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Section Hiking on the Appalachian Trail

Thursday Afternoon June 25, 2015                                                                            Most Recent Post:
Big Meadows Campground                                                                                          Early Morning in the Meadow
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia



I wrote earlier about hiking 13000 Steps on the AT North from the Campground to Fisher’s Gap and really enjoying it.  I got it into my head that perhaps I could hike the entire 105 miles of the trail in the park as day hikes.  “Maybe”.  But for sure today we are hiking from Fisher’s Gap to the Rock Spring AT Hut and Cabin.

Fisher’s Gap is an overlook on the Skyline Drive and the AT runs just below it.  The views are beautiful.




After the overlook, we head back into the woods.







I’m thrilled to find an Indian Pipe just beside the trail.  What a lucky spotting.  Often they are in groups but this one is all alone.

   Indian Pipes are also known as Ghost Flower or Ghost Plant. When you first see it, Indian Pipe seems more like a mushroom or other fungus than like a true flowering plant due to the color - or lack of color.

However, it has a stem, bract-like scales in place of leaves, and a single flower at the end of the stem.  Unlike most plants, it is white and does not contain chlorophyll. Instead of generating energy from sunlight, it is parasitic.  Its hosts are certain fungi that are mycorrhizal with trees, meaning it ultimately gets its energy from photosynthetic trees. Since it is not dependent on sunlight to grow, it can grow in very dark environments as in the understory of dense forest. I love finding it on the forest floor but still it is one of the strangest wildflowers I’ve ever seen.





It really is such a pleasant trail.  I don’t know that I’ve read anyone who said it wasn’t wonderful in every state it goes through.  Not always as easy as it is in Shenandoah and the weather isn’t always great but all the miles are beautiful and interesting.



OH BOY!  I spot what I think are more American Chestnut Leaves.  David agrees.  Even though the trees don’t get even a 10th of their former height and width, before the disease knocks them back again, still it’s exciting to know that they are still here after a hundred years and are still trying their best to make a come back.   Now that’s serious tenacity.



More rock outcroppings with beautiful Blue Ridge Views.  This cameraman is photographing the landscape..




Next he goes for some close ups.  Not sure what sort of maple these little shrubs are.  Their bark doesn’t look like striped maple but the pink of their “wings” is quite striking against all the shades of green.  The trail has begun to get rocky.






We add some up hill to the rocks.




More stand out colors attract our attention.   These mushrooms are pretty tiny when you are looking at the ground.  Only their color betrays them.









I’m walking along at my sauntering pace necessary to be able to look up, down and all around when up ahead of me a deer has stopped on the trail and is steadily watching me.   I stop, we look at each other.  I notice he has tiny little nubs of antlers. 

He actually lets me get quite close as I very slowly advance on the trail but when David comes up behind me, he bolts off into the woods..






The trail keeps climbing.  I wish I could get a cardio work out on my hike but I just can’t stop looking around and hike faster.

Maybe the elevation will give my heart some exercise.  David is taking it very slow.  It’s hard to find a hike in the park with no elevation gain other than The Limberlost.




I arrive first at the intersection of the AT and the spur trail to the hut and the cabin.  It’s a bit early in the day for through hikers to be here so I don’t expect to find anyone but later on, I’m sure there will be some one or two who spend the night here.

I wait for David under the tree in the upper right of the first picture.





Eventually he comes up the path and we head down to the hut which of course means we’ll have to climb back up to leave.




We approach from the back.



It appears that neither of us took a picture of the bear pole around back which AT hikers use to put their packs up out of bear reach. 

The hut has a picnic table and a bunk around the 3 closed sides.



Inside, back in away from any weather is the Hut’s Log Book which thru hikers sign leaving notes for those behind them or making comments about their day.   I take it out of its zip lock bag, open it to the last full page and read.   Click the picture if you’d like to read it.






The cabin is further down the hill from the hut and the spring forms a triangle with them.




We head down to the cabin to see if it is being rented.  This shot is looking back up at the hut.





Gotta stop for a hug from an Oak tree.




The Rock Spring Cabin like the other cabins in the park is owned and rented by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club which is also responsible for the maintenance of much of the AT in Virginia.




The sun is right behind the cabin which doesn’t make for great pictures.




David tries to take some pictures of the inside through the tiny window but it’s just too dark.




Looking across the cabin porch to the spring path.



David thinks he’ll let me go see the spring and save himself an additional uphill climbs.



The spring water is brought out through the pipe. All the springs for AT hikers in the park are marked by cement posts. The water is not potable and must be boiled or filtered to drink.




I hike back up to the cabin and we sit for a while enjoying the view.



Rock Spring Cabin is on the western slope of Hawksbill Mountain and looks out across Page Valley to the Massanutten Range in what is described as the best view from any PATC Cabin.  The view is being closed in unfortunately and it makes it hard for the camera to pick up the colors that we see.  It is a very lovely view and a shame that it isn’t being maintained at least a little bit.

But as I’ve said before, the National Park Service swings back and forth in terms of how much “pruning” is in the current plan.  I suppose it could well depend on who is the director of the park at the particular time.





While we’re sitting on the ledge, I look down at the rocks next to me and find a red admiral butterfly. He stays right there for a long time and I’m wondering if he’s eating something off of the lichen.






Time to retrace our steps back to the parking lot where the view is still wonderful but there are a lot more cars than when we set out earlier.






This rounds up our day from Sunrise through the afternoon.  There seem to be no end of trails to hike in Shenandoah National Park especially if you include AT section hiking in your list.


  1. What a beautiful area for hiking, Sherry!

  2. Great area to build those step numbers. During current trip, I am very happy when I get the 10K numbers:)

  3. My first overnight backpacking trip was in the Shenandoah many years ago.

  4. Some of those guest book comments are a riot!! Love seeing that American Chestnut leaf! The expression on the deer's face is great...he's on high alert. Beautiful trail.

  5. You do know how to find some of the sweetest trails. I've seen Indian Pipe grow on the North Rim, a very unusual plant. Especially like the wild roses with their powerful smell. The cabin and shelter look perfect for a hiking reprieve.

  6. Scenery is quite different there than in Yellowstone where we are now. Glad to you see you both out hiking and enjoying the beauty of nature. Very interesting information on Indian Pipes - never knew that before.

  7. Love the AT!!! What a wonderful hike...so glad you were able to find a means to do this together...both at a pace that works for you:o)) The thru-hikers cabin and trail book were really fun. Hike On....

  8. Another beautiful day on the trail!

    When Hans and I hike, he is very fast, and I lag behind stopping for photos...unfortunately that means he often scares away the wildlife before I can catch up to see it!

  9. yep as a former backpacker hiking the AT was one of my dreams but I could never get away from the CO and NM mountains...

  10. This is trail I would have enjoyed. I've always wanted to check out one of the thru hiker shelters. I bet it was fun reading the log book. Boy, that Indian Pipe is ghostly looking. Very strange! I love those pink wings. Another great day on the trail:)

  11. Cool to be able to read some of the hikers' comments. National Hike Naked Day? :) Somehow I wonder...lol. Great shots of the deer..

  12. Nice to see the American Chestnut tree leaves, let's hope nature finds a way for them to evolve to become resistant to the disease that has decimated the population. We've lost and are losing too many tree species to foreign diseases and insects, makes me very sad.

  13. Love the pink wings and teeny orange mushrooms. The Indian Pipe is definitely ghostly looking, reminds me of a newt. There was an old miner's cabin in the desert mountains near where I grew up. The log book there was very entertaining as well as informative about weather and critters in the area. I hope they're still keeping one. I'm loving your hikes in this beautiful place.

  14. So that is an Indian Pipe! Ive seen those in one of our hikes in PA and VA, quite an interesting plant. I love those pink flowers and mushrooms!

  15. Nice hike we hope to do our first steps on the AT next week.

  16. If we ever get up to Georgia, I'll have to check some log books to see if I can find some of the same people...those who made it from GA to VA but I'll bet a few have dropped out.

  17. Very pretty! I love the shot you took sideways of the red flowers. The deer has a "what did you say?" expression on his face. Any bug issues? I just bought some natural bug spray from Integral Yoga. I can't sit on our deck for more than 3 minutes without being eaten by mosquitos......

  18. I sure hope you can section hike all the AT within the Shenandoah NP this summer. I'll be doing as much as I can with you.

  19. What a beautiful hike, with so many interesting plants and creatures along the way. Of course, it's because you take the time to soak in all of the beauty. I like the way you hike—we do the same. :-) The Indian Pipe are fascinating -- we've been seeing them on the Olympic Peninsula, too. They're supposedly rare so I'm always happy to spot them.

  20. This is the first blog post (of anyone's) that I've read in at least a week and it's all I can do not to laugh out loud here at the McDonalds. Hiking naked in June? Must be a joke, can you imagine the scratches and bites, not to mention sunburn? And that deal with the boot? Young men! Also couldn't believe you showed Indian Pipe since I saw it's mycotropic cousin False Beech Drops today. AND the camp host and I were talking about the AT this morning when I checked in. Our stuff seems to parallel often, I've noticed. Glad you guys enjoyed your stint on the AT.

  21. Sherry,

    I am the new PATC Cabin Overseer for Rock Spring Cabin, I was wondering if I could use your cabin picture on the RSC Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/rockspringcabin/

    Also, the view has been trimmed back a little bit.

  22. The pictures you have provided are really wonderful. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience with us. Very nice post learned a lot.
    Appalachian Maple Floors


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