I took some friends up on their offer of a day trip out to Shenandoah National Park for the 9 mile hike up to Mary's Rock and back. We had a great time overall, and I was happy to get out to SNP one last time before we head west next month.
It was a seasonably chilly January day, with an inch or two of snow still on the ground in many places and ice in the streams, but pleasantly sunny and not windy. The hike started by following and crossing Buck Hollow stream several times as it winds up a small valley on its way towards Skyline Drive, the main artery through SNP (and a great drive, or better yet bike ride, if you ever get the chance).
Our path to Mary's Rock crossed Skyline Drive at a full Meadow Spring parking lot and continued up the hill. The sun was out, I had taken my coat off, and it overall was a fine day for a hike. Our route followed the Appalachian Trail (AT, white blazes) for awhile along a ridge line, and it was easy to see from there why so many people hike the AT for thousands of miles from Maine to Georgia.
We reached the summit after a mile or so and took a nice break. The views are great, wrapping around for probably 250-300 degrees. A couple guys offered us their leftover lunch ingredients and I had an excellent white bread and american cheese sandwich to augment the granola bars and fruit I brought along.
We couldn't stay too long though as it was about 2 oclock and the wind was picking up. We headed back down hill to Skyline Drive, at which point we took a different path back down a steep trail to our cars. This section followed another ridge for quite awhile and we cooled off quickly under a steady breeze and cloud-obscured sun.
Our only complaint about the whole route was from this area, where the trail inexplicably uses probably a thousand of these small steps, when switchbacks would have been quicker and much easier on the knees. Not really that big a problem though - I'd certainly do this hike again.
We got back to the cars around 4:30 or so and set off back for DC, but not before getting the obligatory shot of the SNP sign as we drove by.
Lots more photos here.
Ryan and Cristina's travel blog, detailing our adventures in US National Parks and overseas in New Zealand and SE Asia.
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