Other than just enjoying the hike and being outside, some of my hikes have a purpose. A week ago Monday, I had two goals (1) hike a short section of the Riprap Hollow Trail that I'd never hiked before, putting me a tiny bit closer to the goal of hiking every trail in Shenandoah National Park, and (2) getting trail miles in with a heavy pack in anticipation of a six night hiking trip later this month. To accomplish my second objective, I just started stuffing things in my backpack, things I would never need for a day hike. My heaviest sleeping bag. My heaviest air mattress. A tent. My cook kit. Extra clothing. Far more water than I would ever need, even if I wouldn't be near streams for several miles. I almost put in a pair of river shoes, but the pack weight was up to 34 pounds and that seemed good enough. I already had everything except the kitchen sink in there.
The trail is a familiar one to me - the Wildcat Ridge Trail in the park, but instead of turning right on the Riprap Hollow Trail, I'd go left and hike 0.9 miles to the park boundary, adding the almost-a-mile to my SNP miles. Every other time that I've hiked this area, I did it as a loop, ending the hike coming up the Wildcat Ridge Trail. This time, it would be an out-and-back, 3.7 miles each way.
This map shows the general location of this hike, in the Southern Part of Shenandoah National Park.
The hike started and ended on the Skyline Drive at about 3,000 feet elevation. At the low point, I would be at about 1,600 feet. So the hike was mostly downhill with some level areas on the way out, and mostly uphill with some level areas on the way back.
I'd hiked in the park 9 days before, and there was little change at the higher elevations as far as spring moving along.
Now and then, I had partial views through the wide open forest.
At lower elevations, there was a little more evidence of spring.
At this point, I came to a lovely stream, and sat there for a few moments. A half mile ahead was a much bigger stream crossing. There were four stream crossings on this hike.
You can see that my pack had far more than I needed, just to add weight to get used to carrying a pack.
I've crossed at this point many times, but always in summer. It's a lot tougher this time of year. I looked across, trying to pick a possible route. I searched upstream and downstream. No other good crossing points were evident. I started picking my way across, balancing on thin, partially floating logs, and got about half way across. Then, the next log that I put my right foot on sank, filling my boot. I tried to recover by putting my left foot on a big, sloping, wet rock and my foot slipped. I fell in, smashing my thumb against the rock and dropping my left trekking pole, which started to float away. At the last second, I snagged it with my other trekking pole. I was soaked from about mid-thigh down, and just waded across the rest of the stream. I dumped the water out of my boots and kept hiking.
At lower elevations (1,600 - 1,700) feet, there were more and more signs of spring, like these maple leaves.
A short way down the trail, I had to cross the stream again to keep hiking on that trail and finish those miles. Even if my feet hadn't been soaked already, they would be now. Why hadn't I just put a pair of river shoes in my pack? Oh, well! I took off my socks and pulled the insoles out of my boots, and waded across. Dumped the water out of my boots. Put the boots back on barefoot and hiked to the end of the trail at the park boundary.
Near the end of the park was this beautiful iris, a sure sign of the coming spring.
I turned around at the boundary and started hiking back. I just kept hiking barefoot in my boots, taking them off each time I waded through the streams to dump the water out. After the second one (the place that I fell), I wrung my socks out and put them back on and put the insoles back in the boots. As I hiked along the lovely stream, I stopped now and again to enjoy it.
Periodically, I would stop and take my socks off and wring them out. When I got back to the first stream that I had easily crossed, I stopped and made some hot tea. After all, I'd carried the stove this far, I might as well use it.
Soon enough, I was back in the car, where I slipped my running shoes over my bare feet and enjoyed having dry feet again. It was a lovely hike in the spring up in the mountains, and I learned a thing or two from it. If I had to do it over again, I would have brought the water shoes. If I hadn't, I would have taken my socks off and the insoles out of the boots at the point where I fell, and just waded across. It would have been safer than falling in such a difficult to cross area, and at least some of my foot gear would have been somewhat dry.
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