Thursday, February 16, 2017

Waterfalls and Wildflowers? Cedar Run and White Oak Canyon

A friend was in town from Oregon last weekend and had a free day, so we took her out Shenandoah National Park and hiked the Cedar Run, Hawskbill, White Oak Canyon loop. It is a nice ten-mile loop that shows off some of the best of the park: big waterfalls, the highest peak in the park, and it has enough climbing to be a good workout. I feel like we've been to White Oak Canyon countless times, but looking back through the blog and my photos, I hadn't been since 2011 and Michael hadn't been since 2009. It was nice to see all of the waterfalls again.

The weather was perfect: sunny and in the high 40s. For much of the climb up Cedar Run, we were protected from the wind, so it felt pretty warm. It had rained earlier in the week, which meant the waterfalls were running well. We ate lunch just before we got to Skyline Drive. That was our first taste of the wind. We all got cold pretty quickly. The walk up to the top of Hawksbill warmed us back up, but it was pretty windy and cold up there. We took a few pictures and headed back down the mountain. We crossed back over Skyline Drive and picked up the fire road that connects to the White Oak Canyon Trail. We had a nice walk down past all of the big waterfalls. Since it was too cold to swim, it wasn't terribly crowded.

 The waterfall at the first crossing of Cedar Run. It was a little bright to try to shoot smooth waterfalls, but this one didn't turn out too badly.
 The pool below the waterslide on Cedar Run. The water was so clear on Saturday that you could see the bottom of the pool
 Old Rag from the top of Hawksbill. It was a little hazy.
 Our party on the summit of Hawksbill.
 A small cascade on White Oak Creek
 One of the larger falls on White Oak Creek.
 Lower White Oak Falls
Anemone americana (Round-Lobed Hepatica) blooming. On February 11th. In the mountains. This is easily a month, possibly more like six or seven weeks, early. This is the clearest indication that we haven't actually had winter this year. According to Capital Weather Gang, in the DC area, we had a 19 day stretch in January where the temperature didn't drop below freezing. I'm sure it was colder in the mountains, but it has clearly still been unusually warm.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Lost River State Park, West Virginia

We have driven by Lost River State Park in West Virginia countless times. We've even biked through it, but, other than stopping for water on that ride, we had never explored the trails there. Since the rest of the country was watching a football game on Sunday and the weather was supposed to be warm for February, we figured it was a good day to check it out.

 The hike began with a pleasant walk along Howard's Lick Run. Sunday morning, the edges of the creek were coated in ice.
 Ice on the edges of the creek.
 After less than half a mile, we turned uphill and began the long, steady climb up to Cranny Crow overlook. After a mile or so, we came to the remnants of a day use shelter. The roof looked like it was in good shape, but the bench was completely rotted out.
 The view from Cranny Crow overlook. As we climbed, we were more an more exposed to the wind. Although the temperatures were in the high 40s, the windchill was probably in the low 30s. At this overlook, we could stand out on the rocks for very long because the wind was blowing so hard.
 A little shelter at Cranny Crow Overlook.
 Further along Big Ridge, there is an old fire tower. The bottom sections of the stairs has been removed, so we couldn't climb it, but it was still a neat tower.
Michael hiking ahead while I took pictures. He was lucky enough to see two bald eagles: an adult and a juvenile. He didn't get any pictures and I wasn't lucky enough to see them.
We finally reached Millers Rocks at the north end of Big Ridge. This is the view of the cloud bank to the west.
Looking north from Millers Rocks
Looking south towards where we started.
On the way back, near a picnic area, a historic cabin sits in the middle of a meadow. This cabin was built in 1840.

Lost River State Park is spectacular. We hiked just under 12 miles and only saw four other people. We will definitely be back.