Snate's Six-Month Sojourn travel blog

Jones Run Falls

Campsite night 1: confluence of Jones Run and Doyles River

The local drinking hole

Doyles River Falls

Campsite night 2: Ridge above Loft Mountain Wayside

View from the ridge

Deer in the site

Lunch spot day 3 on the way to Pinefield

The Pinefield Hut posse

Our sleeping quarters in Pinefield Hut

Campsite nights 4 and 5 in Big Run Canyon: the bedroom

. . . the laundry facilities

. . . the bath and well

. . . the kitchen/dining/reading room

. . . and the pantry.

A particularly intrepid crossing of Big Run

The Big Run Portal

Big Run Portal trail

Rockytop trail

Fire damage on Rockytop

Crossing of Big Run done with packs and not a wet sandal...

Self portrait: Appalachian Trail (see the blaze)

Campsite night 6: the (closed?) ghost campground of Dundo

View from the Big Run overlook


(PS: We added a couple of pictures to the previous Greenbelt posting)

Sam and I just finished an awesome seven days in the backcountry of Shenandoah National Park and are now sitting in the library in Harrisonburg, VA. We ended up making it only to Charlottesville (instead of Waynesboro) last Wednesday, then got to the the Blackrock parking area in Shenandoah at 2:30 or so last Thursday afternoon. And we didn't see the car again (or take a reputable shower) until yesterday (Wednesday).

Overall, the hiking was excellent! We both carried enough food for eight days which made the packs pretty damn heavy at the beginning. Still, we averaged around 5 miles a day (about 32 miles total), descended and ascended both the east and west sides of the Blue Ridge Mountains, narrowly avoided a thunderstorm by holing up in one of the Appalachian Trail Huts, saw TONS of deer (who have absolutely no fear of people and will hang out in your campsite with you), ate some of the best meals we've ever had backpacking and even had some time to relax and read. The countryside was gorgeous, and it was awesome to spend some time in the parts of the park that many visitors never see.

The above was a summary, but following is a day by day overview for those who are interested and for Sam and I to remember:

DAY 1: THURSDAY - Started hiking at 2:35 p.m. and ended at 5:00 p.m for a total of 3.9 miles. Hiked the AT from Blackrock parking area to the Jones Run Trail, then descended 1500 feet or so past several waterfalls to the confluence of Jones Run and Doyles River. Temp was comfortably warm. Had a not-so-good beans and rice dehydrated meal from Natural High for dinner.

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DAY 2: FRIDAY - Started hiking at 11:00 a.m. and ended at 5:30 p.m. for a total of 5 miles. Hiked back up to the ridge along Doyles River trail to the AT. From there, followed the AT up to the point where it intersects with the Frazier Discovery Loop above Loft Mountain campground. The views up here were awesome, but it was very difficult to find a legal backcountry site due to lots of rocks. Weather radio said 50% chance of rain, the wind was howling and it was cold. Had some Mountain High dehydrated stroganoff for dinner to calm us down (always delicious), then holed up for the night in the tent. Fortunately, we got no rain.

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DAY 3: SATURDAY - Started hiking at 11:00 a.m. and ended at 4:00 p.m. for a total of 5 miles. Forecast was nearly guaranteeing rain, though it was brilliantly sunny and hot. Sat in the morning on rocks overlooking the valley, had coffee/tea and discussed our options. Decided to hike to the AT Pinefield Hut just in case the forecasts were true. Made it to the hut at 4:00, where we met two grumpy old guys who thought they were backpacking experts and God's gift to the AT community. Decided we didn't want to be anywhere near these guys, so we set up the tent below the hut a ways and separated ourselves from them. Started hearing thunder just as two more guys approached the hut. Began chatting with them, realized they were really cool and also noticed the clouds darkening and the storm approaching. Broke the tent down and packed up the site in record time and ducked under the shelter just as it started pouring. Had an excellent dinner of egg noodles, gravy, TVP and sun dried tomatoes under the roof and hung out and chatted until bedtime. Slept on the top bunk of the shelter with a host of crickets to keep us company.

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DAY 4: SUNDAY - Started hiking at 11:00 a.m. (beginning to see a trend?) and ended at 3:30 p.m. for a total of 4.5 miles. Left Pinefield Hut and walked along the AT until a point where we could see Skyline Drive through the trees. Bushwhacked to the road, hiked the road for a half mile or so until we reached the Brown Mountain trail head. Hiked Brown Mountain until the Rocky Mountain Run trail, then descended the west side of the ridge into the Big Run Wilderness until we reached the Big Run Portal trail. Hiked a quarter mile up the Big Run Portal trail and found an AWESOME site right by the river. Set up camp here and relaxed and read for the rest of the afternoon. Weather was awesome, dinner was awesome, site was awesome! For dinner we had a packet of three cheese mashed potatoes with musroom gravy, sausage and sun dried tomatoes. Probably the best dinner I've had on the trail! Heard coyotes at night, which was actually pretty surreal.

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DAY 5: MONDAY - Decided to stay another night in the Big Run wilderness. After breakfast, went on a 5.6 mile dayhike to the end of the Big Run Portal trail and up the Rockytop trail to the top of Rockytop peak. The walk was gorgeous and there were tons of cool river crossings. Tried to do them dry at first, but eventually ended up wading across. After, had coffee, read and then cooked egg noodles with sun dried tomatoes, sausage and alfredo sauce. Another delicious meal!

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DAY 6: TUESDAY - Started hiking at 11:00 a.m. and ended at 4:00 p.m. for a total of 5.6 miles. Hiked the Big Run Portal trail (with five river crossings) to the Big Run Loop trail. From there climbed the ridge to the AT and started hiking south toward Blackrock and our car. Ended up staying the night in a deserted campground called Dundo. The sign said reservations were necessary, but there was no one around (perhaps the place was closed), so we didn't worry. Tried out Natural High's dehydrated honey lime chicken with wild rice which was pretty damn tasty, though a bit cloying at the finish. Watched a beautiful sunset from the Dundo Overlook, then read in the tent.

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DAY 7: WEDNESDAY - Easy, easy two mile hike back to the car along the AT. Left at 9:30 and to the car by 10:15 a.m. Packed up and headed to Big Meadows Lodge for a congratulatory lunch, then hopped on the Internet there to hunt for a midnight showing of Star Wars. Yes, this was actually part of our rationale for leaving the backcountry (we had another day's worth of food), and yes, we are incredible geeks.

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