A walk in the woods II: Shenandoah National Park 2013

After the success of last year’s inaugural Spring walking trip to the Shenandoah, and with family members visiting from the UK again, it was time for the 2nd Annual Spring walking weekend in Shenandoah National Park. This year our merry party consisted of yours truly, my girlfriend Alexis, my mum and her boyfriend, Dave. After a busy start to the year, with little opportunity to escape the city (apart from an early trip to Cape Town), I was yearning to get back to basics and immerse myself in nature again.

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View west from the Jewell Hollow Overlook

Day 1: Cedar Run Falls and Whiteoak Canyon Falls loop

Walks in the Shenandoah National Park still feel novel to me, a sort-of upside-down walk for someone accustomed to starting out at the base of a mountain and ascending to the summit. Thanks to the scenic Skyline Drive, a 105 mile road along the rooftop of the National Park, most walks begin at the high point of the day before descending off the ridge.

Sure enough, today’s walk began at the day’s highest point, before descending the steep and wild Cedar Run canyon, passing cascade after cascade, and culminating in the Cedar Run Falls itself, our “summit”, if you will. Of course, reaching the “summit” necessitated a lunch stop (a habit from UK hillwalking days where folklore has it that on any given hill in Britain, in any weather, at any time of the year, one will find a fellow walker proclaiming how pleasant it is whilst tucking into a home made sandwich). Our return route climbed gently up Whiteoak Canyon, where there are a number of impressive waterfalls and good views.

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Descending down Cedar Run Canyon

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Frequent river crossings were the order of the day

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We weren’t the only ones enjoying the sunshine – a Northern Water Snake catching some rays. I seem to average one snake sighting per trip at the moment – Australia 2012 and Shenandoah 2012

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Waterfall in Cedar Run Canyon I

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Waterfall in Cedar Run Canyon II

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Toothed mushroom – Sarcodon imbricatus – in the undergrowth

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Yellow Poplar – Liriodendron tulipifera – trees along the trail

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A hop, skip and a jump and you’re across

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Cedar Run Falls – check out Lexi in the bottom right corner for idea of scale

Day 2: Knob Mountain and Jeremys Run Loop

A longer 12 mile loop traversing the ridge of Knob Mountain and returning along the valley floor, with frequent river crossings of Jeremys Run. It felt like we had the park to ourselves today; it wasn’t until we hit Jeremys Run that we saw another soul. Up on the ridge of Knob Mountain we saw plenty of (fresh) bear scat. We were all excited (and slightly nervous) by the prospect of a potential bear sighting but sadly they remained elusive on this occasion.

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The closest we came to a “view” from the wooded summit of Knob Mountain

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Robust marker posts pointed the way

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Synchronised on the balance beam, crossing Jeremys Run for the 37th time* (*best guess)

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Jeremys Run

Day 3: Hazel Falls

A shorter, rainy walk to visit Hazel Falls, described as a suitable inclement weather destination on account of the large cave next to the falls. I can attest to it being a dry and welcoming harbour from the elements.

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Lexi still smiling despite the rain

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The team with Hazel Falls in the background

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Hazel Falls I

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Hazel Falls II

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