Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Elliott's Knob in the Snow

Augusta County's Highest Mountain, a Magical World

The wind-blown snow at the summit of Elliott's Knob looks like a coastal scene.

The sunlight on Saturday morning illuminated the snow on the mountains, beckoning the hearty to hike them. Elliott's Knob called from the West, and I was in the mood for adventure. Driving along route 42 the snow was deep enough to make me wonder if there would be a place to pull off of the road (and get out again).

The forest service road had been packed down enough to allow for a bit of artful maneuvering into a safe spot. One set of boot prints led up the trail to Falls Hollow and I followed them.

Dwight Wood of North Mountain Outfitter on the trail.

Approaching the falls through the clearings at the base of the mountain, I met Dwight Wood, who owns North Mountain Outfitter [click to read] leading a trail ride. The sight of horses in the snowy wood was the beginning of a magical journey. Mr. Wood, I discovered, enjoys the Narnia tales of C. S. Lewis just as I do. Truly this was going to be a day to behold wonders.

The other pair of bootprints stopped were I met the riders. The other hiker had tramped around in the deep snow and must have decided not to attempt Falls Hollow. He had walked out on another road. I would press on through the unbroken snow alone!

The cascading creek in Falls Hollow...

There were now no footprints to guide... only the little creek, merrily making its way down the hollow, and my memory of where the trail was from previous trips.

...led deeper into a magical hollow...

...and sometimes gave hints of where the trail lay.

Now the  trail left the creek and rose through a laurel thicket. This is a place I love to come to in early Summer when it is abloom. Now the green laurel leaves made for a happy walk in the snow. A light indentation in the snowy hillside indicated trail.

Laurel along the trail leaving Falls Hollow.

Rising through the laurel, I eventually reached the road that takes you to the top. It was growing late, but I saw some tracks going up the road towards the summit and decided to go for it anyway!

The road to the top.





The fire tower at the summit.

The road to the top eventually takes you to a fir forest reminiscent of the Narnian wardrobe passing from Spare Oom into the Lantern Wastes! High drifts filled the trail the last little bit as it approached the summit.

It was five o'clock when I reached the top... way past my planned "turn around time," so I bounded down the snowy road in order to reach route 42 before darkness overtook me.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Walk to White Rock Falls

Autumn Turning to Winter with Fresh Snowfall

The trail winds through a Winter scene...

..headed toward the spring that cascades into White Rock Falls.



A beautiful spot for reflection, just undar a mile's hike from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hiking on Old Rag Mountain

Madison County's Granite Mountain Challenge

Stairs are provided (a natural formation) for a portion of the hike...

...as is natural air conditioning. A breeze almost always blows through this cave.

This trail takes you over, under and around a large number of boulders.

"Is this one of your favorite hikes?" asked Doug Riley, father of my mural partner. "Actually, I consider this the essential hike. " I reply. Old Rag is considered the best hike in Shenandoah National Park by most who compile trail guides. "It is the only hike in Shenandoah for which upper body strength is a serious consideration." writes one.

Yesterday we made a weekday visit to this solitary mountain in Madison County. It is in Shenandoah National Park but you get there by driving through the Hebron Valley where my German ancestors settled after a tenure in Governor Spottswood's mines. Route 231, the Blue Ridge Turnpike, runs arrow straight past the neat farms laid out in the first land patent. The Hebron Lutheran Church with its 1802 Tannenberg Organ is there as well. The Clore Furniture Factory attests to generations of German craftsmen.

And then there is the mountain. Rugged and feeling somewhat like an Alpine landscape transported to Virginia, Old Rag stands sentinel above the peaceful valley of my ancestors. The climb is rugged and the views are breathtaking. It is worth taking a weekday off as the weekend crowds are gone and you can really enjoy the climb.

I've hiked with a Nepali former Maoist, another Nepali son of a Gherka and a Ranger. Doug is right up there with the Nepalis in stamina (he's ten years younger than me) and we enjoy a brisk hike and some fun on the rock climbs. We enjoy a leisurely lunch at the top. I even pulled out my cell phone and found we had reception so we called our wives from the top, just for the fun of it.

We descended the Saddle Trail and came out through Weakley Hollow. It is about nine miles including the road walk to the parking area.

Guide to Hiking Old Rag Mountain [click to read].

The view from the top.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Walk to Blackrock on a Cold Day

Shenandoah's Rocky Outpost Offers Great Views

An earlier hike to Blackrock, in warmer weather.

The trail to Blackrock. It begins near milepost 85 on the Skyline Drive.

First view of the rocks.

Snow on the rocks.

The view from the top.

Trayfoot Mountain in the distance.

Furnace Mountain and Austin Mountain.

The blue-blazed trail to Trayfoot Mountain...

...leads through wind-twisted trees...

...through the Cleft in the Rock.

A frosty fern.

Winter color.

Twisted wood.

Blackrock derives its name from the growth of lichen on the rocks...

...which from a distance looks dark on the surface.

Mountain Laurel.


A Black Bear (Ursus Americanus) made this footprint in the soft ground of the last thaw.

Winter's colors are a special treat.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dark Hollow Falls in Shenandoah Park

Falls Flowing Full from Snow Melt and Spring Rains

Dark Hollow Falls
Dark Hollow Falls near Big Meadows in Shenandoah Park. Photo by S. Kirchman.

Bridesburg Cottage
Bridesburg Cottage at Big Meadows.

Old Rag
Old Rag Mountain.

Shenandoah National Park has always been a special place to our family. As a girl, my Mother hiked Old Rag and White Oak Canyon. Skyland was always where we had family reunion. When my Mother and Father passed away we gathered one last time at Skyland to remember them.

Big Meadows was where my wife and I spent the first night of our honeymoon. Bridesburg cottage had fireplaces in the rooms and even in late May it was nice to have a warm fire.

This past Tuesday my son continued the tradition... proposing to his girl at Dark Hollow Falls! When she said 'absolutely' another generation made Shenandoah their special place as well!

Dark Hollow Falls
My photo of Dark Hollow Falls, now even more of a favorite place!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hiking Elliott's Knob

A Quiet Mountain Hollow Stream Awaits...

Falls Hollow
Falls Hollow, pictures taken in September of this year.

Falls Hollow

Falls Hollow

Falls Hollow

Falls Hollow

...and a Rugged Hike Awaits as Well

One of my favorite places to hike is the trail up Elliott's Knob [or Elliott Knob]. I'm pretty sure I saw it as Elliott's on a Jedediah Hotchkiss map so I'm sticking with it. The trail makes its way up Falls Hollow along this little stream.

Here are More Pictures [click to view] taken along the trail up Elliott's Knob.

Road to the Top
Coming out of Falls Hollow, hikers find a rugged mountain road to the top.

Fire Tower
Abandoned fire tower at the summit.

Fire Tower
Looking up at the fire tower.

Almost to the Top
Almost to the top, where a view awaits...

Elliott's Knob View
...of the Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

Elliott's Knob
Elliott's Knob as seen from Little North Mountain.