Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Rare Mid-Week Hike: Cedar Run and White Oak Canyon

I had a rare day off during the week today and, since the weather was supposed to be nice, decided get outside.  Normally, Cedar Run and White Oak Canyon are mobbed on the weekends, so I thought it would be nice to visit them on a weekday for some solitude.  This was my first hike in a long time by myself.  I used to do some hiking alone, but I haven't in years, thanks to a very reliable hiking partner in SSW Spouse.  Although I only hiked eight miles, it was the longest trail I have ever hiked alone.

I realized on the drive to the trailhead that I would not have to be burdened by carrying the good camera.  It was sitting safely beside the computer at home.  After a few minutes of frustration, I decided it would be a good opportunity to test the long-ignored camera on my phone.  I wasn't driving back to get the camera anyway, so I might as well see what the phone can do.

When I arrived at the trailhead, there was only one other car in the parking lot, which is a rare, rare sight at White Oak Canyon.  I headed up the trail, crossed the bridge over Cedar Run and took a left on the Cedar Run Trail.  The wildflowers are out in full force in the valley.  Trillium grandiflora (Giant Trillium), Cardamine concatenata (Cut-Leaf Toothwort), and Claytonia virginica (Spring Beauty), among others, lined the trail on both sides.  I found I could take pictures of larger flowers with some success as long as I zoomed in enough to fill most of the frame.  With smaller flowers, there was no way to convince the camera to focus on what I wanted (the flowers), rather than what it wanted (the dead leaves behind the flowers). 

I've never seen Cedar Run (or White Oak or any of the other small streams) as full as it was today.  I actually had to take my boots off for the first crossing, which I've never had to do before.  Above the crossing, there were sections of the trail where water poured down the trail for some distance before finally diverting off to join the creek.  I can't imagine what the streams must have looked like last Sunday, after Saturday's record rainfall. There was flood damage everywhere, from piled up leaves and debris, to badly damaged sections of trail.

Shortly before reaching Skyline Drive, I started running into people. To my surprise, the Hawksbill parking lot was full.  I paused on a rock there to eat lunch and to consider whether or not to hike up to the top of Hawksbill.  It was windy and cold where I ate, and I wasn't really interested in interacting with people, so I chose to go down.  I ran into groups of people every few minutes on the fire road between the Cedar Run trail and the White Oak Canyon Trail.  Once on the White Oak Trail, there were lots of people.  It wasn't as crowded as a weekend, but it certainly wasn't solitude.  I finally realized that most schools systems are on spring break this week.

Like Cedar Run, White Oak Creek was running high and fast and the waterfalls were going gangbusters.  It was a good hike, but I was glad to be done.  My expectations for lack of people set me up to be a bit disappointed, although the wildflowers more than made up for it.  I'm also not used to hiking by myself.  If I did it more, I would probably enjoy it more, but I like hiking with at least one other person.  It isn't a safety issue for me, it is more that I like to share the experience with someone.

Unfortunately, my phone's camera was not as impressive as the flowers.  It randomly chose different resolutions at which to shoot the pictures.  It also corrupted about half of the files (this is a documented issue with my phone, sadly), so I only have a few to include here (and they are all different sizes):

Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's Breeches) on Cedar Run.
Trillium grandiflora (Giant Trillium) on Cedar Run.
 A bleached snail shell near the fire road.
 White Oak Creek.
Silene caroliniana (Wild Pink) on the White Oak Canyon Trail.
Looking east down White Oak Canyon.

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