Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shenandoah NP: Overall Run Falls

Date: October 4, 2009
Place: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Trails: Overall Run, Beecher Ridge, Trace Trail
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

Shenandoah! (Just love saying that word aloud!)

The day was nice for a hike/run - sunny, in the 50s and 60s, fall season. The Shenandoah National Park is about 90 miles from DC, and consists of breathtaking scenery of forested Blue Ridge mountains and meadows. The plan was to hike/run the 11.5 mile round-trip connecting the Overall Run and Beecher Ridge trails. The trails are listed on hiking websites as being strenuous and having an elevation gain of 4000'. Despite all that, Shankar and I started the hike, for various excuses, at 4.45pm. Even as we started, we knew that it was miserably late and that we would finish when the fullish moon was overhead.

We started at the Traces Trail trailhead, and the trail started climbing steeply immediately for a mile or so. On the way we passed a few trail intersections, randomly chose what we took to be the "main" trail, wondering why these extremely well maintained trails were not marked at all. After hiking a mile, we came across another intersection, and we finally figured out then that the funny looking stone pillars had tiny metal plates on the sides that gave out the information on trail directions that we could have used 0.5 miles earlier. This intersection was with the famous Appalachian trail, which we had definitely not planned to meet.

Backtrack. Back to the previous intersection then, a fast downhill run on trails nice, rocky in parts but mostly soft. We finally got back to the Overall Run trail, our initially intended itinerary. We then hiked up steeply and then down steeply for a couple of miles through thickly wooded forests. There are no scenic views here, but the trail itself is colorful with the red, pink, yellow and green leaves from oak and maple trees that herald the arrived fall season. This part of the hike ends at a clearing with fantastic views of mountains and the nearby 93' Overall Run Falls. All the prior steep climbing was forgotten in this vista of meditative beauty. The setting sun added a picturesque background to the valleys of the Blue Ridge mountains.

We continued hiking steeply downward along the trail for some more, though Shankar by this time was plodding on bravely despite ITB issues and foot blisters. It was soon 7pm and darkening rapidly, and we decided to turn back to conquer the trail another day. A surreal night hike in the forest ensued, navigated safely with the help of a flashlight and a headlamp. The trails were empty of any people other than us two, quite reasonably, and that added it's own charm in the night with birds tweeting and creatures strange rustling the leaves on the ground. We got a little lost though and ended up at the Mathews Arms Campground instead of the trailhead, but we knew the way down to the trailhead through the campsites. We finished finally at around 8pm.

If the 7 miles or so that we did on the trail is any indication, this is a strenuous hike with rather steep uphill and downhill sections but well worth the effort for all the beauty there is along the way. Among the wildlife we saw today were white-tailed deer, gray squirrels, vultures and white caterpillars.

The little we saw of the trail and the park was enchanting. Enough to make me want to go there again. Soon.

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