Blackrock Hut is tucked down in a valley, which was nice. We could hear the wind roaring above us, but we were spared most of it. When we arrived, there was another couple already in the shelter and they already had a lovely fire going. There were two more parties camped at the hut as well. Everyone was pleasant and relaxed, but no one, as far as I know, managed to stay up until midnight. It was just too chilly to sit outside. We climbed in our sleeping bags around 8 pm and I was probably asleep by 9:30.
The next morning, the wind had died down and it was actually warmer than the night before. One of the guys in the shelter had cell phone service and checked the weather. We lucked out. The system forecast to bring rain on New Year's Day had stayed south. We had a nice breakfast, packed up, and began the long climb back up to Blackrock Summit in good spirits.
The loop that includes Jones Run and Doyles River is one of the more popular hikes in the south district. It has a number of nice waterfalls and it can get pretty crowded (well...nothing like Old Rag). We actually hadn't done it before. It is a long drive from where we live and the loop itself is only 7 miles, which is right on the edge of our rule about driving time vs. time on the mountain (you have to spend more time on the mountain than in the car). We finally checked it off yesterday. It is a very nice hike. The waterfalls on Jones Run are spectacular and the ones on Doyles River aren't too bad, either. We spent some time taking pictures of them. I do wish I had thought to bring my tripod, but I was able to use rocks and trees to get some nice pictures of the falls. We had a pleasant lunch in the sun at Lower Doyles River Falls. I am guessing most people do the loop in the opposite direction than we did because the climb out of Doyles River will remind you that you ate too much over the holidays.
We finished our hike by returning north on the Appalachian Trail and walking out through the Loft Mountain Campground. We had a lovely hike and really enjoyed bringing in the new year on trail.
We stopped for pizza on the way home. When we came out of the restaurant, the moon and Venus were bright in the sky (click to enlarge).