Enter your email address below to subscribe to David's Wanderings in the Wild - A Hiking Blog!

powered by Bloglet

Monday, July 17, 2006

Shenandoah - Whiteoak Canyon

Yes, yes, I know. It's about time, right? I promised you I would post something, so here I am at last. But anyway, this photo isn't bad for an opening shot, is it? Yesterday I went to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Skyline Drive is the scenic road that goes through the park. To save time, I didn't enter at the North Entrance at Front Royal. Instead, I went to Luray, a bit further south, and entered at Thornton Gap using US 211, near Mile 32 of Skyline Drive. Just south past Mile 32, I drove through a tunnel, and then I stopped on the left for a scenic view just out of the tunnel (Mile 32.4, Tunnel Parking Overlook):

The drive up into the mountains was steep and I felt my ears pop. This is the only really broad scenic view that I took, because it was a hazy summer day, and views were not going to be the nicest anyway. For that reason, I chose a forest hike with a canyon and views of a waterfall. For that I drove about 10 miles south of the entrance and this first view, or about 16 kilometers if you use metric. I parked my car at Mile 42.6, Whiteoak Canyon Parking. This hike was an ideal choice, because I would not have to look for views a long way off that were blocked with ozone haze, and the forest and water would keep me cool. I got started hiking around 4 PM on a Sunday, which is late, but made for pleasant temperatures, even if it did mean I was a bit crammed for time.
In the parking lot, I donned my oh-so-sophisticated hiking gear (left). My daypack with honey-roasted nuts, my hat to keep out the bugs, my metal hiking staff, and worn out leather boots and cushioning socks. Just the get-up I needed to tackle the job at hand. The photo just to the right now is of the trail right near the beginning point. The guidebook I was using (Guide to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive, by Henry Heatwole described this as a difficult hike. It certainly started out easy enough, and did not look difficult at all. What could be easier, more charming, more benign than this flat path throught the forest? Although perhaps a little difficult to see here, the forest had considerable damage, unfortunately. There had indeed been storms, including heavy rainstorms which caused mudslides and flooding in the area recently. You can see a fallen tree or two in the photo at right. Photo-wise and experience-wise, I tried to make the best of it, though. Fortunately, no matter what your interest, you can always have a great time in Shenandoah, even if it's hot (as it was that day), or if the trail or view is not perfect. That's how wonderful a place it is.

One very satisfying aspect of seeing a waterfall is that you can sometimes see its source and watch it develop as you g
o down the trail. That was very much the case here.
Now look at these two photographs. This is when things started to
get interesting. The water here started as a stream and a trickle, and at the photo at right became a small creek. A very nice setting, I think. The creek gradually got wider, and at left you can see one bridge that I used to cross it. The trail crossed the creek several time using bridges of this type, as it wound down into a canyon. At the start, though, you would never have known that there even was a canyon. The trail did gradually gets steeper, and you did eventually get the sense that you were going downhill. As I made my way down, I knew that it was the latter part of the afternoon, and that every foot I went vertically down, I would have to go back up again in order to return to the parking lot.
Now in these next two photos, you can see this creek getting steeper and faster. I started to have to watch each step I took more. The way started to get a bit difficult, but I had forgotten the mundane cares of a working life. I had already forgotten about the nervousness of starting a new job, about everyday worries, etc. I had seen some people near the start of the trail, but now there was nobody else on the trail. I was completely immersed in nature. Most of the people I had met were going the other way, towards their cars. That's how I like it. I go to the places when they are a little more empty. The photos are also a little better in the evening because the sun is low in the sky, and I don't have to fight any crowds to get the nice views.

Now in the photo at left is the top of the canyon. On the other side of it is a forest - here I was just seeing over the rocks. In the next photo on the right below you can start to see the waterfall. This view is way too remote, though. I wanted to see it up-close and personal. However, this put the waterfall into context for me, and it was quite easy to see that it was part of a canyon. From the stream at the start, you could see how the waterfall started, and now you could see what it had cut into.

I turned back to the trail
and descended into the canyon. This part of the trail got steeper and was tricky, but I have certainly hiked in far worse conditions before. It could be that Heatwole exagerrated the difficulty slightly, but descending into the canyon, I did begin to feel it in my knees a little.

Look at the canyon walls here, at the photo on the right! This photo begins to give you a sense of it.
As the trail got steeper and the footing ever less secure, I realized that I had to turn back soon. As is my custom, I wanted to end my hike with an interesting view. The thing that I had been building up to and waiting for. Usually that's the view of the mountains and the valley at sunset, but today it was slightly different. Anyway, now I had finally reached my goal, the bottom of the uppermost falls. There are several more falls further down, but this was enough for one day. This sight made for a good ending, and it was already getting late.
On the way back, I hurried to get back to the car before sunset. I could have sworn that I saw a bear on the way, but I couldn't be sure because it was too far away from me to see well. I saw several deer as well. I hurried because I wanted to keep a healthy distance from that bear. I got back to the car at 9 PM, right around sunset.

Please feel free to leave comments and tell me what you think of this blog and my adventures. Usually I go to these places alone (as I mentioned in my first post, my friends are kind of lazy as far as hiking is concerned). I'm happy to plug into the hiking and blogging communities and compare notes and swap stories, and links and comments to my blog are more than welcome. I tend to take a lot of photos, so it takes a lot of time to prepare them. My next post will have more of the standard mountain sunset stuff. Anyway, happy trails and I'll see you next time!




Blogger Waterfall said...

Nice pictures! Thanks for visiting my blog. I went to school in Virginia (Mary Baldwin College in Staunton) and am very familiar with Shenandoah NP and areas south and west of it. Beautiful country out there!

10:43 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Thanks Waterfall! I recently did a day hike a little closer to my home in Maryland. I tend to take shorter day hikes at the moment. I may try camping again. My friends are so lazy, though, that getting them to go even on a short hike is next to impossible. Ironically enough, my friends from other countries like going because it's very new for them. I just got a new, modern camping stove, and I have all the other equipment already.

I know the name Staunton. I think I drove by it on the way to Shenandoah Park. Anyway, take care!


9:31 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home