Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Skyland to Little Hogback Mountain

Hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.  Our campground was full; maybe not 100%, but very nearly.  The smell of woodsmoke and hamburgers permeated the air.  The garbage dumpster is full of beer bottles.  I guess, a good time was had by all.

Hazy views all day
We were out on the trail, of course.  Normally, we prefer to stay at home and away from the crowds at times like these.  However, our time here is slipping away and we still have several miles to go to reach our goal.  It just worked out that our hike Sunday coincided with the most popular trails in Shenandoah National Park as well as the holiday weekend.

Sunday, we hiked from Skyland near the stables to Thornton Gap passing along the way the trails to Stony Man, Little Stony Man, and Mary’s Rock.  We didn’t count, of course, but I think we can safely say we saw a couple hundred people on the trail that day.  Ten years ago, we hiked to all these features.  If you visit Shenandoah, I would recommend these hikes--they offer some great views.  Since we’ve “been there, done that”, we just kept moving through the crowds and past the overlooks.

Hogback Mountain
I hiked south, again, starting at Thornton Gap.  There is a large parking lot at what used to be the Panorama Restaurant.  I had read (or heard) that it was later a Gift Shop.  What it is now is restrooms--that’s all.  Nothing to eat; nothing to buy.

By the time I got the nearly 2 miles uphill to the cutoff to Mary’s Rock, I was plenty tired of going up, so I didn’t.  Mary’s Rock offers the best views in the park.  There were plenty of rock outcroppings along the ridge-line and I made a couple photos.  The morning was hot and muggy, so the view was hazy.  Gene somehow had the energy to go up to Mary’s Rock as he came past.  He was there later in the afternoon and the haze had lifted.  He had a better view, but not the camera.

Little Stony Man
We met for lunch at the Pinnacles Picnic area.  The trail passes just to the edge of the picnic area.  We were lucky to get a table; even luckier to get one in the shade.

As I passed Little Stony Man there were climbers repelling off the edge.  I saw a rope stretched across the trail.  I looked to my right and all I saw was a helmet disappearing below the rock.  I’ll keep my feet on the ground!

Yesterday, we hiked from Thornton Gap to just north of Little Hogback Mountain.  This was a little farther than we originally planned, but the overlook where we were going to park at the north end was closed for resurfacing.  The next parking area was only a half mile farther north, so decided to hike longer rather than going back south a mile and a half.

There were no exciting features along this stretch of trail.  There were a couple of views, but we were mostly in the woods.  The highlight of the day was stopping at Elkwallow Wayside.  Like the typical thru-hiker, neither of us could pass up a chance for food.  The wayside was 5 miles from where I started--a perfect morning break stop.  I got there at 10:30 and ordered the famous blackberry milkshake.  I met Gene about an hour later and just sat on the log while he ate his lunch.  When he passed the wayside, he stopped in for a milkshake as well.

Looking toward Stony Man
It turned out to be a 13 mile day and we were both really tired puppies last night.  Stopped for burgers on the way home and barely managed to get our showers before collapsing in our recliners.  Pretty pitiful compared to the thru-hikers who are doing 20-25 miles a day through this section.

All is well this morning, but no hiking today.  In fact, no hiking for a week.  Tomorrow we are going to move our home up the road about 100 miles to Winchester.  Also tomorrow, our RVing friends, Tony and Diana, will be checking into the same campground.  We’ll spend the next 5 days being tourists and enjoying their company.

That’s it for today.

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