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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

Riverbend Park

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Hike Summary

It’s been a rough week. I’ve been moody and irritable and starving the whole time. The weather people said that Thursday would be snow, but there was no snow, so I decided to shuffle things around and go for a hike on Friday.

I almost think I should have stayed home. All the stress and frustration was getting to me, and it was magnified on the hike. The guide I followed was once again out of date, but I didn’t handle it well, I would often get frustrated trying to search for where I was to go, or indecisive on which route to take. I really should have just gone with my first impulse, which was to follow the Bootlegger trail all the way down south, but my indecision made me stubbornly try to follow the directions.

It was actually a pretty day — the sun was shining, the Potomac was rushing swiftly by, making susurrating noises. There was a lot of wildlife. I really should have taken time to appreciate the hike, but I really just wasn’t in the right frame of mind.

So I cut it short, at “only” close to 5 miles. It’s funny to think about, when I first started hiking, 5 miles would have been a good hike. Now, it felt like just a mere warmup.

I am determined for the next hike to be more prepared for my route, although actually the place I have in mind I have hiked before, but I haven’t chronicled on here. We’ll see how the week goes.

More Pictures of Riverbend Park

Nicholson Hollow – Shenandoah National Park

In my fretting over Christmas gift selections, I completely forgot to make a post yesterday, my apologies!

Hike Summary

It was a pretty frigid Thursday as I set out to go on a hike. Things are definitely getting colder, although I am pretty well equipped to keep hiking, as long as the weather cooperates. There are a couple of things I could definitely use, and I am hoping someone in my family checks out my Christmas list, and purchases accordingly. Drinking cold water on the hike is alright, but I sometimes have to force myself to drink, as I don’t feel as thirsty as I did in the summer.

The parking for this hike is at the spacious lot for Old Rag Mountain, which is off of Route 600, in the back of nowhere behind Sperryville. I was a teensy bit surprised to see quite a few cars, but all of those people were off to hike Old Rag, which is something I can’t do with my dog, so I’ll have to wait until I can find a hiking companion. There was a sweet old dog hanging out in the lot, probably from one of the nearby farms, and he was super friendly, but my protective guy nudged him away, probably out of jealousy.

I’ve been somewhat afraid to write about how I hike, that it will invite bad luck on me or something. I think that part of that is because of the way I was raised, when the Trailside Killer was at his height in the SF area, (something that my family actually has a personal connection with,) and it was always drummed into my head that hiking solo is a Bad Thing.

Which is why I carry various self defense items, plus hike with my dog. He’s large enough and protective enough to be somewhat of a deterrent. Still, I definitely don’t take things for granted, and there’s been a couple of times where I’ve gotten a twinge of worry, like the time I tripped and fell into a patch of stinging nettles. Still, I consider every hike I make a blow against my anxiety and depression, and hope that it continues to do so.

There’s a half mile hike up the road to where Route 600 ends, and the trail begins, winding along private property, before crossing the Hughes River and following along it for most of the hike.

This river is pretty full and energetic, even at this time of the year, so I imagine that it’s quite lively in the springtime. There are large boulders at the crossings, which required a little bit of jumping, but not too bad to get across. There was one of the crossings that was a little trickier than the others, but I managed to get both myself and my dog (who hates water) across without too much trouble.

There are quite a few pretty waterfalls and cascades along the way, with a nice thunderous one near the beginning.

You can tell at times that the trail was probably an old road, as there are times when it felt very built up, with rock walls on one or the other side, or sometimes both sides. It made for an easier hike than some of the hikes I’ve done recently, a lot less rocky, with sandy soil¬† and a pretty gentle climb.

Eventually, the trail comes up to Corbin Cabin, which was my turning around point. The trail continues up to Skyline, but this was a good place to stop and eat some lunch. Even though it was sunny out, I found myself getting cold quickly, and somewhat regretted taking my gloves off, as they got cold and numb fast.

On the way back down, I heard some crashing in the undergrowth that sounded almost human like. I became a little nervous, and my dog was rather excited. The sun was in my eyes on the way back, but I looked off the trail to the side, somewhat behind me, and that’s when I realised I had just seen my first bear.

Or at least, the first backside of a bear, as it lumbered off away from me. Luckily it was the kind that was afraid of me, as opposed to the kind that would want to peel me open to find the delicious Clif Bars contained inside. I knew that all of Shenandoah was bear country, but this was my first. It was a bit of a thrill. I am no stranger to wildlife, I’ve seen lynxes, and foxes, and even a mountain lion, but bears aren’t something you see all too often.

It put a spring in my step on the way back for sure.

More pictures of Nicholson Hollow

Big Devils Stairs, Shenandoah National Park

Hike Summary
Finally, I was able to head into Shenandoah National Park after being stuck at home for two weeks. It was an almost giddy sense of freedom for me.

The weather was beautiful, with highs forecast in the 70s, it seems as if finally the hot sweltery  summer may actually be behind us. There was a crispness in the air, finally.

This was my first actual hike in Shenandoah NP. I’ve driven through it before, with my parents and with my SO, although he is not a fan, not liking heights all that much. I still haven’t managed to actually drive through it when the leaves have turned, so I am looking forward to actually doing that when the seasons really start changing.

Wild Grapes

So, the hike. It was billed as being able to see some unusual overlooks that one doesn’t normally get to see in Shenandoah, so I figured I’d give it a go. I am still building up my strength with regards to elevation changes, so a 5 mile hike with 1000 ft of elevation change seemed to be a good fit.

It started out easily, down a fire road that paralleled the Appalachian Trail, which was a nice easy walk. Then, it veered off into a narrower trail that was more rough, alternating between dirt and a lot of rocky scree, which made for some rough footing. I did lose my balance at one point and fell into a patch of stinging nettle, which was rather entertaining. My canine companion came back to investigate why we weren’t moving at all, but was otherwise entirely unhelpful.

The woods were alive with the sound of birds, but no longer cicadas. It was very shady throughout most of the hike, until the junction with the actual Big Devils Stairs trail itself. The landscape changed a bit from broadleaf trees to more evergreens, with big stands of mountain laurel lining the trail. There was a permanant campsite along the way, it looked like a pleasant place to stay.

Then, the trail came out to the edge of a gorge, on a big rock outcropping. There was a nice sheer edge and I did get a little nervous. It both helped and didn’t help that my dog didn’t seem to care one bit and walked right over to the edge and sniffed the side.

First Overlook

I clenched my teeth and stuffed down my nervousness and went down the steepish path to the second overlook. The view was pretty spectacular. The pictures don’t really do it justice, especially since it’s hard to really see that it’s a bare edge into space.

Second Overlook

The second overlook made a good place to stop and have a little bit of lunch. As I sat there, I could hear the wind sigh over through the gorge. It was very peaceful and isolated feeling, as I looked out over the mountains. One can almost imagine that the forest just keeps going, undisturbed to the edge of the continent. Then, I heard an airplane, and was broken out of my reverie. Time to turn back and head home.

The way back

I have actually recovered pretty quickly from the soreness of this hike, only really getting some major soreness in my hips. I am getting more fit, it seems.

More pictures of Big Devils Stairs