Sunday, November 6, 2011

Return to Fall: Hannah Run and Hot Short Mountain Trails

After last weekend's hike through the blowing snow, this weekend was like turning the clock back one season.  The leaves were still on the trees in the valley and the air was chilly, but a few patches of snow high on the ridges were the only evidence of winter's presence just a week ago.

When we arrived at the Old Rag parking lot at 9:15 a.m., we had to park on the back fence because it was already 95% full.  We got ready to go as quickly as possible and wished the fee station rangers well on what was going to be a very, very busy day on Old Rag.  Where we were going, however, was as quiet as it gets in Shenandoah National Park in the fall.  We walked up the road towards Old Rag amidst the crowds for about half a mile before turning off onto the Nicholson Hollow Trail where we left the madness behind.  It was shaping up to be a perfect day.  The morning started out quite chilly, but was warming up as the sun rose.  The trail was lined with red and gold leaves shining in the morning sun. 

The Hughes River was quite a bit higher than when we hiked the Nicholson Hollow Trail in July and all of the side runs and streams were full.  We hiked past the junction with the Hot Short Mountain Trail and the Hannah Run Trail to a nice waterfall on the Hughes River.  While I was taking pictures a relatively large group passed us and crossed the river.  One of the party messed up the rock hop and wound up in the river, but fortunately, he appeared to be ok.

We returned down the Nicholson Hollow Trail to the Hannah Run Trail.  The Hannah Run Trail has a reputation as one of the steeper trails in Shenandoah.  Since this was our first time on it, we were interested in comparing it to some of the other steeper ones like Sam's Ridge or Robertson Mountain.  The first mile or so climbs fairly gently - a pleasant walk through the woods along Hannah Run.  Then the trail turns away from the run and gets a little steeper, but still nothing outlandish.  We passed some interesting old farm terraces and chimneys along the way.  Then we turned a corner and the trail descended quickly back to the stream.  As we got closer to the bottom, we could see the trail on the other side of the stream.  It basically went straight up the side of the ridge.  It didn't take too long to get to the top of it, but it was definitely a thigh-burner.  I would say it is definitely steeper than Sam's Ridge, but the steep part isn't quite as long. 

Near the top of the ridge, we made a Boy Scout Leader very happy.  At the bottom of the Hannah Run Trail, something caught my eye and I found a compass, knife, whistle, a light, and some safety pins.  It looked like someone had everything fall out of their pocket.  We knew a Boy Scout Troop had gone up the Hannah Run Trail before us while we were at the waterfall, so we picked everything up, hoping that we would catch them.  When we had nearly reached the top of the ridge, we found them and asked if they had lost anything.  Their leader was very happy to get the contents of his lanyard back.

At the top of the ridge, we turned right on the Catlett Mountain Trail for a pleasant mile's walk to the Hazel Mountain Trail.  There were patches of snow on the ground from last week's storm and no leaves on the trees at that elevation.  We turned right again on the Hazel Mountain Trail and then again on the Hot Short Mountain Trail.  At a couple of spots on the way down, we had a nice view of the valley and Old Rag to the south.  Further down, we walked between two well-built stone walls from before the area was a park.  By the time we reached the Nicholson Hollow Trail again, the sun had gone behind the ridge, even though it was only 3:45.  We stopped a few more times to take pictures of the river and then finished the easy walk back to the car.  It was an incredibly nice, quiet fall day on trail.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 Red and gold leaves on the Hannah Run Trail
Aster sp.  (Aster).  This one was not, apparently, bothered by last weekend's snow very much.
This shot does not even do justice to the steepest part of the Hannah Run Trail. 
 An old saw blade in front of a chimney.
One of the signposts along the way.
Maple leaves.
A maple leaf on the snow on the Catlett Mountain Trail.
Old Rag from the Hot Short Mountain Trail.
The lower part of the Hot Short Mountain Trail.
A small waterfall on the Hughes River
Our canine escort (a neighbor's dog that we took care of for the weekend).  She was very, very disappointed to not be allowed to chase a deer on the other side of the river.
Another view of the Hughes River.
The Old Rag parking lot at 4:30 p.m.  It was still 3/4 full and the neighbor's lot was nearly full.

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to see those artifacts remaining in place.