Monday, January 30, 2012

Dickey Ridge Trail in Shenandoah National Park: Flowers in January?

This weekend was beautiful, particularly for January.  We have parked at the Dickey Ridge trailhead, at the very north end of Skyline Drive, a number of times, but always for cycling.  Yesterday, we headed out to hike the Dickey Ridge Trail.  It felt a little strange to watch other cyclists donning helmets and airing up tires and not be doing the same.  The beginning of the trail is relatively flat and follows an old roadbed along the creek (which isn't named on my map) south and upstream.   After about a mile, it turns uphill and begins the long climb up to to the top of Dickey Ridge.  We stopped for lunch after we crossed Skyline Drive, enjoying the relatively warm sun.  When we started again, we got into a rhythm and before I knew it, we arrived at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center. 

From there, we decided to keep going to the top of the ridge.  On the way up the ridge, we decided it might be nice to do the Snead Farm Loop since we were in the area anyway.  There is no view from the top of the ridge, but just beyond the high point of the trail, the path breaks out of the woods into a clearing with a nice view of Hogback Mountain and New Market Gap to the south.  The Snead Farm Trail basically winds around the east side of the ridge that we had just come over.  I had a little trouble finding information on the history of Snead Farm.  The park's website has surprisingly little about it.  According to Hawksbill Cabin, the Snead Farm was an apple farm that was acquired by Shenandoah National Park in 1962.  The barn still stands today, but none of the other buildings do.

We returned to the Dickey Ridge Trail via the Snead Farm Road and headed north.  We took another short detour on the Fox Hollow Trail.  Back on the Dickey Ridge Trail, we made good time getting back to the car.  We started out intending to do a moderate hike of around 10 miles (we'll just hike up Dickey Ridge until we feel like going back).  Once we got out there, we felt pretty good and just kept going, ending up doing over 14 miles in six hours.  The Dickey Ridge Trail is a pleasant walk through the woods, but it is very close to Skyline Drive, so it might be much noisier when the park is busier.

The weirdest thing about the whole hike:  Just before we got back to the car, we saw crocuses blooming.  In January.  It really has been a mild winter.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 Looking west towards Mansanutten from the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center. 
 Interesting fungus on a log.
The signpost at Snead Farm
The house site at Snead Farm.  The steps presumably went up to the house or a porch on the house.  The boxwood tree, which was probably planted beside the steps has completely taken over.
 The barn at the site.
A small waterfall on the creek.
Crocuses getting ready to bloom.

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