Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fifth Annual Hike Off the Pie: Waterfalls and Rocks

Every year, I go hiking with friends on Black Friday. This year, there were three of us and the weather was unbelievable: highs in the upper 60s. As usual, we managed to find an epic off-trail adventure.

We started at eastern boundary of Shenandoah National Park on the Rose River Fire Road. As soon as we crossed into the park, we took a fisherman's path down to the river. We needed to cross the river and take the first significant side stream that entered from the north side of the river. The water was too deep to cross without changing shoes, so we just looked for a wide, slower spot in the river. The water was cold. Not surprising - it is November, but still...brrr. We would not have attempted this hike if the temperatures had been closer to normal for this time of year. It was bad enough when the air temperature was in the 60s. Feet dry and boots back on, we hiked up the side stream, reaching Climbing Rose Falls in relatively short order. The falls were really pretty, well worth the trip. I would like to go back there early in the morning or late in the evening to take more pictures.

From there, we hiked straight up a crazy steep hill towards the top of the ridge, where we would take a right and head across a saddle to Buzzard Rocks. The climb was tough and the leaves made it hard to find footing in a lot of places. It wouldn't be a Hike Off the Pie without a memorable climb, though. We ran across some old farm ruins along the way, which was a neat surprise. You can see similar ones throughout the park, but this one was a little bit unique. In other areas of the park, often there is evidence of old roads near the ruins. Not in this case. Whoever lived in this spot reached in solely on foot or on horseback. A little bit later, we reached the saddle, where we found a footpath that led all the way to Buzzard Rocks. We had lunch there. I tried to reach the top of the rocks, but didn't have any luck. I got a point where I would have needed climbing gear, but not before a pitched battle with mountain laurel and greenbrier.

After lunch, we headed west towards the Skyland-Big Meadows Horse Trail. This involved climbing 2.5 miles over Spitler Hill. It seemed to go on forever and there must have been 15 false summits before we finally reached the trail. The walk was very pretty, but by the time we reached the trail, we were all tired of route-finding and wading through briers. We took a break on the trail and then began the long hike back to the car. We paused again at Dark Hollow Falls before heading down the Rose River Fire Road. We finally reached the car an hour after sunset. It was a great hike. I definitely want to check out Climbing Rose Falls again.
Crossing the chilly Rose River
Upper Climbing Rose Falls.
I used this log to brace my camera when I was shooting the waterfalls. I looked down and happened to notice the crawdad claw and head. Something caught the crawdad and had a meal on the log, leaving a few bits behind.
The ruins we found near a spring.
Wild grapes tangled in greenbrier.
The view from my high point on Buzzard Rocks. The peak in the distance is Stony Mountain.
 Lichen on rock.
 A little bird nest.
Lower Dark Hollow Falls shortly before sunset.


  1. Believe it or not, my arms and legs are not sore! The only sore spots are my ankles from all the rolling on loose stuff and my one thumb where the hiking poles kept me upright over and over again....

  2. Sounds challenging! You know, we're calling it Green Friday too.