Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Shenandoah Dec 2015 Trip

I had the great fortune to take a 2-day solo sojourn to SNP this past Sunday/Monday.

As is my MO, I hit the road at 3:51 a.m. and arrived at Panorama at 7:20.  I was surprised to see the gates to Skyline open (usually this time of year they open at 8) and proceeded North to Elkwallow, the start of my first day's hike.  I had elected to do the Knob Mountain/Jeremy's Run hike.  I've done Jeremy's--a 14 crossing ascent adjacent to the Run a couple of times before but I took the slightly shorter, but more vertical Neighbor Mountain approach.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  It was 40 degrees at the outset and rose to about 52/53.  No clouds and very little breeze--as good as it gets!

After about 7 miles of delightful hiking I found myself down to the bottom of Jeremy's Run and soon realized that it was a good deal higher than in my prior trips.  I searched and searched for a way across and discovered that there really wasn't one.  The water was a good two feet deep (much deeper than my boots) and so off came the boots and up rolled the pants.  Because I was coming from the west of the Run, I actually had to cross the stream 15 times and had to remove my boots for 5 of them.  The other 10 times had a variety of challenging problems to solve--very stimulating ascent!

The water was very cold, the current pretty swift in places and the rocks quite slick but i was fortunate enough to avoid any mishaps and stayed pleasantly dry and warm!

This next picture shows the tree that I "cowboyed" across (it was a good 3-4 feet above the waterline):

I (carefully) walked across this tree:

This accumulation of stuff was my ticket across the stream here:

In total it took me 7:12 minutes to complete the 13.9 mile/2700+ vertical ascent circuit.  I probably used a good 45 minutes looking for crossings and taking my boots and socks off and on.  A great and rewarding day in the woods.

Here is the data on the hike:

After the traditional night at the Speakeasy (nice Jazz quartet) and the Best Western in Luray, VA, I was once again at the Thornton Gap entrance before scheduled opening and entered just as the gates opened at 7:15.  By 7:55, I was on my way for the second hike of this trip.  For this trek, I entered the AT near Jenkins Gap between MP 12/13 about 2/3 rds up into the Northern section of SNP.  The first 5.5 miles were on the AT and featured summits of Northern and Southern Marshall--the later being the more prominent peak.  There was a 3rd peak as well but its probably a subsidiary peak of South Marshall.  The hike along the AT was very pleasant as once again the conditions were simply perfect--a repeat of yesterday!

At one point I passed this old house foundation--an unintended monument to the time the NPS kicked some 2,500 people out of SNP to open up the land that is Shenandoah today:

I soon came upon the Gravel Springs Hut area, a place that I've penciled for our first night camping when we go for a thru-hike of the AT in SNP (107 miles) next year:

The final 8 miles of this trek were along the Bluff and Mt. Marshall trails.  I saw on my topo map that these two trails seemed to follow along between 2000 and 2500 feet so I anticipated relatively easy hiking.  This proved to be true--mostly gentle rolling terrain for the most part and this led to a beautiful, and relatively quick hike on a spectacular December day.  I had a couple of little pitches and a stream or two but the last part of this trek was quite mellow:

Here's the data (13.8 miles/6:17/2,300 feet of vertical):

Two fun solo days--very grateful to be able to do this!  The knee and legs held up pretty well (although I was very stiff when I tried to get out of the car back in DE on Monday night!).  My new Hoka boots are awesome--the cushion is a real plus!

Thanks for reading.

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