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Nicholson Hollow/Corbin Hollow – Shenandoah NP

Hike Summary

I haven’t been up this way since the day I lost my last hiking staff. This was the hike I was supposed to have done that day. It was very wet and foggy. Everything was damp, and as I approached the stepping stones across Hughes River, I realized that a panic was in danger of setting in. Last time I’d been to this spot, my dog had fallen into the icy stream, and I had to wade in and fish him out, putting an end to our misadventure for the day.

I tried not to worry as I crossed the stream, but I could have sworn that the rocks were super slippery. I’ve been having a lot of footing problems as of late, and I really do need to replace my boots soon, hopefully with something that is a bit more surefooted.

I steadied myself with the staff and made my way across. I breathed a sigh of relief, and felt better, but my heart was still racing, still pounding. It put me in a slightly cranky mood for the next couple of miles, but the nervous energy also seemed to give me some extra push, and I made some pretty decent time up the first portion of the trail.

This route on my trail guide was referred to as Corbin Mountain, but it really isn’t so much. Only about half a mile of the hike spends time on Corbin Mountain trail itself. Much more of it is spent on the Nicholson Hollow Trail and other connecting trails. I’ll have to venture out and do a shorter hike on the Corbin Mountain trail itself. It would make for a shorter loop, and perhaps isn’t all that picturesque, but it would be something different. Besides, I need excuses to hike trails down in this area, as Carousel will be closing in October for the season, and I have to get delicious ice cream while they’re still making it.

On the way up, I didn’t see a ton of flowers, I did see quite a few spotted touch-me-knots, and what I have now discovered is New York Ironweed (the same purple flower I couldn’t identify on my last hike.) I came across two girls who were trying to get to Old Rag, but they had a bit of a long hike ahead of them – I think I was about 3/4 of the way to Corbin Cabin when I encountered them. I showed them my map and gave directions on the fastest way to get there from where we were (likely back the way I’d come already.)

I came across another crossing of Hughes River and saw a very fine swimming hole, and stopped to eat a snack. There are a lot of nice swimming holes and campsites along the river, would be a pleasant place for a weekend camp.

Even more pleasant, however, would be Corbin Cabin, one of the PATC cabins that are available for rent that are in Shenandoah and elsewhere in the region. I’ve stopped here before, and although it’s locked, it makes an excellent place to stop and take a lunch break. There’s a nice, wide porch not unlike an AT shelter, so I can put my pack down without worrying about something crawling into it and hitching a ride. Having flat ground is nice as well, and a clean spot to sit down that isn’t a rock or a damp stump.

I am no Chanel camper, or someone who thinks the best idea of camping is a hotel room, but it is nice to have a dry behind when you’re trying to gnaw on a Clif bar.

I sat there, getting a little warmth from the bit of sun, and watching my dog nose around the container holding his treats. He’d come up to it, poke it with his nose, and then look at me, as if to say, “It is time for you to dispense with the treats!” Of course, I had to oblige him. He hikes just as much as I do.

I sat and mused on writing. I think I might have finally gotten a character in my head and a story that is starting to form around him. I’ve jotted some notes down in my notebook as the thoughts have struck me, now I just need to get them onto paper (or into a document I suppose.)

Break time over, I headed out again up Indian Run Trail, where things grew steeper for a while. I thought for sure all this hiking would end up making me sore later on, but even this uphill gave me little soreness the rest of the week. I’m not sure how I’m going to make things harder, short of taking up rock climbing (which is not really something I’m all that interested in in the wild, since my dog can’t come with me on that.)

I hiked on through the gloomy trees, until I spotted some cluster of berries growing close to the ground. I was having trouble holding my camera steady, and I moved my hand over to give myself more support. Stupidly, I stuck my hand right into the middle of a stinging nettle plant. Sharp zings of fire went up my arm immediately, and my fingers swelled up a bit. It seemed I didn’t do too much damage, as the pain went away fairly quickly. I was thankful I didn’t have to go looking for some mud to stick my hand into.

I went on Old Rag Fire Road for a ways, and then turned down Corbin Hollow trail. There, I saw some fields of giant ferns, and I encountered another hiker, who seemed completely flabbergasted to see another hiker. “I’ve been hiking this trail 15 years,” he said, “and this is the first time I’ve ever seen another person on it.” He then advised me that he had spotted no less than 3 copperheads on his way up the trail – something that could be a bit of a danger to my dog. This resulted in some additional anxiety for me as I made my way down, keeping my dog tethered closely. I almost wish he hadn’t told me, but I was definitely better off knowing.

Eventually, I hit Weakley Hollow Fire Road and the most interesting bits were over. Fire roads are pleasant strolls, but they don’t feel all that much like hiking to me, particularly Weakley Hollow, which is a thoroughfare for anyone heading up to Old Rag.

2013-08-30 Nicholson Hollow-Corbin Hollow

Disaster, and Pastries

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I tried to go for a hike. It did not go well.

The little creeks and rivers are swollen with rain and water right now. With the spring thaw, weather can conditions can be unpredictable. I am discovering that spring is really the most challenging season for hiking in this area.

So, my intent was to go to Sperryville and hike the Catlett Mountain loop. I’d hiked part of this before when I’d done the Nicholson Hollow trail, back in the autumn.

There are two stream crossings immediately upon hitting the start of the trail. The stepping stones had water lapping around and in a couple of places over them. I figured it wasn’t too difficult to manage, and unhooked my dog to make the crossing.

As I went across, I slipped and pitched over. As I did, my thermos took a swan dive out of my backpack’s side pocket and dove into the creek, never to be seen again. I scrambled across and recovered myself, looking forlornly after it. I sighed, and decided to push on. I had another bottle of water.

Then I saw the next creek, the larger Hazel River. In this case the water was definitely lapping over the stepping stones too much. I decided this was time to not be stupid, it was time to turn around.

So I had another crossing. This time, I slipped and fell again, cracking my shin hard. What was even worse was my poor dog slipped also and fell into the creek, flipping over and then gaining his feet and standing in the middle of the water. He seemed to be in a bit of a panic, and he refused to move, clinging as hard as he could to the riverbed.

I scrambled the rest of the way to the other side, and quickly set my pack and my walking stick down, and took my jacket off. I was cold and a bit wet, but I had to get Varro out of the water, and soon, he was starting to shiver.

I walked out on the rocks, and tried to grab him, with little success. I had to wade into the river and drag him out, and he is not a tiny dog or anything, being an English Springer Spaniel.

So I got him to the bank, and shrugged my jacket and my pack back on, and we left to go back to the parking area. I saw a few hikers headed out, and warned them about the trail. Most of them were headed up to Old Rag though, so they didn’t have any worries.

I got in my car and headed home. I was soaked to the hips, and bummed out. My dog was soaking and wet, but the heat was drying us both out. I decided a quick stop was in order on the way back.

So when I hit Warrenton, I pulled into the wonderful Red Truck Bakery. They’ve been written about in far more reputable publications than my little blog (like the New York Times and Esquire,) but I do have to say that their baked goods are delicious, and very affordable. I still have yet to try one of their sandwiches, but their croissants are marvelous. I grabbed an apple one (only $2.50) and munched on it on my way back to the car, noticing I had scraped knuckles and a slightly bleeding hand. Hopefully I didn’t look too horrifying when I was in the bake shop!

Once I got home, I realised something terrible. In my haste to get back to my car, I had left my hiking stick behind. This was the final straw for me for the day, and the tide of shock and anger and fear washed over me, and I cried for a bit. I know that things are replaceable, but it had been a gift, and I felt stupid for leaving it behind. I thought about getting in the car and  going back, but it was an hour an a half drive back, I was low on gas, and still soaking wet. Plus, with the amount of hikers already heading up the trail, there were few guarantees that someone hadn’t already walked off with it.

So, I put an ad on Craigslist, hoping someone runs across it and will see the ad. I have my doubts, though. I should have had my name on it.

I still have a bruise on my knee and a chain of additional bruises down my shin, and I will have to learn to be more cautious with the unpredictable weather. I will go back, though!

My grandmother always told me, the times I fell off a horse, that I had to get back on or it would always hold me back.