Friday July 31, 2015 Previous Post:
Loft Mountain Campground Second Eye Surgery
Shenandoah National Park
One of the really wonderful things about Shenandoah National Park is all the waterfall hikes you can do. It’s especially great this summer since it has been a wet spring and we’ve had almost at least weekly rains during the summer so the waterfalls are still flowing pretty well. In years past, spring was the fabulous waterfall time and it decreased from there until around August things were pretty sparse. But not this year so we are making sure we do every one of the waterfall hikes in the park. Today we’re off to see Doyles River Falls and Jones Run Falls in a waterfall lovers loop.
Even though it’s 8:30am when we arrive at the Brown’s Gap Parking, we are the only folks here. It’s a Friday during the High summer vacation season (read that as late July and all of August) and this is a very popular hike so we are really surprised that we beat the vacationers and the “Let’s make it a 3 or 4 day week-end” crowds.
Most folks begin at the Big Run Overlook (at the top right of the map) and hike down to the falls on the Doyle’s River Trail. This is the same trail we took to the Doyle’s River Cabin (it’s on the map too in the upper right) where we were luckily invited to see the inside. That post is here if you haven’t seen it. So we decide to cut off the part of the trail above the first of the Doyle’s River Falls by parking at Brown’s Gap and taking the fire road down to the trail.
The Brown Family originally built the road as an old turnpike in the late 1700s, and then used it to take produce from the Shenandoah Valley on the west to Richmond far to the east. During the Civil War, Stonewall Jackson used it for his troops. There is just a remarkable amount of history in this park.
We’re expecting a nice wide, gently graded path. Like Brown’s most of the fire roads are the old roads created by the mountain people and many of them exit the park onto a Virginia state road where there is a chain prohibiting entry into the park from below. But it is how most poachers enter the park by cutting the chains.
We find the fire road but it is under some road improvement activity and with the rains from the past two days, it’s a bit of a mess we were not expecting. Pretty large gravel is on a short section and then it turns to mud thanks to those recent rains. The one nice thing about the mud is that we are able to see that a white tailed deer of pretty good size was going down this road before us. Or rather it appears, standing on this road.
Finally we come to the spot where the fire road goes left and a connector trail to the Falls Trail is in front of us. Much nicer hiking from that point on. It isn’t very long before we cross one of the tributaries to the river and shortly after that, the river comes in on our right and we come to the first cascade.
I think this must be the upper Doyle’s River falls until I look at my information and find that the first falls is 1.3 miles from where we intersect with the Doyles River Trail. Pretty nice “cascade”. Can’t wait to see the falls.
At that point the descent becomes serious. They warned us about this. I actually prefer climbing up rather than down in the area of waterfalls after recent rains. Slick rocks are a problem for my boots going down hill. If you have a brand of boots that is good on slick rocks down hill PLEASE tell me what it is.
The upper Doyle Falls is the smaller and is at 2200 feet in altitude so we have gone down quite a bit before we come to it. Luckily we did a lot of the going down on the Fire Road rather than on the steeper trail. . It’s another tricky descent down to the falls itself, but with poles and caution we make it down and all around.
This falls is listed as 28’ but it sure looks bigger than that to me. Or maybe each cascade is 28’?
We check it out from every angle.
While we are up here walking carefully around the upper cascade, David discovers great water pools in the rock. I laugh out loud when I see how much the first one looks like a black bear. What do you think the one on the left looks like?
Hard to tell which way is up and which way is down isn’t it? That’s why he included his feet.
David is contemplating going down beside the lower cascade. Not for me. So I take pictures.
I just love the spray hitting the rock and flying out into the air. I can hear the water particles yelling WHEEEE!
I know, enough, enough. I could stay here all day but we’ve only just begun.
On the way back up to the main trail, we spy this incredible tree. It’s just amazing that in a park whose area was so trammeled by man in multiple ways, there are so many grand and wonderful old trees. You could break your neck just trying to see the crown. This one is a tulip poplar.
We get back on the trail and I glance back for one last look at Upper Doyles River Falls. The light must have been perfect to illuminate this work of art. The artist was still at work and through my zoom lens I could watch her pulling filament out of her body and weaving this amazing piece. It was just astonishing to be able to watch her at work.
She’s intent on filling in the center circle with the tight weave she’s already done on the outside. And to think that these webs they work so hard on are destroyed in one second by the other creatures who share the forest, including us. Spider Woman was a sacred character in the legends of many Native American Tribes. For some, she wove the world from beginning to end.
Further along the trail on the way to the Lower Doyle’s River falls we find cascade after cascade. Many seem to me to be large enough to call falls.
And then we see the lower falls and the narrow trail that leads closer. These lower falls are 63’ tall. Its elevation is 1828’. We’ve climbed down yet another 400 feet and we know what that means about going back up. There is a nice spot at the end of this trail for observing the falls from above.
But if you want to get down to it, it’s quite a rock scramble. David and I have both our hands engaged in this endeavor so there are no pictures but it’s one of those careful foot placement and use of both arms sorts of descents.
We are joined at one point by another man whose wife doesn’t wish to scramble down. We exchange pictures in front of the falls.
But we decide we want the entire falls and both of us. So I set up the timer and almost make it into the first picture.
We don’t do as much scrambling here as it is really is too wet and dangerous. Just getting down here and out is scramble enough. What beauty!
As you can see, there is a lot of downed wood all around. This one takes David’s fancy just before we reluctantly move on. What do you see? Looks like a horse come for a drink to me.
Back on the main trail the trail follows the river side. We pass more beautiful cascades.
Just on the other side of this bridge are 2 then 3 swallowtails doing some kind of dance. Not sure if it is a fight or a love affair or both. But it’s fascinating to watch
They are still at it when we finally move along to find interesting mushrooms and more big trees.
Yes these are 3 different trees. It’s a wonder we make any progress there are so many to hug. Perhaps it’s the difficult terrain that saved them from the loggers’ saws. I’m sure glad.
Looks great from above doesn’t it? But there’s no way to get down there. Wonder why it isn’t Lowest Doyle’s River Falls?
We’ve come to the intersection of the Doyle’s River and Jones Run Trails. Our climb back up is about to begin. The mile marker says we are now at 1470’. That means we have more than that to climb back out on the soon to be rocky paths along the Jones Run.
I spy another lovely cascade and a beautiful pool that would be perfect for swimming if it were as hot here as it is at the foot of these mountains. Can I get down there? You bet. Uncharacteristically, David waits at the top to see if it’s “worth it”.
What do you think from his view point?
I declare it is worth it and he declares it’s lunch time.
So here is today’s lunch spot and the things we enjoy while eating.
How about that mushroom?
No idea what these 3 were up to as we watched for a long time and took a ridiculous number of pictures of them.
Perhaps the Millipede just wanted to get by but then he turned around and climbed right back up. Nature has its own plans and they sure aren’t known to us.
Apparently lunch was all that was needed for David to resume his rock climbing up stream.
David hugs this giant tree and then we see there is yet another one right on the trail beyond it. Lots of Kings of the forest here.
The trail gets rockier and steeper as we go. I’m beginning to wonder about the advisability of this. David says he’s OK. Luckily it isn’t wet everywhere.
Beautiful cascades by the score.
Time to stop for a break. The water is not freezing cold amazingly. I watch the water striders as they skate along with their giant reflections. Some call them Jesus bugs since they do walk on the water.
For a guy with so many medical problems who is climbing up steep trail he looks pretty happy.
And no wonder. The beauty is non stop.
About a third of the way up the Jones River Trail we come to the namesake falls, the last of the named falls for our hike.
I discover we’re back up at 1880 feet but have another 1.7 miles before we’re back to the point where we pick up the AT to return to the parking area. I don’t look too unhappy about this. So far it’s been a simply wonderful day.
That may be the last of the major falls but it isn’t the last of the wonderful things on this trail. The rocks tower over us along the rocky path. There are more cascades as we climb.
We take a break to get a better look at this one sliding down the rock face.
At the top of Jones Run there is a map and the AT marker where we learn that we only have another 1.2 miles to go to Brown’s Gap and Ruby. Hope this is an easy stretch of the AT.
Here we are back again with the white trail markers of the Appalachian Trail where we have one sort of view, lots of mushrooms and some blackberries on our way.
Back at Ruby we discover it has been a nearly 8 mile hike and almost 20,000 steps. Seems a few thousand of those were taken off trail getting to and from all that wonderful water. What a fabulous day on another fantastic set of trails in Shenandoah National Park.