Today was a good day for hiking a mountain! We started off at the White Oak Canyon parking lot and climbed up Cedar Run. The water was low, the morning was cool, the humidity had not quite hit us. At the top of the Cedar Run trail just before we got to Skyline Drive, Kelly spotted a large black squirrel coming down a tree 5 yards in front of us. It wasn’t a squirrel though. It was a bear cub! Then another! By this time Jason spotted them too. Momma bear came barrelling down after her cubs and the three sauntered away into the woods. We continued onward, crossing Skyline Drive and heading to the trailhead for Hawksbill.
We had a new first today. A search and rescue group. Throughout the morning we saw six groups along the section of the Appalachian Trail between Hawksbill and Skyland. Sadly, a hiker went missing Saturday afternoon.
The hike up to Hawksbill was now somber. The terrain is rocky and steady, and the humidity set in. Approaching the summit we waded through a very thick mist and had zero visibility once at the top. We were soaked, and cold. The cold feeling is so refreshing in contrast to the nasty humidity of the summer. We settled in against the rock wall at the summit’s overlook to nosh on our Crooked Trail granola and fresh fruit. We had absolutely no view of our gorgeous surroundings, so it was time to head to Skyland.
See Jason in the mist? I love my Hipstamatic App!
A unanimous decision against cotton has been made. It’s awful. No new news, just another confirmation. No cotton on the big hike. Or again. Blech.
Back down Hawksbill to the Appalachian Trail. We decided to stop in at Skyland to make reservations for September 17. This leg of the trail was once again, pleasant and easy and beautiful. Happening upon the rescue groups kept us alert to the dangers of the park. Dense vegetation, steep cliffs, big rocks. Unbelievable.
Walking up to Skyland is like walking into a 1950’s time capsule. It’s a great little resort with just enough amenities to keep you smiling. Our smiles faded when we learned that the night we need to stay there is overbooked. Boo. Someone is likely to cancel their reservation and we will get our rooms, surely. Our families plan to join us that evening during the big hike. We will need their smiling faces and big hugs of support!
Back down the bridle path and down the White Oak Canyon trail to the car. This time we paid more attention to the waterfalls. Pretty cool. There is a big water slide that looks like just the thing to do to celebrate the end of a long hike. Next time.
The trail down remains rocky, a little steep, but always beautiful! We passed many more hikers and saw groups enjoying the rocks at the base of one of the falls. This is why we love this park. Barely two hours from home and we are in a different world. Dirt, mud, rocks, sand, trees, brush, all of it is excellent. We are lucky to experience the Shenandoah National Park every Monday. We highly recommend it! Look how happy we are! Today was my favorite training hike! 14.5 miles of bliss.
Post hike and back in the real world, we made it to Charlotte’s and Luke’s camp just in time to sneak into the carpool line. We then got Liam just in time from his camp. Jason dropped us off, picked up Sophie (just in time), dropped her off at my home, went to his home to shower, and returned to mine with venison and salmon and potatoes to roast. I handed him a Racer 5 and a handful of fresh rosemary and dinner was in full prep. Jane and Abigail showed up, soon followed by Chris. I made the salad, the potatoes were roasting, the meat grilling… an awesome dinner. Liam devoured the venison, as did Sophie and Charlotte. Luke took the helm with the potatoes. The meal was delicious. The grande finale was the strawberry pretzel salad I made. A recipe Jason thought I made up when I first mentioned it. Growing up in Pittsburgh, it was a staple at all family gatherings, and was considered a side dish. We are not really sure where “salad” comes into play, but why bother? Once Jason tasted it, he was pleasantly surprised. He liked it! Jason liked it!