Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Weekly Hiking in Shenandoah National Park

October 13 –October 28, 2014
Greenfield Mountain Farm
Near Charlottesville Virginia




Lynda has been my dear friend for over 30 years.  We share environmental values and a love of hiking so while I am back, we hope to do weekly hikes to beautiful spots and spend time together.  We meet atop Afton Mountain which is the spot where the Southern end of the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park meets the Northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway which runs all the way to North Carolina.  I have loved living in the foothills just east of here.

Lynda drives and uses her senior pass to gain us free admission to the Skyline Drive.  We travel north to the trailhead.

It’s a beautiful fall day.  The leaves are lovely.  Lynda’s in the lead when we start off.





We don’t take very many pictures. We are just enjoying our hike. Besides, I don’t have my camera so I use my phone. This was not formerly too much of a problem when I had an HTC Thunderbolt phone with a great camera. I had insurance on the phone. Finally the day came when it just had too many problems. That’s when I found out the difficulty of insurance.

I called them up and they said oh sure, we’ll replace your phone with an HTC Rezound for $100. Over the years I’d already paid nearly $300 in premiums so I was not amused at this price information.  No one mentioned there would be a “co-pay” on any phone I needed.  If you have insurance or before you buy better check now to see what your coverage is. I wasn’t that wise, when I got the phone, they asked if I wanted insurance for $7 a month and I said fine.  Big mistake.  Mine was not real replacement insurance apparently. They claim they didn’t have the Thunderbolt now and would send me the Rezound. Anyway, to make a long story short I cancelled the insurance of course and am making do with the Rezound which has terrible camera among its other problems.  I used to be able to make do with my phone, but not any more. The best pictures here are Lynda’s. She has an iphone.




I’m not sure how long we hiked.  We hadn’t come prepared to do the entire eight mile loop and were really sorry for that.   But the views of the Blue Ridge in the fall were really wonderful.






We’re starting back when I can’t believe my eyes.  I’ve found a prickly shell of a chestnut.   I’m over joyed.  Chestnuts were magnificent trees which covered the southern Blue Ridge before an imported blight killed them all.  They were to the mountain people what the buffalo were to the Plains Indians.  They provided food, and a cash crop, rot proof wood for shelter and heat.  They were grand trees.  There has been nearly a century of research spent trying to bring them back, to find some way to make them blight resistant.  And it looks like they have finally had some success.  Here is a link to the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project if you’d like to read more about the excitement.  



But this tree must be one of the nearly century old ones still trying.  We have some at the farm and have noticed that they try mightily to come back from their roots but after they get to be about my height, the blight takes them again before they are able to bear fruit.  This find is just amazing.  Where is the tree?  I’m so unfamiliar with it, I’m not sure.  But I see several of the shells in this area on the ground.  The nuts of course are gone.  Yummy for someone.




The shells are prickery, really sharp and hard to hold.  You don’t bother them until they crack open on their own and release their prize.  Or at least I don’t.  Maybe some other animals do.



This find just made me inordinately happy to know that there is one wild chestnut tree in this woods making chestnuts.




Today we return to Shenandoah National Par.  Trying not to drive too far up the Skyline Drive, we do two shorter hikes.  They aren’t very challenging.  Next time we’ll drive further. 

The first is to the top of Calf mountain on the Eastern side of the drive.  The hike begins in a meadow which has recently been mowed.  We both wonder why they spend the time and manpower to mow it.   We do notice at the edge of the meadow are some old apple trees so this must have been the site of a mountain homestead or its orchard at one time.






We encounter the Appalachian Trail.  I always thought this double hash mark meant a trail intersection but I don’t see anything but one trail.   And apparently an AT hiker has left us some wisdom at the top of the post.







We find the same post when we reach the top, sans the wisdom.  This area too has been mowed.  I guess to keep the views you have to mow since in this area Mother Nature will send in the East Coast Deciduous Forest in a matter of a few years.  Grasses apparently aren’t her idea of what should be here.




It’s a lovely view of the Blue Ridge.


We think the trail must be longer than this so we continue on hoping to do some more of the AT.





But after another half mile or so it starts down the other side and turns into a fire road.  Where did the AT go?   We decide it’s not the fire road and turn back.  Below Lynda looks west back down toward where we parked the car.  She’s looking at Bear Den Mountain, our next trail.




Across the road on the west side of the drive is the trail to Bear Den Mountain.

The trail has been advertised as “follow the AT to the summit of Bear Den Mountain.  If the day is clear, panoramic views open in all directions. Best of all, seven old tractor seats have been inserted by their posts into the ground, offering thrones on which to perch.  The landscape below offers scenery fit for a queen or king”.  Sounds cool right??  Sounds like a great place for lunch on a tractor seat.  Well apparently a lot has happened since the book was published in 2006, among which I later find is a new edition in 2012.  Guess I should have had that one for hopefully an update to sync more with what we find here.


We start up the trail and look back East where we can see Calf Mountain we have just come down.





Lots of signs of fall on the trail.




Up we go.


And when we hit the top…….WHAT?   This is a totally candid shot.  It’s what Lynda did when she saw this mess.   Neither of us could believe it.  Why in the world would you route the AT by this??  Boy how things change in 8 years.



There are the tractor seats alright.  Not six but two and one post.  Where are these great views on a blue sky puffy white cloud clear fall day?




Boy are we disappointed.  But we find a great outcropping and have our lunch there.   It’s still wonderful to be up in the park and outside on such a beautiful day. Lynda gives me a cheeky smile for the lunch picture.






These really are almost duplicate trails beginning in mowed meadows and both on the AT.



But the beginning (or end depending on which way you are going) of this one has a fence-style type opening.   There are words here too, though they don’t seem like wisdom to me.







To make sure we avoid our error of last week, we drive 75 miles into the Mount Pleasant Special Management Area west of Amherst Virginia.  We have both hiked the Cold Mountain Trail before although Lynda far more times than I, so it is a good thing she is driving. 

We know it is a good hike of about 6 to 7 miles some on the AT.  Really looks like winter here.
If you are beginning to get the feeling that most of the hikes in this area are on the AT you would not be wrong.  Or perhaps more correctly, lots of trails in our neck of the woods go off the AT.  Virginia has more miles of the Appalachian Trail running through it than any other of the states through which it passes.



OK which trail?





I spy this beautiful striped wintergreen along the way.  It really stands out with the dry leaves surrounding it.


Right across the trail is this arrow.  Obviously it must point to something other than the trail.  We think perhaps a campsite for AT hikers??  But we don’t see anything.



Another of the mowed spots.  What is the park doing mowing all this I wonder.  This isn’t even for a view.  Mowing acres takes a long time and a lot of gasoline.  I know that for sure.




Back in the woods we start climbing up.




Passing lots of large boulders.



Crossing the stream.


We decide to find a spot by the water for our lunch today.  When we sit down we hear the cedar waxwings in the trees above us.  They are way too flighty for me to get their pictures.  But I love to hear their group chatter.




As we move on, I get this shot back through the trees to one of the AT shelters for hikers.  They are usually near streams.  This one was just up from our picnic spot though it is 1/2 mile off of the AT.  That means that those who through hike the AT do a lot more than just the 2000 miles of the trail.  Shelters being off a “spur” trail is very common.




We get to our first set of views which do not disappoint.



On up we go through the nearly bare trees.  The ground is covered in dry leaves.




Our second view point. Nice of them to place these at distances so we have an excuse to rest from the up hill climb for a while.




Pretty hazy out there.  The mountains just seem to go on and on in the background.



We reach the final rock scramble before the summit.







Mighty Fine!   What a great place to be on such a day.


Lynda is taking a fabulous trip to the Galapagos islands in late November and is in the market for a new camera.  She tries out mine.  I do some silly poses for her and even have her zoom in on my nose.  It isn’t until I’m putting the blog together that I realize I’ll have to use one of them just to prove I was actually on this hike.   But not the nose shot.



I show her the power of the zoom by taking a shot down into the valley through the crack in trees to the left in the picture below.  What we see with our naked eye is a little patch of white.   What my camera can get is pretty hazy but not bad for miles and miles away.







I look back for one more shot before we start back down.    The mountains and hills roll on and on. No wonder it’s called the Blue Ridge.  It’s just north of those “smoky mountains”.   These look pretty smoky too.



Thanks Lynda for these great hikes!  I sure do look forward to them.


Next up:  Carrie and Matthew come to visit.


  1. Thanks for taking me along on your great hikes with Lynda. The leaves are GORGEOUS. The trailhead at Springer Mountain is about an hour and half from me. Happy that you made it back to see the leaves turn. Rich and I used to drive up there and hike on beautiful fall days. We met quite a few "through hikers". They were always very interesting people.

  2. Good to see you're getting out for some outstanding hikes and views. Well except for the tower part. I really don't get the mowing of the meadows.

  3. What a great place to have in your backyard, looks like some good hikes with a good friend.

  4. Looks like a great week of hiking in a beautiful area of our country in the east. Nothing like fall leaves on the path to hike through:) Great views!!

  5. How fun to have a good friend to hike and explore with. We're doing the same with friends here in Ashland -- it certainly wasn't our plan to be here for several months, but at least we can continue our adventures close to home, just as you are. How wonderful to know that the chestnuts have the possibility of making a comeback! Looks like you're having some beautiful fall weather there. You're in a t-shirt!!

  6. Fall is one of the most colorful times of year. The views of the ridge are stupendous! I like your camera as well, and am thinking about getting one with our Amazon earnings :)

  7. Thanks for showing us the joys close to home. So many people only post the wonders of far away lands. I for one would love to see more of Virginia....I haven't seen much of it and to see it through your eyes would be a treat!

  8. Your lovely Shenandoah pics take me back to about a year ago when I was passing through, and we exchanged emails about a possible meet-up. I regret not having slowed down long enough to make that happen...

  9. You are in one of my favorite parts of Virginia. I would really like to take some time next summer to backpack at least part of the Shenandoah.

  10. That's a lot of hiking, but well worth it. Glorious, magnificent views.

  11. Good hikes. Wonderful that you found a chestnut that has managed to escape the blight so far.

  12. Happy to see you having a lovely time in VA, but...I want to see the nose shot!!! :) (however, I totally know you will ignore this request, so I must say this tour of VA was very cool :))

  13. You do live in a beautiful area of our country!!! People travel long distances to hike where you are hiking...how cool to have access to all that beauty :o)) Yes, I believe you are getting your 10000 per day!!!!

  14. Now I'm having google problems. I have no email and can only view about one in ten of the blogs I follow. So yours is one of them for tonight. Lucky you! Of course I'm no longer getting all the pics. What a pain in the neck! It remains to be seen if this comment will post...

  15. The SX50 is a great camera for the Galapagos ... unfortunately, I didn't get mine until after we got back. I'm having a similar problem to Judy ... Google's been driving me nuts all day.

  16. great days of hiking and stories and things to see, flowers and friends!!!

  17. It's sad to see so many great American trees destroyed by foreign invaders, like the Pine Bark Beetle that is destroying millions of pines, or the Dutch Elm disease that decimated the American Elm. It is good that you found some chestnuts, hope the tree makes a comeback. If you find it during your hikes, give it a hug for me!

  18. Love seeing these pics. They look at lot like here! So glad you have someone to hike with there. Knowing your thirst for information, you've probably already found the answer to this, but the double blaze on the AT signals a sharp turn in the trail, a route change of some sort or an incoming side trail. I've never hiked in that area and am hoping someday we can make that happen together!

  19. The AT looks quite a bit different up there. We're close to the beginning at Springer Mountain and I never saw any meadows, unfortunately.

    I'm glad you like your camera. Mine is barely a year old and it's broken. Canon says I can sent it in for repairs but the average cost is $330... Really? I an buy a new one for almost that amount! I love the camera though, and may just end up with their new updated version (with a stronger zoom, if you can believe it)

  20. that first hike was just beautiful. . .glad you are finding something to keep you busy!

  21. Love the little hedgehog chestnut pods! I wonder if the research group looks for survivors in the wild to study for hybrids? Interesting to see the leaves change and drop over the weeks - the trails are wonderful. Very sad to see the tower take the place of tractor seats :-( If it were CA I'd say they mow to reduce the fire danger, but in that area maybe it's an invasive flora or fauna that spreads in the tall grass - or a botanical disease? An interesting mystery. The rocks in the small scramble look like discarded oyster shells. I love that you've gotten out and about in that beautiful countryside - and taken us along!

  22. Beautiful views! So nice to see Lynda's cheeky smile :) The trail signs were amusing. How wonderful to see a chestnut!! Reason to celebrate :) Lovely hikes. Great idea to go weekly!


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