Last weekend I decided to take a drive out to Shenandoah National Park to do some hiking. My goal was to hike to the summit of Stony Man mountain, then continue hiking along the Appalachian Trail (“AT”). I saw a beautiful photo taken from Stony Man in Backpacker magazine and was hoping to get a picture or two using my iPhone.
|The signs are right “Watch for Deer”|
I won’t bore you with stories of DC-area traffic…coming and going, but will say that you have to love getting out to the country to suffer the traffic. I guess you take the bad with the good.
It was a relatively cloudy day, so I knew my visibility would be limited. What I did not know or could not recall knowing was how high some of the mountains are in the Park. Stony Man is just over 4,000 feet, only about 300 feet shorter than Mt. Mansfield in Vermont. The summits of each mountain are very different. There is no tree line on Stony Man like the one on Mt. Mansfield. It was about 10 degrees cooler on the summit of Stony Man than in the valley. I’ll take cooler, even if it is only 10 degrees!
|A sneaker-friendly trail|
The other big difference between the peaks of Shenandoah National Park and Vermont is that Virginia has Skyline Drive which runs along the peaks and is parallel to the AT through the Park. I recall reading that FDR’s Administration had a similar proposal regarding building a Skyline Drive in Vermont that would run along the backbone of the Green Mountains, but that Vermont – then being very independent and wary of too much government intrusion – rejected the idea. Virginia’s mountains are more accessible than Vermont’s, but something is lost when you can just drive right up to a high peak.
I know something is lost because that’s how I began my hike, driving to a parking lot just south of Stony Man’s summit. Fortunately, there were many other trails, because the hike to the summit was not too long or too challenging. It was, however, a great place to eat lunch.
|Hiker looking down on the clouds|
There was a front moving in while I sat at the summit and ate my ham and cheese sandwich. Luckily, the clouds below did offer some nice views. It wasn’t as breathtaking as the photo I had seen in Backpacker magazine, but still pretty impressive.
I’d love to plan a nice long hike along the AT, but I’d need a free weekend to do it. I’d have to stay down close to the Park to insure I could get an early start. Perhaps later this summer.
Another first for me happened on my hike. As soon as I got back to the car, it started to rain. It really rained…and I was done and sitting in a dry car. It was a nice almost end to the day. I still had the traffic to fight as I got closer to DC.
|another view from the summit|
|another another view|