Monday, January 2, 2017

Backpacking in the New Year, 2017 version

We ended 2016 the way we started it: with a pack on our backs, walking on the Appalachian Trail. This year, it was just Michael and me. We went to the South District of Shenandoah National Park and parked at Loft Mountain Wayside. We hiked up the Frazier Discovery Trail to the Appalachian Trail, where we turned south. It was clear, a little chilly, and really windy if we were on the wrong side of the ridge. The trail winds around the back side of the Loft Mountain Campground before descending to the Doyles River parking area. We passed that and made our way to Blackrock Summit. By the time we reached Blackrock summit, it was completely overcast and cold. From the summit, it was a quick 3/4 mile to Blackrock Hut, where we spent the night.

Blackrock Hut is tucked down in a valley, which was nice. We could hear the wind roaring above us, but we were spared most of it. When we arrived, there was another couple already in the shelter and they already had a lovely fire going. There were two more parties camped at the hut as well. Everyone was pleasant and relaxed, but no one, as far as I know, managed to stay up until midnight. It was just too chilly to sit outside. We climbed in our sleeping bags around 8 pm and I was probably asleep by 9:30.

The next morning, the wind had died down and it was actually warmer than the night before. One of the guys in the shelter had cell phone service and checked the weather. We lucked out. The system forecast to bring rain on New Year's Day had stayed south. We had a nice breakfast, packed up, and began the long climb back up to Blackrock Summit in good spirits.

The loop that includes Jones Run and Doyles River is one of the more popular hikes in the south district. It has a number of nice waterfalls and it can get pretty crowded (well...nothing like Old Rag). We actually hadn't done it before. It is a long drive from where we live and the loop itself is only 7 miles, which is right on the edge of our rule about driving time vs. time on the mountain (you have to spend more time on the mountain than in the car). We finally checked it off yesterday. It is a very nice hike. The waterfalls on Jones Run are spectacular and the ones on Doyles River aren't too bad, either. We spent some time taking pictures of them. I do wish I had thought to bring my tripod, but I was able to use rocks and trees to get some nice pictures of the falls. We had a pleasant lunch in the sun at Lower Doyles River Falls. I am guessing most people do the loop in the opposite direction than we did because the climb out of Doyles River will remind you that you ate too much over the holidays.

We finished our hike by returning north on the Appalachian Trail and walking out through the Loft Mountain Campground. We had a lovely hike and really enjoyed bringing in the new year on trail.

 Icicles on the Frazier Discovery Trail
 One of the larger icicles.
 The view from the rocks near the junction of the Frazier Discovery Trail and the Appalachian Trail
 Interesting patterns in the ice.
 The Appalachian Trail covered in a dusting of snow.
 An Eastern Bluebird. I saw this little guy on a branch and had time to change my lens and get exactly one shot before it decided to fly off.
 One of the crossings of Skyline Drive
 Gray skies on Blackrock Summit on New Year's Eve
 Bright, sunny skies on New Years morning on Blackrock Summit
 Michael scrambling up the rocks to the actual summit
 Looking northwest towards Massanutten Mountain from Blackrock Summit.
 Jones Run Falls
 Another view of Jones Run Falls
 Michael in front of Jones Run Falls
 Michael's backpack taking a break at the junction of Jones Run Trail and Doyles River Trail (behind his backpack)
 Lower Doyles River Falls.
 A closer shot of Lower Doyles River Falls
 Dried Goldenrod
 A walled-in spring near the top of the Doyle's River Trail
We stopped for pizza on the way home. When we came out of the restaurant, the moon and Venus were bright in the sky (click to enlarge).


  1. Speattle (on ravelry)January 7, 2017 at 5:14 PM

    I love the photo of the little bluebird. I was able to click on it and enlarge it in my computer screen and it is really a beautiful picture. Love the blue contrast with the brown and white surroundings.

    1. Thank you! It was such a lucky shot. I would have liked to have been able to get a couple, but the bluebird wasn't having it!