Sunday, November 29, 2009

Overall Run - Heiskell Hollow Circuit

Yesterday we hiked almost 13 miles with a friend of ours who is within 50 miles of having hiked every trail in Shenandoah National Park. We helped her check off an out-of-the-way 1.2 mile section of the Heiskell Hollow Trail near the park boundary. This is a strenuous, interesting hike with few people except around Overall Run Falls.

The weather was great, if a little chilly and windy up on the ridge. We started at the Thompson Hollow trailhead on the west boundary of the park. Then we hiked up the steep Overall Run Trail and had lunch at the Overall Run Falls overlook. Overall Run Falls is the highest waterfall in Shenandoah National Park.  When we've done this hike in the past, the falls haven't been much more than a trickle, but all of the creeks are up, so the falls were running pretty well. It was pretty cold up there and by the time we ate lunch and took a few pictures, we were all ready to continue hiking to warm up. Remarkably, we saw no one at the falls, although we later saw a couple of groups of people on their way down to them.

From there, we continued up the Overall Run Trail to the Weddlewood Trail, which took us down off the ridge to the Heiskell Hollow Trail. Some areas of the trail were like hiking on baseballs - lots of small loose rocks covered in leaves. We hiked that out to the park boundary, 1.2 miles beyond the junction that would take us back to the car. It was pretty clear that very few people ever hike that small section. We did not expect to see much on that section, but we were rewarded with a pretty little waterfall and the ruins of an old farm. The waterfall poured over a 6 foot drop into a deep pool that would be great for swimming in the summer. The ruins of an old farm actually included an intact chimney and wall. There was a gate at the park boundary and a deer stand just beyond it with a view into the park (just for reference, hunting is not allowed in the national park). It is deer season in Virginia and we could hear a fair amount of gunfire in the distance.

After exploring for a bit, we returned to the junction with an unnamed trail connecting back to the Overall Run Trail. The unnamed tail was hard to follow at times because the leaves were barely packed down on the trail. We made our way back to the car by the Thompson Hollow Trail.

Pictures from top to bottom:  Overall Run Falls, Mansanutten Ridge from the Overall Run Falls Overlook, small waterfall on lower Heiskell Hollow Trail, Heiskell Hollow trail, Intact stone wall, and ruins of a chimney.

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