Sunday, June 17, 2018

Loop Hike: Nicholson Hollow, Stony Man, Whiteoak Canyon, Berry Hollow, Weakley Hollow (~1000-4011')

For the last of my spring-training hikes, I went big: a base-to-summit, dawn-to-hopefully-not-dusk loop from the Old Rag parking area to the summit of Stony Man, the second-highest peak in Shenandoah National Park, and back. As planned, the loop would cover 15 miles; a route change on impulse bumped it up to 18 miles, in which I gained and lost at least 3500 feet. If I could handle this hike, I figured, I could handle anything the southwestern highpoints would throw at me in a single day.

To make sure I could fit the whole loop into one day (because I kind of hate backpacking), I showed up at the Old Rag lot around 7:30 pm on June 15, the day before the hike. The place was quiet then, but the fact that the hand-sanitizer dispensers in all seven of the lot's porta-potties were completely empty testified to the crowds that had come and would soon come again (and cover those rocks in fecal bacteria, I supposed, suddenly glad I'd be hiking the other way. If you want to stay clean, BYOB.)

I tossed my tent into my pack, self-registered for a "backcountry camping" permit, and hiked a mile up the Nicholson Hollow trail until I found a nice flat spot to sleep, in a grove of pines within hearing distance of the river.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Loop Hike: Three Ridges, VA (~1000-3970')

The next weekend, I headed back to the Tye River Gap southwest of Charlottesville to hike the peaks I'd seen across the valley while hiking the Priest. That trio of summits, known as the Three Ridges, is accessible by a pleasantly challenging 13.1-mile loop along the AT and a side trail called the Mau-Har Trail.

Starting from the same parking lot, I crossed VA-56, then crossed the parallel Tye River along a cable bridge:

Enter, it seems to call...