Sunday, July 11, 2010

Annual Hike to Rip Rap Hollow

For a change, I made a decision to go hiking on Sunday around mid-week, rather than my normal last second type deal type of thing. On Thursday, anticipating the weekend, I happened to walk by the desk of a co-worker, Chris, and remembered that he likes hiking. In fact, he is planning on hiking as far as he can get in two months on the Appalachian Trail next spring, starting at Springer Mountain. “Hey Chris,” I said. “I’m going hiking in Shenandoah Sunday. Want to come along?” Chris took about 3 milliseconds to agree. “Where to?” he asked. “I was thinking about hiking up Rocky Mount,” I replied.

On Friday, Chris came by my desk. “Hey, you ever been to Rip Rap Hollow?” he asked. “One of my favorite hikes ever,” I said. “Well, how would you feel about doing that hike? I’ve always wanted to do it.” “Rip Rap Hollow it is,” I said.

I have hiked Rip Rap Hollow every summer since 2003, when it was my first hike of more than a mile after finishing chemotherapy the prior December. I do it every summer because I like the hike a lot, but more importantly, I do it to make a statement: “Cancer, you kicked my butt for 7 or 8 months, but I am still standing, and still capable of a tough 9 mile hike.” That is my statement, and I am sticking to it. I have made that statement with my feet and legs every summer since.

We got together at 7:30 Sunday morning, and had breakfast at the Silver Diner, then we made the two hour drive to the Wildcat Ridge trailhead. We did my traditional 9.6 miles loop in a counter-clockwise direction: Appalachian Trail to Rip Rap Hollow Trail; Rip Rap Hollow Trail down to the hollow, and past it to the Wildcat Ridge Trail after taking a dip in the stream; Wildcat Ridge Trail uphill for 2.4 miles to the car. It is a gorgeous hike and a really good cardio workout. Just like last year’s hike, I had a fantastic summer day. It was hot enough that the swim felt great once my heart started beating again, but not the 95 – 100 degrees we have had so much of lately.

We both had a great time. We did not see any wildlife, other than some nice brook trout in the stream. No bears, once again. No snakes. No turtles. No deer. Well, a deer back at the car, literally 15 feet away from where we exited the woods. Unlike some other times, the long, tough hike out of the hollow went smoothly for me. There are years that I have had to stop every five minutes and sit down. Not last year, and not this year. I could just continually keep hiking. I am in better shape than I thought. I guess all the hiking in Rainier National Park a couple of weeks ago – was it that recently – really helped firm up the legs.

This hike always renews my soul, if it needs renewing. It is good to be alive. It is good to be healthy. This is almost certainly the last hike I will take as a 58 year old. And it feels odd to think that a year from now, I will be turning 60 and my decade of 50-something – such an eventful one for me and with such milestones in my life – will be history. Carpe Diem!

Here are photographs from the hike in Rip Rap Hollow, my eighth as a cancer survivor.

Chris is fresh as a daisy as we get started, and as he hikes down the AT:

View down into Rip Rap Hollow, and to the Shenandoah Valley beyond, from the AT:

Hanging out at the Calvary Rocks; "I hope that rock you are sitting on it solid," Chris said. "Not as hopeful as I am," I shot back.
View from the Calvary Rocks

The first water seen on the hike is at Cool Spring Hollow

A highlight of this trip is the swim in the cold water on a hot day. A large group from the Washington area got here first.
Sunlight ripples on the water

No, I am not skinnydipping. This is way too popular a spot for that.

After all the swimmers have gotten out, the trout have the mountain pool to themselves.
Two dimensional topo map of the hike:
Three dimensional representation of the hike from DeLorme Topo USA:


  1. Congratulations on your 8 year milestone.

  2. Wow what a great hike! You sure look like you enjoy the day.
    Congratulations!! 8 years. :-)

  3. Thanks Les and Karen - it was a great way to celebrate 8 years, and the end of one more year of living. Art