Thursday August 13, 2015 Most Recent Post:
Big Meadows Campground He has No Idea how He Made My Day
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
On the way out of the campground for our hike, I stop to take a picture of a home made trailer that I’d been meaning to capture for the last couple of days. I am disappointed to see that I’d waited too long and they must have jumped up out of bed and headed out. Too bad, it was really cute. But in its place was this interesting tent so I take its picture instead.
In addition to at least attempting to hike all 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail through the park, we are definitely going to see all the water falls here. Some of them come in sets. Doyles River (previous post) had three, Jones Run had one, White Oak has 9. Today we are going to see the one falls at Hazel River and what they say is an accompanying cave or two. It’s listed as 5.2 miles round trip. Since it’s relatively short, we can take our time.
The hike starts off on what was once the Hazel Road used by park residents. It’s now chained and overgrown but has a number of big trees along its edges.
As usual in the park on its beautifully wooded trails there are treasures galore.
The Turkey Tail mushrooms catch my eye but eagle eye David notices something I did not. This log tree was not cut with a chain saw as most of them are. This one was cut with an axe.
We make a left onto the White Rocks Trail and walk through wild phlox on both sides of the trail. The swallowtails are all over them.
Can you see the Daddy Long Legs?
This entire log is covered with what I assume is some sort of shelf mushroom but it is soft and furry and growing in interesting shapes. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Feels like velvet and looks rather like a ruffle.
We come to the marker which indicates it’s time to leave the White Rocks Trail and turn right down the steep and rocky descent to the falls.
David’s on the trail behind and above me when he catches me getting a hug.
We’ve gone a fair distance when I can finally hear the water. If it weren’t for its song, you’d have no idea it was down here.
Just when we wonder how much longer, we come around a bend and beside some enormous rocks and a small pool which almost looks like a rectangle cemented here with a small cascade coming out of one corner.
We look up through the trees and there it is. A sweet little falls in a secluded small canyon and we have it all to ourselves. I’m not sure we’ve seen a prettier spot since we have been in Shenandoah.
We pick a spot for our lunch and I have David turn around facing me for the picture although we face the falls while we eat.
Never go to a beautiful place, or any place really, without a book to read.
And it’s always nice to have an interested companion. He’s pretty hard to see in the picture above.
Of course we have to climb all over the rocks to take pictures of it from every angle.
If I had investigated a bit more before picking our lunch spot, this one would have been even better.
I’m seldom happier than when I’m around water and this wonderful secluded little spot is a top pick for my favorite spot in the park. It doesn’t hurt that we see no one else on the way in or out.
But now it is time to use the music of the falls as background for our cave search. The first small one is pretty easy. We passed it on the way between the first pool and the falls but didn’t stop because the falls was the goal. For me anyway.
This picture is looking back at the pool. the cave is to the right at the big rock.
We’re never quite sure we’ve found the second cave. It’s described as up the rocks and a bit of a scramble above the first pool. David says we found it but it just looks like a ledge, not a cave to me. But that’s ok, it was fun looking. David goes first. I take a picture of him up there before following him up.
Does this look like a cave to you? Not sure it would keep the rain off of you with the ledge so high above.
I catch David back on the ground before I get all the way down. Such a beautiful place.
we marvel at the lengths the trees go to in order to get a foothold and reach for the sun back here in this isolated spot.
How do they do this stuff?
One last look around and it’s time to climb back out and up to the White Rocks trail. It’s all up hill from here.
But luckily there are some neat things we didn’t notice on our way down.
We do make it back to the marker and turn left for about a quarter of a mile until I remember that the White Rocks trail actually leads to the White Rocks.
The only map I have is a very general simple one given out by the park with no detail. It shows the White Rocks somewhere on the left between this spot and the Hazel River. I haven’t brought any of my detailed information with me but I vaguely remember that they are the name sake for this trail because they are Old Rag Granite and that it isn’t very far beyond the junction to the waterfall. So we turn around to go back to see the White Rocks before leaving.
Along the trail we find some lovely views but no White Rocks.
The trail continues down down and down. This means up up and up. After about half a mile, David says he’ll turn around now and I should go on and see the White Rocks and report back.
So I do that. I go on and on and on and on and don’t see any big white rocks and ultimately I get to the bottom where the Hazel River is and I’m only 1.5 miles from the park boundary line. I know the White Rocks were before this. So I turn around and trudge back up the steep trail.
This time I’m looking pretty carefully. And finally, I find them. Would you have spotted them? Or thought they were the big deal? Perhaps I missed them the first time because of the log in the very narrow inconspicuous path or because from that direction, they aren’t as visible.
Even a little closer they sure don’t look white or particularly striking. They aren’t as large as many other outcroppings we’ve seen. But, I’ve come all this way so up I go.
There are views from here both West and East if you get in just the right spot to see them.
On the way to find an Eastern view I come across indentations in the stones that look like the heels of giant foot steps.
I check my pedometer and find that I’ve gone within 1/10th of a mile of the entire hike (5.4 miles) and I have at least 3 or so to go yet. My detour has been a longer one than I was planning on. But I’m not tired so up I go again.
The degree of up varies from a little to a lot.
There are some nice trees to hug along the way. My camera here is sitting on the trail below me.
I finally reach the marker for the falls trail which puts me in the home stretch. I’d guess perhaps 2.5 more to go. I wonder how long David has been waiting?
I come to the junction of the White Rocks Trail and the Hazel Mountain Trail. I’ll bet David has put the cairns on top of the post which reads 1.6 miles to Skyline Drive.
I don’t take many pictures on the way back but I can’t resist the wild phlox and butterflies in the late afternoon sunshine.
Where the Hazel Mountain Trial links up with the Buck Ridge Trail and I turn left, David has left another Cairn and some acorns. He says later that he put 4 and 1/2 acorns so I might think of the time. He was here at 4:30. I didn’t get it at the time. I just thought it was cute. I should have thought more about it. Only 3/10 to go now.
Back on the road now and the next stop is the parking lot.
There’s Ruby and my final time is 8.59 miles, slightly more than nearly 3.2 miles more than the original hike. I’m pleased to note that while I wouldn’t want to hike another 3 miles, I’m not exhausted. David says he’s only been here about 1/2 an hour. Now I’m really amazed at that. I thought it took me forever to go down to the Hazel River and back.
This turned out to be one of the longest hikes I’ve done in Shenandoah and I would absolutely return again and stay longer at Hazel Falls but I’d probably skip the White Rocks. I wish I had thought to take a picture of my pedometer when I got back to the junction with the falls trail but based on time I’d say it’s a mile or less from the falls. If you want a view that gives you both East and West, then it might be worth doing. Once is enough for me. But I could do Hazel Falls over and over and hope I’ll get the chance. Watch out anyone who comes to visit and can hike 5.4 miles!