Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hazel Mountain Backpacking

Although I prefer backpacking with others, I am not adverse to going alone, which is what I did last Friday and Saturday, heading up to Shenandoah National Park.  I hiked on trails where I had never been before, which is always fun - exploring a new part of the park.  I covered a 17 mile loop in the northeastern part of the Central Region of the Park, centered on Hazel Mountain and the Hazel River.  The track captured by my DeLorme inReach is shown below, starting and ending towards the upper left of the track and traveling clockwise.  I camped on the Hughes River a few miles from Corbin's Cabin (more here from my last hike in the mountains), shown at the red star.

One reason that I hiked solo was my ongoing left leg issues.  My sore ankle is finally feeling pretty good after six months of pain, but my left knee has hurt a lot since the Corbin's Cabin hike, and I wanted to go at my own slow pace and not hold others up (or be forced to keep up).  My knee started hurting a good bit at about four miles and I wrapped in in a bandage for the rest of the hike, at times doubting if I could finish.

It was a muggy and warm two days, and I was soaked with sweat most of the time.  Of the 17 miles, no more than a third - and probably less - was sort of level, and the rest was descending or climbing.  You're going to drop and climb about 3,000 feet by doing this hike, but there were only a few really steep parts.  Carrying my 35 pound pack, I went very slow at these times.

The highlight of the hike was a 2 second glimpse of a bobcat as it ran across the trail 100 feet in front of me.  I also heard, but never saw, a bear ripping up a log.  Since a picture is worth 1,000 words (and you don't want to read that many), here are some photos of my fun hike.  Several days later, my knee still hurts some.

This was my lunch spot on Friday.

Just upstream of lunch was a nice 30 foot waterfall,

and a cave that was at least 20-30 feet deep.

I only had a few partial views while hiking, and here is one of them.  Most of the time, I was in the "green tunnel."

I found the sweetest camping spot in a nice pine grove, 200 feet from the Hughes River along the Nicholson Hollow Trail.  It was the nicest backcountry campsites that I've ever had in this park.  I cooked a delicious dinner on the trail, relaxed for a while, and went to bed about 9, listening to Mozart on my iPhone.

It was so warm and muggy that I peeled back the rain fly.  I figured that if it started raining, it would wake me up.  I enjoyed seeing the cloudy sky through the pine trees and watching lightening bugs.  This is the view in the morning from my tent up to the sky.

On the hike out, I saw numerous reminders of the people that once lived here.  Here are photos of a couple of them.

I saw a number of pretty mushrooms, but was not tempted to try any of them, which is why I probably am still here to write this.

The green woods, bois vert in French.

I saw plenty of bear sign, like this ripped apart log and lots of scat, and I heard a bear as stated before, but didn't see any.

I had fun hiking and exploring a brand new area, and especially was thrilled to see the bobcat.  But I have to figure this knee out!