Other than a 5 miler at Dutch Gap, I have not been hiking in six weeks. Weather, vacation, work, and life in general conspired against hiking lately. That changed yesterday when I led a group hike to Bear Church Rock, a large rock with great views up in Shenandoah National Park. The hike is billed at 4.5 miles each way, but my satellite tracker pegged the entire trip as 10.5 miles, so I think about 10 to 10.5 miles total sounds about right. Elevations are between about 2,800 and 3,600 feet, and you will gain and lose 2,900 feet doing this hike. The hike out is more downhill than uphill and the hike back is more uphill than downhill. Here is the elevation track for the return hike, so imagine reversing this for the hike in - starting about 3,200 feet and ending at 2,800 feet.
The hike itself is very pleasant as it moves along through a mature forest. There are great views at Bear Church Rock, but not any real views other than that. Perhaps late in fall and in winter there could be. Here is the track of the hike, beginning on the left and turning around at the purple arrow. It goes though rugged mountainous terrain in the SNP back country.
Five of us joined for this hike, and it was great group of people. A couple of us, myself among them, are dealing with some knee and ankle issues so that slowed us down, but then again, it wasn't a foot race.
Here are some photos from the day, starting with mountain laurel in bloom along the trail.
No bears this trip, but we did come across this eastern box turtle. We also heard oven birds, eastern wood peewees, hooded warblers, towhees, wood thrushes, some type of vireo, and we saw a turkey vulture soaring effortlessly over the gap where the rock is.
This coyote scat was loaded with hair, likely from a deer.
Our merry band relaxes after lunch on Bear Church Rock.
Mountain laurel in bloom at the edge of the forest and the rock.
There are great views to be had at Bear Church Rock.
Here we are, getting ready for the long slog back.
Lina checks out a great campsite on the hike back. Great if you don't mind carrying water into camp. We did not see a drop anywhere on this high altitude hike.
It felt great to be back in the mountains, and I resolved to do it again soon. Hey, I have Friday off....
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