Today, nine of us with the Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club got together for a nice, moderate hike up and back the Austin Mountain Fire Road in Shenandoah National Park. Thanks, Jenni, for organizing and leading the hike.
This was 5.5 miles each way, all uphill on the way up and all downhill on the way back, for a total elevation gain of perhaps 1,500 feet. Being a fire road rather than a trail, the surface was very easy to walk on, and we were able to hike several abreast and chat, always a pleasure up in the mountains. Here is the route we took. You can see that the fire road goes up through a gap between Austin and Furnace Mountains, ending at Brown's Gap on the Skyline Drive. Some notes: we started and ended at the red arrow. We had lunch up on the Skyline Drive at the red star. The purple arrow marks Austin Mountain and the orange arrow marks Furnace Mountain. There is a great little backpacking trip of three days through this area. To see photos and and accounts from my backpacking trek here in 2011, go here.
Here are a few more photos from this fun day of hiking back in the mountains. In this one, some of our group stroll along the flat section that dominates the first mile of the hike.
Back on my 2011 trip, my buddy Hawkeye and I camped our first night around here. I remember that it was hard to find a good campsite and that it was quite cold that first night, about 18 degrees F.
Here are the other eight of us (other than yours truly) on our lunch break up at Brown's Gap. We were there about 20 minutes, and only a half dozen or so cars went by in that time. We would do "the wave" as they approached.
Here is a view of Furnace Mountain high above us. There is a great view point at the top.
It does not get any easier in the mountains than a fire road. This one is exceptionally well maintained.
And here is Austin Mountain high above. I don't remember great views from near the top, but there was lots of broken rock to hike over.
We didn't see much wildlife: one white-breasted nuthatch to be exact. And I heard a pileated woodpecker. But it was a great day in the woods, and my painful knee and ankle held up reasonably well - since the trail was so smooth. I lead a group hike the end of this week to the Great Dismal Swamp, and so will be back out on the trail really soon.
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