Friday, November 30, 2012

Trail Recap 12 of 27: Skyland to Harpers Ferry, WV

Red Maple in the fog, Shenandoah National Park

Skyland Resort, Shenandoah National Park, VA to ATC office, Harpers Ferry, WV: 89.3 miles

General Impression/Theme:  Peak of fall color in northern Virginia.

People:  'Mag-Lev' from Boone, NC, father of 'Huckleberry' (GA-WV) who I met in Smoky Mountain Park on March 10th.  'Shaky', out for a week NoBo to Harper's Ferry, and 'L.A.' perhaps the only Hispanic/Native American hiker I've met, headed from Rockfish Gap to New York City and planning to do another 500 mile chunk next year.  'Hersch', thru-hiker hiking for a charity that helps displaced homeless people here and in Guatemala.  He'd finish his thru-hike in Duncannon in just a week or two.

Supply/Overnight:  For this section I was able to commute from my condo in Maryland - quite a luxury to have a shower, hot food, flush toilet, clean laundry, etc.

Worst Memory:  Had to kind of reach to identify one, but I guess I'll go with the infamous 'Roller Coaster' - tough, slow trail because of the rocks and some steep sections.

Best Day Hike:  An absolute cornucopia of great day hikes in this section.  First, there are a huge number of great rock outcrops and rocky summits with views of the Shenandoah Valley.  All but the last one I'll mention are easily accessible from Skyline Drive.  From Skyland, the hikes up to Stonyman (a short side trail off the AT) and Little Stonyman (right on the AT) are great and hugely popular.  Other notable rock outcrop viewpoints here are The Pinnacles, Mary's Rock, Hogback (be sure to take a little walk up to the AT overlook above the Skyline Drive auto-turn-out overlook) and North and South Marshall (with a parking lot in the saddle between them).  Of all these rocky vistas I liked North Marshall the best.  Crescent Rocks, right on the AT, is a popular outcrop with views to the south and east.  It's the only one outside Shenandoah National Park - right near the West Virginia border.

But my favorite walk was not to a rocky viewpoint.  It was a serene walk through open high meadows.  And there were even two of those in this ten-day-hike section.  I highly recommend the walk between I-66 and VA 638 in the vicinity of Linden, VA.  This two mile walk takes you up to a quarter mile walk through open meadows to a bench beneath an old apple tree with nice views to the west.  But of all the above choices, my favorite AT day hike by far was the walk through Sky Meadows State Park, with a long, varied traverse through an open ridge with some scattered stately trees in a savannah-like setting and wonderful views off to the east.  The park offers a number of opportunities for loop hikes.

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