Monday, April 18, 2011

South River Falls Trail/ Lily's Big Hike

"Come on Bo Let's Go"
April 15. Bo, Lily and I went for a day in Shenandoah National Park. We entered the park at Swift Run Gap west of Stanardsville and went north to the South River Falls picnic area to park. While Lily went around leaving messages Bo and I put on our hiking boots and organized our day packs, mainly filled with water. About a hundred yards in from the picnic area, we found the Appalachian Trail and headed north. This part of the hike was about 3 miles with two climbs. We met two trail volunteers who were hand sawing through a foot and a half tree that had fallen across the trail. To use a chainsaw in the park you have to have various certifications including CPR so they do all their work with hand tools.  They estimate to keep the trail clear requires about 15 hours of volunteer time a year for each mile of the trail. Lily thinks Bo spent too long talking to the trail volunteers and she made some comment about, “Doesn’t he have any friends in Richmond.” I told her not to be rude. This leg of our hike ends at Pocosin cabin. This is a very rustic cabin, complete with an outhouse some 100 feet from the front porch, that you can rent from the national park service. Lily lead the way for the most part only going on leash when we met the trail volunteers and when we met two backpackers heading south.
These hills were considerable more climbing than our usual hikes and she was glad we took a break at the cabin.

Upper Pocosin Rectory?
Upper Pocosin Mission
The cabin was the farthest north part of our hike today and here we turn south east on the Pocosin fire road. This has a nice gentle grade and is a very pleasant walk for about a mile. Bo and I have always hiked in August before and usually I end up desperate for water. Today there are springs everywhere. One spring pops up out of the ground gushes along for about 50 feet and then disappears back under ground.
This leg of our trip ends at the ruins of the Upper Pocosin Episcopal Mission church. The ruins consist of the stone foundations of a fairly good size chapel and a poorly constructed shack that is on its last legs. All I can find out about this sight is that it dates to 1904, was established as outreach to the mountain people and that there is a graveyard nearby that we didn’t see. The shack appears to me to be closer to mid 20th century but that is just my guess.

South River Falls
Lily and I usually take, there and back hikes, and she is a little confused by this circuit hike and keeps asking if it is not time to head back, I tell her wait and see. I think she has started to figure out that we are now heading in the direction of our car. From here we take the Pocosin Trail south toward south river falls till we hit the south River Fire road ant turn more westward. This will take us briefly out of the park and through the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area. We have seen absolutely no wildlife except birds. At the higher elevations the trees show little sign of spring. The lower altitudes are budding and some shrubs are even leafing.
We leave the fire road and go on the South Falls trail. This has an average level of climbing. There are a couple of places as we get near the falls where water is just dripping out of boulders that just glisten black with the water and are alive with brilliantly green moss. With all the abundant water on this hike Lily will only drink the water we put in her bowl. She is a city girl at heart.
We choose the trail to the falls overlook instead of the trail to the base of the falls. South river falls is the third highest falls in the park at 83ft and today it is roaring down It is beautiful. The rocks here are warm from the sun and we lay down for a rest. Lily reluctantly stretches out on the rocks. She is quite clear about the fact that she usually has a pillow or cushion of some kind for naps. We probably spend about 20 minutes here just enjoying the sound of the falls and the beautiful day.
We can see the base of the fall and the journey down is a major hike and nothing compared to what the  hike back up would be so we decide to skip it. The hike from the falls back to the parking area is about 2 miles and is a steep uphill climb almost all the way. Overall I think we did about 8 miles. It was Lily’s longest hike ever. We said good bye to Bo at the parking area. Lilly climbed into the back seat and stretched out. I stopped at the Dairy Queen in Stanardsville and got myself a soda and Lily a vanilla Ice cream. I gave it to her slowly so she wouldn’t get a brain freeze. She said, “Today was better than Christmas.”

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