Monday, August 31, 2009

Riprap Hollow on a Beautiful Summer Day

Maybe it was the invigorating dip in the deep pool that convinced me. Perhaps it was the timber rattler that I nearly stepped on because I was more fascinated with my brand new GPS than where I put my feet. Or it could’ve been the steep hike back out up Wildcat Ridge, quads definitely taking notice. Or was it the black bears I’ve seen there on several trips, or the water snake catching a trout last year? For all of these reasons, the 9.6 mile circuit hike from the Wildcat Ridge Parking Lot in Shenandoah National Park down into Riprap Hollow is one of my favorite all time hikes.

I have a sentimental reason for loving this hike. In July of 2003, it was my first real hike after surviving lymphoma and being pretty sick for a good long while. Seven months after finishing chemo, and still not up to full strength, it was the hike I choose to make a statement that I could do this again. And every summer since, I always go on this hike.

And so yesterday, for my August challenge, I choose to return to this hike after an absence of more than a year. It was a beautiful summer day up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Shenandoah National Park, and I was on the trail by 8:45. I didn’t see any bears on this hike, and haven’t seen any for several years here. I did see four wild turkeys and three deer right along the side of the Skyline Drive on the way up. And on the hike itself, I saw two small toads, a little water snake that swam between my feet, three red tailed hawks soaring above, and all kinds of mushrooms. The forest was fairly quiet but I did hear oven birds, eastern wood peewees, and two pileated woodpeckers.

One loses and gains about 2,200 feet of elevation on the circuit, and it goes through rugged terrain. You will know that you have lungs and quads, especially on the hike back up out of the hollow from about 1,800 to 3,000 feet. Referring to the map, the trip began and ended at the red circle, and went counter-clockwise along the Appalachian Trail to the Riprap Hollow Trail, and finally back up the Wildcat Ridge Trail. The green arrow is the location of the pool along the stream down in the hollow.
Later in the week, I may write more about the hike, but for now, will just post pictures. I also wrote yesterday here, a bit tongue in cheek, about doing a triathlon on this hike.

View down into Riprap Hollow's rugged terrain from an overlook on the Skyline Drive

Junction near start (and end) of hike of Appalachian Trail and Wildcat Ridge Trail (coming in on the left). You can go either way but I started out by heading down the AT.

White blazed mark the AT from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

The wood sprite on my hiking staff takes a break while proudly displaying his Shenandoah National Park medal. My good friend Tom, who accompanied me on my Tumbledown Mountain "Kicking Cancer's Butt" hike six years ago, made the hiking stick for me.

View from Cavalry Rocks along the Riprap Hollow Trail

View to the mountains north of the Riprap Hollow Trail

Glad I don't have to tear logs apart for my lunch like this bear did

The Riprap Hollow Trail bottoms out along a stream sandwiched between very steep slopes to the east and west. It is a beautiful and tranquil valley.

I can never resist jumping into this deep pool, no matter how shocking the water initially feels on my hot skin.

A few spots on the steep hike out up the Wildcat Ridge Trail have nice views to the south, but mostly you are in deep woods.

Finally! A definitive answer to the question that has confounded mankind for milennia: does a wild bear leave his scat in the woods?

A rare and welcome level spot along the Wildcat Ridge Trail

I saw many cool mushrooms on my hike. I can't identify them, but the variety and colors are the most I've seen since my Bald Mountain hike just over a year ago up in New Hampshire.


  1. So beautiful!!!! Lovely photos!!!

  2. Looks like a great hike - quite a long one too!!
    All your photos are beautiful.

  3. Thanks Anne - glad you enjoyed them.

    Thanks HappyOne - it is indeed a great hike. I am glad you enjoyed "coming along."

  4. My favorite lung and quad test is Old Rag, but this looks and sounded like a great hike too. I love the mushroom pictures, especially the last one. It kind of looked like sheets of frost were coming off of the cap.

  5. Thank's Les. Yeah, Old Rag is a great hike, isn't it? I've never hiked the famed Mahoosic Mile on the AT in Maine but it has got to be something like that rock scramble up Old Rag.

    Riprap is a truly wonderful hike, hope to do it many more times before I hang up the hiking boots.

    That was the very last mushroom that I took a picture of, and I agree, it was pretty cool and unique. Art