It’s been over two months since we’ve had a great mountain hike. So we were chomping at the bit to get back to one of our favorite places to hike, the Shenandoah National Park. Since we were rusty, we didn’t plan to maximize our time for the hike. But as it turned out, our Lord knew best and HE ordered our steps on this date (September 2, 2015).
We love hiking in this park. We’ve hiked here many times and it may be one of our favorite go to places for excellent hiking. In fact, we’ve driven the entire distance of the scenic Skyline Drive in our truck, pulling our 5th wheel. Read about the start of that trip here. While we loved the experience, relished the beauty and fabulous panoramic views, we learned it’s not really ideal for RVs for a few reasons. Although we met others in their campers, actually dry camping there and we did think for a few minutes how cool that would be. But we’re addicted to our full hook ups (water, sewer and electricity).
Main reason we wouldn’t do it again or recommend it for motor homes, are the very winding roads and the impatience of other drivers. The speed limit is normally 35 mph (for 100 mile trip, that’s a bit slow) but people push 45 easily. The Blue Ridge Parkway further south, into North Carolina, is 45 mph for the most part. And it is every bit as beautiful.
A little description about of these scenic drives, as they get mixed up (and we were mixed up) until we drove the entire length of the Skyline (Virginia) and parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina for simplicity). These are certainly some of the most beautiful roads in America! Starting at Front Royal Virginia, just 75 miles from Washington, DC, you drive south west for the next one hundred and five (105) miles down to I-64. This is called the Skyline Drive and is on the “top of the world” in the Shenandoah National Park on top of what’s called the Appalachian Mountains.
The building of the Skyline Drive was started in the middle of the summer in July 1931 and was one of the first scenic highways ever built in the United States. After you drive the 105 miles of The Skyline Drive you will then be on The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) which has a forty five (45) mile-an-hour speed limit and continues south west for the next Four Hundred and seventy (470) miles to Cherokee North Carolina. We’ve only driven and hiked on portions of this fabulous drive. Here we are on a favorite hike at the top of the BRP.
And since I have it handy, one of our clearest days to show the type of panoramic views from a top of the Appalachian Mountains. Sadly, the weather was a bit gloomy to get a great picture on this day.
For this trip, we really hoped for at least a six mile hike to a beautiful water fall. There are 75 waterfalls off of Skyline Drive, and all are accessed via outstanding hikes. As we were on our way to Mile Post 84, we saw a bolt of lightening. Then we looked at our GPS which shows radar and weather. Thunderstorms predicted by 4 pm. It was only 1:00 so we decided we had time for a good hike, but decided we better not go for a long hike. I quickly looked at the map we were given when we entered the park. There is a fee to enter the park, but it is FREE for us now that Bill has an “America the Beautiful” pass. Bill remembered seeing there was a waterfall at Jones Falls Run, Mile Post 81. So we pulled over there as soon as we saw it. At least we would hike to a beautiful, but smaller waterfall at 32′. We had hoped anyway.
We stopped and examined the trailhead map. One thing we love about this park is how well it’s marked and the quality maps provided when you enter the park. It looked like we would get in at least 4 miles and it was a pretty steep descent, about 1,000 feet, meaning a rough ascent but that is what we like – a challenge. We prefer to start low and go high, but not today! Either way it is a challenge.
When we arrived at the parking lot, there was a Minnie Winnie Class C motorhome and one car. Hiking during the week means you will see fewer people, which we always love – solitude. So down we began our ascent. Starting out, it was a nice path, but it began to get rocky and lots of roots. That always makes it more challenging. A family of five approached us, a mom, dad and three girls, ages about 8 to 14. They said they couldn’t make it to the falls as they had to get the girls home. They looked pretty beat, so we knew the return hike would be a challenge.
It wasn’t long before we saw the owners of the Minnie Winnie, a husband, wife and their dog. They also said they didn’t make it to the falls. We thought this was strange as it was only two miles there. So we kept on, enjoying the solitude. We were approaching two miles when we ran into two college students from Prague, Czechoslovakia. There we on their last holiday before their senior year. They first visited New York City and wanted to hike on this trail! We asked them if they saw the falls. They said they had, but they did the entire hike from MP 84 and saw the Doyles River Falls. By now, we realized the Jones Falls must be dried up! We enjoyed talking to them but they said they needed to finish their trail as they were on a much longer hike and the weather was beginning to turn.
We use “Map my Hike” GPS tracker so it soon advised us we had completed two miles. The falls were supposed to be at 1.7 miles, so we knew it had dried up. We really felt good and decided we would go on at least another 1/2 mile for a full five mile hike. But within a minute, we heard a loud crack of lightening! We’ve been caught in a storm in the past. We were not prepared for this, we we immediately turned and began a fast pace back, up up up the mountain. The lightening kept us motivated. But we hit a few very rocky areas and could only go but so fast.
Ah, but the ascent caught up to me and had to take a break, just 1/2 mile from the top. And of course, I am praying for the Lord to protect us. We could handle getting wet, but not stuck by lightening!
So in the end, we were a-ok and made it into the car safely. But it wasn’t 10 minutes when the heavens opened up and a serious storm started!
For our complete photo album, click here to Flickr.
“O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endures for ever.” Psalms 107:1