Wednesday, April 15, 2015
With the rain behind us, Nadine and I were excited to begin our first day in Shenandoah on dry trails. We had plans to spend the night deep in the woods, but decided to first tackle the short Stoney Man and Little Stoney Man loop before lunch. We quickly packed up camp and headed towards the campground restrooms to finish drying our boots under the hand dryers before heading to the trail.
After a short drive North along Skyline Drive, dodging crossing herds of deer, we arrived at the trailhead parking area. Our trail route would cover a little under 4 miles while following a short section of the Appalachian Trail to the Stoney Man Overlook Trail, then a visit the Little Stoney Man before returning along the Passamaquoddy Trail and Bridle Trail.
The summit at Stoney Man and overlook at Little Stoney Man both provided breathtaking views of the Shenandoah Valley and distant Massanutten Mountain Range. The Passamaquoddy Trail was also a highlight of our short hike as it passed under the Little Stone Man cliff face and followed along the ridge line, which provided views of the Shenandoah Valley along the way. We also enjoyed flowing waterfalls and loud, yet hidden, underground streams, gurgled under our feet as we completed our return trek. This quick hike was definitely a worthwhile morning excursion and should be visited by anyone passing through this section of the park.
After returning to our car, we headed to the Skyland Resort area to obtain permits for our planned overnight along the Nicholas Hollow trail. Upon arriving at Skyland, Nadine and I were both excited by the signage for a taproom within the resort. To our dismay, the taproom was not only closed, but also not very inviting for a weary hiker. We skipped the beers, enjoyed tuna sandwiches for lunch, and headed toward the Corbin Cabin/Nicholas Hollow trailhead.
We began our hike at the Corbin Cabin Cutoff Trail and parking area, heading down hill for about 1.5 miles before spotting the Corbin Cabin across a stream. Nadine’s nerves get the best of her when crossing the stream, but she’d soon learn to cross like a pro once we hit the Jeremy’s Run trail the following day. Approaching the cabin, we were hailed by a smiling, older gentleman who introduced himself as Ron “Greybeard”. Greybeard explained that he was a member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), which maintains many cabins in the area, and was there to prepare the cabin for the upcoming Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial event. He was also kind enough to provide us with a brief history lesson of the Nicholas Hollow area as well as some suggested destinations for the remainder of our road trip.
After chatting for some time, we departed and head down the Nicholas Hollow Trail to find a campsite for the night. Just past the Hot-Short Mountain Trail junction, we found several prime campsites under a canopy of evergreens and settled in for the night.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Rising early the following morning, Nadine and I quietly sipped on our coffee as we watched the sun slowly roll over the surrounding hills toward our campsite. On our way out of the valley, we took an alternate route along the Nicholas Hollow Trail past Corbin Cabin all the way up to Skyline drive where we then cutover to our parked car via the Appalachian Trail. This route provided a less intense climb out, which our legs appreciated greatly, especially with another trip planned for that evening.
Back in the car, with no time to lose, we headed further North toward the Elkwollow Picnic Grounds for our next expedition. After a quick resupply of our packs, a splash of water on our faces, and a chili and tortillas lunch, we were back on the trail headed down Jeremy’s Run for one more night. Not even a mile into our hike, we spotted our first black bear hunting around in the leaves near the stream bed. We paused briefly to enjoy his company, before continue along the trail, following the stream as it grew. Not much farther along the trail we encounter our first of many stream crossings as we descending. The first few crossings were not much trouble with exposed rocks or downed trees to shimmy across, but with ever increasing water volume the later crossings required wading through the water to reach the other side. This soon became tiresome, sometimes with several crossings within a few hundred yards. Boots off, socks off, cross. Socks on, boots on, repeat. By the time we reach our final few crossings, the water level was splashing above our knees as we crossed. The rain earlier in the week certainly had some influence here. Finally, with one more crossing, we spotted our campsite above a large, roaring waterfall. After a long day, we slept like babies.
The next morning we felt rested and strong for the tough hike out of the valley. We continued down the Jeremey’s Run Trail for another half mile before turning onto the Know Mountain Trail to begin our ascent. The climb was long and steep, but after more than 1800 feet of gain we prevailed with energy still in the tank. We were feeling good. The rest of the trail followed the ridge of Knob Mountain before peaking at 2865 feet and then descending back towards Jeremy’s Run. Before we were done, we were lucky enough to spot three more bears along the trail. The last bear we spotted, near the Appalachian Trail junction, wasn’t as camera shy as the others and stuck around for a quick photo shoot before running off. We suspect he finally got a whiff of the two of us and got out of there as soon as possible. After four days of camping, we were ripe and ready for a shower.