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Buck Hollow/Mary’s Rock – Shenandoah National Park

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Hike Summary

This hike.

This hike was something.

What kind of something? I am still trying to figure that out. I feel drained. I’m almost too tired to even write. This hike was tiring, interesting, boring, exhilarating, and ultimately exhausting.

I got up at 6AM on Thursday, knowing that this hike would take a while, so I tried to plan ahead to make sure I had the most of the day to get it done in, preferably in the morning before it go too warm. Even though it’s Autumn, we were having an unusual warm spell, and temperatures were almost in the 80s.

I got to the trailhead, and that’s when some of my troubles started. First, my phone GPS wouldn’t lock on. Then, my heart rate monitor stopped sending data (this is a new toy I’d picked up recently) until I realized that putting my phone in Airplane mode is what turned the Bluetooth part off.

Anyhow, once I got all those things fixed, and all my gear adjusted, I was off.

The woods were sort of still wreathed in fog, but it started to burn off as I hiked. Buck Hollow Trail crosses the Thornton river (more of a creek) and follows another intermittent stream on the way, which was gurgling with water, and had a few lovely cascades. Going up was a pretty tough climb, but the views of the autumn foliage were nice, and when I occasionally had to stop to drink or catch my breath, I could hear plenty of forest sounds, like the rattling of woodpeckers, and the arguing of other birds.

Eventually, the trail comes up to Skyline Drive, at the Meadow Spring parking area. From there, the trail continued via the Meadow Spring Trail. This trail was much more crowded, much more than I expected on a weekday, with plenty of hikers making the same (but shorter) trip up to Mary’s Rock.

This was also the first time I got to hike for any significant portion on the Appalachian trail. Granted, it was only really a mile’s worth, but that’s more than I’ve hiked before. I really would love to hike the whole thing someday. After this hike though, it made me realize I have a lot to go before I can tackle such a challenge. I need a lot more strength and endurance.

So, up to the summit of Mary’s Rock I went, and upon arrival, there was a group of Baby Boomer types perched at the top, chatting. I took a break, taking pictures, relaxing, wolfing down another Clif bar. More people started to trickle up to the top, and it wasn’t long before it was almost a traffic jam. My dog was starting to get a little overstimulated from all the people around, so I decided to head back, stopping to take a picture of the old homestead on the way.

Down we went. At Skyline again, I ran across a group of people from (I am guessing by accents) New Jersey who were lost. They wanted to get to Mary’s Rock, so I gave them directions, giving them the map that I’d printed out, since I was on the way back, I didn’t really need it anymore. Hopefully it helped them get there. They were really pleasant people.

The way back down was pretty easy seeming at first, as downhills tend to be. It wasn’t particularly steep, but it seemed like it was taking forever. And then … I came to the rocks and The Stairs. The last mile or so of Buck Ridge Trail, before it joined back to Buck Hollow Trail, was extremely steep on loose rock and gravel. This rock and gravel was not very kind to my already sore feet. The trail builders tried to compensate for the steepness by building steps. These steps are evil. They were shallow with loose gravel, and they were also covered by tons of leaves, making them slippery and very treacherous. I will have nightmares of those stairs. I didn’t take any pictures of the stairs because I was so exhausted by this point (and thirsty, having run low on water, an error I don’t plan on repeating,) that my world just shrank into focusing on shuffling down these stairs, plus the endless sound of crunching leaves.

Eventually, I made it back to the main trail, and then back to my starting point. I almost hugged my car, I was so happy. I had done it. Nine … nay, almost 10 miles in one day. An altitude gain of over 2000 feet. I was, and still am, tired.

I think it will be a while before I do that length/difficulty again. I wanted to see if I could do it, and I know I can, but that it took all of my reserves to do so. I was running on empty by the time I was done.

More Pictures of Buck Hollow/Mary’s Rock Hike

Hopefully I will be able to go on a hike next week, but I am a little worried about the Frankenstorm, AKA the storm currently known as Hurricane Sandy. It is set to hit my area (if the current projections hold) on Wednesday, and there’s the possibility that it might dump snow on me. If that’s the case, I’ll have to think of something interesting to blog about that isn’t an actual hike I’ve been on recently.