For the last week or so, I'd planned on a solo hike yesterday into one of my favorite places in Shenandoah National Park: Rip Rap Hollow. I'd not been there in three years, on this hike, and felt like I was overdue. But then, I got an email about a group hike with ODATC for the same day, an out and back along the AT to the Paul Wolfe Shelter. "Hmmm," thought I. "It would be fun to hike with a group, but I was really looking forward to hiking into Rip Rap." I read on. "We'll be heading to Blue Mountain Brewery for a cold beer after the hike," the announcement said. Deal sealed! I can hike solo, or I can hike with a fun group AND join them for a beer afterwards.
Five of us went: Barbara (hike leader), Donna, Randy, Ted, and myself. A few others were scheduled to come along, but there was a threat of thunderstorms all over Virginia for much of the day, and they dropped. I am very glad that I was not one of them. It was humid on the hike, and we soaked through our clothing almost as if there had been rain. But there was no rain and no lightening, and the five of us had a very fun hike together. Here is the track of the hike, which starts and ends at Rockfish Gap (where I-64 crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway at Afton Mountain.) My inReach clocked the hike at about 5.5 miles each way. The first is the satellite view and the second is the topographic view.
On a hike into the shelter some years ago, I captured the elevation profile for the hike from North to South on my GPS (which tracked it a about a five mile hike.)
Here are some photos from our hike. At the very start of the hike at Rockfish Gap, the Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club recently built in a beautifully crafted set of stairs. Aren't they super? It replaced a scramble down a steep and eroded bank.
Trekking along the AT...
Long ago, a mountain family lived here. I wonder who they were and what their lives were like? I wonder what became of them, and when their cabin crumbled?
We had lunch at the Paul Wolfe Shelter, which included a little ribbing of Ted's trail banana carrier. If I'd taken a picture, you might join in the ribbing, but I didn't, so.... Suffice to say, some of us - no names mentioned here - got quite a laugh out of it. Quite a laugh!
Here is a view of the shelter. With a covered porch, a fire pit, a creek just a few hundred feet away, and an outhouse, this place has all the comforts of (back country) home.
Anyone who hikes in the east knows the white blazes of the storied Appalachian Trail.
A mile of so from the shelter is a tiny mountain cemetery. Here is one of the headstones. The Forest Service keeps it clear.
Donna and Barbara smile for the camera on the hike out.
There was a huge boulder along the trail that made for a break from being on our feet. I think it was at this point that someone said that runners live (statistically) seven years longer than non-runners. We all got in a discussion if this just meant seven extra years of living in a nursing home having one's diapers changed. And that topic came up a number of times for the rest of the hike, and even during the post hike beers.
The only real wildlife seen was this black rat snake, plus a wood thrush. But I did hear a number of birds: wood thrush, downy woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, eastern wood pewee, Carolina wren, eastern towhee, Acadian flycatcher, northern cardinal, and red-eyed vireo.
After the hike, we went to the Blue Mountain Brewery, where my cold lager hit the spot! I passed on a late lunch because I had eaten at the shelter, but the food the others ate looked pretty good. I did munch on many of Barbara's French fries! With her permission, of course.
What a fun day with a nice group of people! It beat working in the office all day with a stick! I am already looking forward to my next hike!
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