. There is one 7 or 8 year old boy having the time of his life just running and leaping all over the rocks like a mountain goat. I hope I’m gone before he falls and breaks something.
There is only one benefit to sharing these fabulous 360 degree views and not being able to have a quiet pensive time up here, someone volunteers to take my picture. Yes the wind is blowing.
What a great place for sunrise or sunset. IF you are foolish enough to try to scramble up in low light. When David is able, we’ll come back at my time of the morning when there is just enough light and before this gang is even dressed.
I think he could have done it today if it weren’t for his arm. It’s very tricky and slow going but not terribly strenuous especially for someone bigger and taller than I am.
I suppose you could come up for sunset and go back the AT with a head lamp.
Here’s the picture I would rather have had but there were just too many of them clowning around and taking this picture and that one of each other. I try to wait them out but they keep going on down the trail and coming back and shouting. I give up. I’m glad they are having a wonderful time together but they sure spoil what I’d hoped would be some spiritual time up here so high in the sky.
I don’t see any way David could get up here without a scramble even from the other direction. This is the way on toward where I hope I’ll meet him. This is the way down.
Looking back at the gang.
I scramble on down until I finally do run into David at just after the scramble ends, or begins depending on which direction you are going.
Getting my short legs up and over this one was quite a feat.
I turn around and continue on with David as far as he thinks he can go with his arm. He gets to within seeing distance of the top and the gang is still there. He thinks this is far enough and after more pictures of the fantastic views from our current vantage point, we turn around to walk back the way he has come.
We have just passed this section which I’d seen before and I bring David back to look at this snag which is easily overlooked as it’s a bit off the path. David suggests it might make a nice picture frame. Thanks David for the picture.
The rest of the trail is easy although the elevation climb he did was a bit much I think. He says it was fine.
He stops for me to get his picture hugging a big oak which he has taken a picture of on his way up to meet me.
For those who also might want to cut their scrambling down significantly when they do this trail, here are some of David’s pictures of his hike up to meet me. It’s a lovely trail, it is the AT after all. There really wasn’t a lot of scrambling in this direction and you would get to the top and the great views.
Here’s the spot where he turned off of the AT and onto the Bearfence Mountain Trail. But looking back at the map, I think he missed the cut over to follow the red trail and rather went along the path I’ve marked with blue arrows. It wasn’t well marked and was easily missed since I didn’t see it on the way down either.
The map seems to imply that the rock scramble is only in one lower section and that is not the case. The “easiest” of the 3 possible routes is the one David took which gives the smallest amount of scramble.
Anyway you choose to do this hike, it is well worth it and the scramble is a lot of fun even for little people. I’d definitely do it again but either much earlier in the day or during some season other than summer or fall which are very busy in Shenandoah National park
We spend most of the morning on Bearfence Mountain but we still have the afternoon. We do another truly easy hike and stop off to see the historic Skyland Area. But that’s for another post.