The Jones Run - Doyles River Falls circuit hike passes by three nice waterfalls - the water was low yesterday, but they were still very nice - and a number of smaller "mini-falls." It is mostly downhill or uphill, with total elevation gain and loss of over 1,900 feet, and an average grade of 10% - so it is a good workout but not nearly as hard as last Saturday's hike to Rocky Mount. The first 4-5 miles of the hike pass through a steep and rugged ravine, with lovely forests and some huge trees. After leaving the ravine, one can extend the hike by continuing to hike north for a mile or so, or one can take the "inner loop" and pick up the Brown's Gap Fire Road through the woods, which is what I did. That choice made it a seven mile hike instead of a nine miler. And it led to a spectacular wildlife sighting, one I rarely see. In fact, I saw two great animals on the hike that I rarely see.
Here is the topo map, tracked by my DeLorme PN-60w GPS, so you can get oriented. The hike is in the southern third of Shenandoah National Park, near milepost 84. The star (lower left corner) marks my start and end, and the two arrows show my travel direction - counter clockwise. I was on four trails, roughly corresponding to the sides of the map: Jones Run Trail (bottom); Doyles River Falls Trail (right); Brown's Gap Fireroad (top); and the Appalachian Trail (left).
This view, just above Jones Run Falls, will give you an idea of the steepness and ruggedness of the ravine that the streams run through.
What am I?" posts. I'll need to think about the verse for this animal. Suffice to say, it was thrilling.
And a few miles later, along the Brown's Gap Fire Road shown below, I saw the second species. As I hiked along, suddenly I heard a crashing just ahead and to the right, coming down the steep slope. I paused, and as I did, a large, black animal dashed from the woods and across the wide path. It stopped dead in its tracks on the left hand side of the fire road about 75 feet away, and stared at me. I could clearly see its shaggy black fir, its tan colored muzzle, and its dark eyes. Then, as quickly as it appeared, it dashed like a world-class sprinter into the forest and down into the ravine out of which I had been an hour earlier. After years of hiking without seeing a black bear, I have seen three bears on two different hikes this summer, the other time months ago on my hike to Bear Church Rock. Had I not been at this exact place at this exact time, I never would have seen this bear. It vanished into the woods without a trace. But the sight was very exciting. I wish I could have gotten a photo, but it happened much too quickly.
Here is one little hint about the other amazing creature I saw a mile or so before seeing the bear: it has one very obvious thing in common with the bear.