Tuesday, November 24, 2009

(Almost) Winter Waterfalls: White Oak Canyon

Sunday, we hiked 10 miles. We started at the White Oak parking lot on the east boundary of Shenandoah, hiked up Cedar Run, crossed Skyline Drive and climbed Hawksbill, the highest point in Shenandoah National Park. After taking pictures at the overlook on Hawksbill, we returned to Skyline Drive via the Appalachian Trail. Then we hiked down the Skyland-Big Meadows Horse Trail to the White Oak Trail and finally back to the car.

All in all, it took us seven hours to hike 10 miles. It was not because the terrain was difficult or because the trail was too steep. It is nearly 3000 feet from the parking lot to Hawksbill, but we were moving pretty fast...when we were actually walking: We spent the better part of two hours taking pictures of waterfalls. All of the creeks in the area are running high because of the recent rain, so all of the waterfalls were going gangbusters. Cedar Run and White Oak Creek have so many pretty waterfalls, one loses count.

The hike up Cedar Run is tough. The trail climbs relentlessly for nearly three miles from the parking lot to Skyline Drive. There are two crossings of Cedar Run, neither of which turned out to be a problem, even through the water level was high.

We had lunch at the Lower Hawksbill parking before heading up the short, steep trail to the summit. It was chilly in the shade, but quite nice out in the sun on the summit. The Shenandoah Valley to the west was fogged in, but it was clear to the east towards Old Rag.

From Hawksbill, we returned to Skyline Drive and made our way to White Oak Canyon, where the big waterfalls are. We were not disappointed. The major falls on White Oak Creek were full of water. Every seep and tiny side stream was spilling over the trail. Below the middle fall, we were hiking along the cliff edge and noticed the opposite side of the canyon was one, large sheet of falling water. This was not White Oak Creek, but a number of normally small side streams that feed White Oak Creek. We have been to White Oak Canyon several times and have never seen anything like it.

Pictures above: Small waterfall on Cedar Run (top center); waterslide on Cedar Run (above right).

Pictures from the top: Middle White Oak Falls;Old Rag from Hawksbill; a small waterfall where normally there is just a seep; and small waterfall at Middle White Oak Falls

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