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Overall Run/Beecher Ridge – Shenandoah NP

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Hike Summary

This really has been the best summer since I’ve moved to Virginia. It’s been nice and cool, almost like where I grew up, in California.

The hike of Overall Run starts out at the end of a road, which turns into a private drive for about 3/4 of a mile. Along the road I saw mounds and mounds of spotted touch-me-nots. I had thought that they were just solitary flowers, from the ones I’d seen before, but here they were everywhere along the road.

Everything seemed like a jungle that day as I got to the trail itself and made my way in. As the trees closed around me, the world went quiet. There was a lot of dampness from previous rains, and the sun filtered in in little rays. The forest seemed to give me that same feeling that you get when you go into a cathedral or large building of worship – that feeling of silence. I imagine the feeling of the stillness of nature is possibly one of the things that influenced architects in the first place; we want to go back to where we came from, in the trees.

There was a fruity perfume in the air again, I am not sure which plant or wildflower causes it, it might be the blackberries that are nearing the end of their run perhaps, and fermenting on the vine.

The trail starts to climb, gently at first, meandering alongside Overall Run, which was a little dry at this time of the year, despite the rains. I came upon a brilliant purple flower out of nowhere as I was going along. I still haven’t gotten an ID from it, but its color was startling to behold out of nowhere.

The trail continues up on switchbacks, and I took some time to stop at a nice campsite to eat a snack. Continuing on my way, I got to the top of the ridge, and the view was clear out across the valley towards Massanutten mountain. As I stopped to take some pictures, I was joined by a pair of hikers making their way down. From this point on, for a good while, it was a rather busy hike as the trail comes very close to Matthews Arm campground, and there were a lot of campers getting in a last summer vacation in Shenandoah.

A little bit further on, the Overall Run falls were in view, but they were a tiny bit disappointing. As I said, even though it had rained, it was still a mere trickle due to it being late in the summer. I’ll definitely have to repeat this hike next spring.

Continuing with my hike, I made my way along towards Matthews Arm, and then the trail split off to go downhill. From this point on it was again pretty quiet, with fewer hikers. The character of the forest was a little different as well. Gone were the tulip poplars and oaks, and there was a drier, more piney forest.

I made my way around a bend and I heard a sudden crashing. I stopped, and I saw retreating from me two black bear cubs. Not wanting to have any encounters with their mother, I started to hike along much more swiftly, singing in a loud voice about how I was not very edible to bears, and that my dog and I were both rather stringy and not appetizing. This seemed to have done the trick.

I continued on, down the gentle decline of Beecher Hollow trail. About halfway down the descent, I encountered the two hikers again. Seems that we were both taking the same route, but in opposite directions. I gave them some assurances about the route back, and then blurted out some food recommendations, in case they were not familiar with the area.

I felt kind of silly about it afterwards, I often feel like I have a tendency to blurt out things at the wrong moment, or at an inappropriate time. I worry that I’m inserting myself into conversations in the wrong way, and worry that people thing I am making things all about myself. I’ve never had many friends, and I often wonder if this is why.

The trail made a right turn at the bottom of the hill and started to ascend again. It felt almost like the hike was already over, even though there was a way to go before I turned back off of the loop. The trail follows the river here, and eventually there’s a big swimming hole, which I didn’t partake of, there were people there and also some dogs. I had to set a pretty swift pace to keep ahead of the ones that had left the swimming hole the same time as I.

Retracing my path, I arrived at my car and set off for home, with a stop at Spelunkers and some Red Velvet Cheesecake frozen custard.

2013-08-21 Overall Run Beecher Ridge
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Loudoun Heights at Harper’s Ferry

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Hike Summary

I recently finished reading an excellent book: John Brown, Abolitionist, by David Reynolds. Since I had been steeped in so much history, and since the guys a HikingUpward had recently posted a new hike from Harpers Ferry up to Loudoun Heights via the AT, I figured it would be a good time to go visit.

Spring has given way to Summer, and this was a scorcher of a day. I managed to completely luck out and get a parking spot at the downtown parking lot (something I can’t imagine will ever happen again,) and I set out.

Harpers Ferry itself is almost entirely National Park, with most of the buildings serving as museums or commercial locations. I’m not sure anyone actually lives in the town, most people live nearby in Bolivar, WV. I followed the AT through down, passing by St. Peter’s church, the ruins of St. John’s church, and Jefferson Rock. You really can throw a rock and hit a historic site in this town.

John Brown himself held the armory for several days in 1859, his fort is still standing and serves as a museum site, and is one of the more popular attractions in town.

The day was really sweltering, and I was drenched in sweat for most of the hike, and I also had the unfortunate luck to forget my bandanna. Most of the hike was shady, but there were a few spots that were under the hot sun, and both I and my dog could feel the effects.

Passing on the AT over the Route 340 bridge was one of these spots. The sun beat down, but the view of the Shenandoah River was quite nice, nice enough to make me want to go down for a swim.

Then came the hill. Obviously, Loudoun Heights implies that it is indeed upon a hill, and so up a hill we went, following the AT on switchbacks, going up some cliffs above route 340, and along through the woods. I met a couple of day hikers, who asked me if I knew where the WV state line was. I confirmed on my GPS unit that it was along the Loudoun Heights trail, which was where I was headed, not far from where we’d met.

At the Loudoun Heights trail, there was a bit of up and down, with a few bits of clover flowers and the ruins of some Civil War Era fort emplacements. It isn’t as well documented with signage as Maryland Heights on the opposite side of the gorge. As with the view from that side, this side was quite impressive, seeing the rivers merging together, and seeing all the buildings below like little toys.

On the way back, I started humming the tune to “John Brown’s Body,” (better known now as the Battle Hymn of the Republic,) and gave in to the tradition of making up new and inventive lyrics:

“When we get to Harpers Ferry we’re going to eat us some ice cream”

“Oh yes, we will indeed!”

I had spied the two frozen custard stands on High Street, and when I made my way back into town, I stopped at The Coffee Mill and got some for myself and my dog. The prices were a little steep there, but it was totally worth it. The dog and I were both incredibly happy at the end.

Harpers Ferry Loudoun Heights