A few weeks ago I decided to go hike and lets just say that didn’t happen. Since my last hike turned into a beer adventure, I decided to try again for a hike. I knew it was going to rain in the morning but by the afternoon it was going to be clear and 71 as a high. The fatal flaw in this plan was that was the weather for my house. I figured that since Shenandoah National Park is to the west of my house, it would stop raining sooner out there and shouldn’t be a problem. Next time I need to check the weather in the park not just my house.
I got a late start, like always, and drove the couple hours to get to the park entrance at Thorton Gap. Looking through my hiking book I wanted to hike Hazel Falls and Cave, it sounded like a pretty good hike, little over 5 miles out and back nothing terrible. I should have known when the park ranger at the entrance said it was free admission to celebrate the park service 100th anniversary things would be packed. The lot for Hazel Falls was jammed with no available parking even along the road. This just meant a quick change of plans and onto the next parking lot. Because my first choice was taken, I was going to settle for any open lot I could park at.
I had to travel another 10 miles into the park before I found a place to park and start my hike. When I got out of my car, I didn’t even know what trail I was near and had to rely on the map at the trial head to tell me where I was and what my options where. It ended up being a trail to the top of Stony Man mountain which was good with me, I love hiking up mountains for the views from the top.
The trail itself was rather busy for such a crappy day. I can only imagine it was because of the free admission, it certainly wasn’t the weather that was bringing everyone out that day. The first section was pretty strenuous with a lot of switch backs to make it up the mountain. I would say about a third of the way up the trail there is a large cliff section, with all the fog you couldn’t see much of anything but it was still amazing. I was sitting on the edge and while I couldn’t see much, I could see the wind pushing the fog and as it hit the side of the mountain, it was getting pushed up the cliff. It was really cool to see the power of the wind with the fog. It was almost like tracks racing up the mountain, you really had to be there. When I was finished I ran into another couple that thought I had a wing suit and was going to jump off. I might be crazy but I’m not stupid.
The rest of the trail was pretty moderate. Near the top of the mountain the trail starts to split off with no signage which sucks. I honestly thought I was going to get lost but eventually I did find the summit of the mountain. Just like the cliff I found lower on the mountain, fog obscured the entire view of the valley. Regardless, I found a nice seat along the edge of the mountain and just hanged out for a while. Here it was still windy but I couldn’t see the fog rolling through like further down on the cliff. I believe there is path that wraps around the base of the mount and connects to the trail lower down but they had this section closed off for a bird sanctuary.
Having spent my time on the mountain it was time to head home. With all the crappy weather it finally decided to rain when I was about half way down the trail. The week before I left my rain jacket at the beach and have been cursing that ever since. I certainly could have used my rain jacket that day but it was fine. A nice hike with lots of people the day I went. I really would like to go back on a clear day and really get a view from the top, hopefully it will also be not as busy but its nice to see so many people outside enjoy the national park system.