Sunday, October 25, 2009

14 September 2009 On The Trails At Shenandoah

Whenever we visit Shenandoah and stay at Skyland, we always set aside a few days in Dogwood. We've been lucky on each visit to be able to stay at the same place where we were for our honeymoon. Dogwood is small, but quiet and nestled back in the woods.

View From Crescent Rock

We started our hiking by making a trip between Betty's rock and Crescent Rock. Both were repeats, but the hike includes a nice stretch of Appalachian Trail with tall rock faces between the two. The flower above is an alien, but it was a new sighting for us and didn't appear to be aggressive as we only spotted it near the parking area for Crescent Rock.

Hawksbill is the tallest peak in Shenandoah. It is also very near to Skyline Drive so while the climb is a little rigorous, the walk is short and this is the easiest peak trail in the park. The perfect weather brought lots of visitors to the peak this morning. It was a little strange because there were at least two groups of visitors from Wisconsin and another Ohio couple at the peak while we were there. Hawksbill doesn't give a 360 view, but it is close to a 270 degree pan with a great view of the Shenandoah Valley.

Mountain Ash at the Edge of a talus slope

After we left Hawksbill, we picked up the AT to complete the loop hike. It's a short trail of only about three miles, but offers a nice look back at Hawksbill from a talus slope to the south.

This was a really bear filled trip. We had the most sightings on this trip as ever and by far the closest. Our first was on Sunday on an early trail. The bear moved off quickly and we continued our journey. This sighting in the photos was different. We were returning along the Rose River Fire Road when we saw a bear tree itself. Seconds later we heard the bear begin making sounds and soon realized the bear in the tree was momma calling to her cub. The cub found the tree and joined its mom with a little coaxing from her. We cautiously started to plot our way back (our car was on the other side of them) when Ali spotted bear number three. It was her second cub responding to mom's call. Cub two was soon up the same tree and we moved forward again. We detoured through the woods to give the three bears as much room as possible, but were completely surprised by the sight of a fourth bear. It was a third cub that was far from mom and just now responding to her call. Luckily he ambled past and joined the trio already in the tree.

Later in the afternoon we ran into yet another bear and her cub. They also treed themselves, and we gave a wide berth so all were happy.

We thought of doing Old Rag Summit on this trip, but it didn't work out with the shorter days. It will be at the top of our list on a return trip.

The Point gives a super view of the range for a number of miles. We enjoyed it here enough to return another day for sunset.

Miller's Head is our favorite place to go for sunset when we are at Skyland. It is a short walk of less than two miles round-trip from the amphitheater to the overlook. On our last visit we made multiple quiet trips here for sunset. This trip only this evening worked out for a visit. It was a little hazy, but we were happy.

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