Monday, October 28, 2019

From Stony Man to Thornton Gap

My quest to hike every trail in Shenandoah National Park continues, and when my hiking club announced a hike for a section of the Appalachian Trail that I'd never been on, I was happy to join in.  We hiked north from spectacular Stony Man to Thornton Gap, past equally spectacular Mary's Rock, just as autumn is really kicking up its heels in the mountains.

There were 14 of us on this hike, and we had to shuttle cars:

Here's the track for the 10.5 miles of hiking, going south to north.

And here is the elevation profile.  As you can see, by hiking from the south (left), we did more descent than ascent, although there was still plenty of climbing.

Fall colors are finally starting to pop.

There were four great view points on this hike: Stony Man, Little Stony Man, the Pinnacles, and Mary's Rock.  Here is a view from each one:

On Little Stony Man, we saw a number of ravens, and four bald eagles - 3 mature and one immature.  I don't think that I've ever seen eagles in Shenandoah before.  Here is one of the ravens:

And the immature eagle, visible in the lower right (with a zoom below that):

Along the way, we encountered an outing group from Oberlin College camping at Byrd Nest #3 shelter, which is a sturdily built stone structure.  I didn't know that it was now allowed to camp here.

I think that my favorite part of the hike was Mary's Rock, with its incredible westward views:

Here I am on Mary's Rock, thinking of my Mary:

From Mary's Rock, it was a steep 1,300 foot descent in about 1.8 miles, with a few final views to remember this wonderful hike by.  Get out there and do it!