LITTLE STONY MAN

GPS: 38.605948, -78.367514

TIME: 30M

LENGTH: 1 MILE RT

ELEVATION CHANGE:  400 ft

Recently I have been thinking a great deal about the national parks. How to see them all and not break the bank. So I started looking at which ones were driving distance and found Shenandoah to be the closest to New York. Google Maps shows it can be between 5.5-7.5 hours away to the northern-most portion of the park.

So we packed up the car and headed south. We arrived just shy of 7:30pm and entered the park at the Thornton Gap entrance. I showed the ranger my America The Beautiful pass and ID; officially crossing another park off my list.

We drove 5 minutes to Tunnel Parking Overlook. This neat tunnel is right next to an overlook. There were barely any other park-goers and I’m sure it was because of the weather.

As you can see below, the day was overcast and the views were hazy. That’s Booger (Nicole’s dog) on the ledge trying to see through the haze

We weren’t at the overlook very long because we still wanted to make it to the top of Little Stony Man for sunset. We drove another 15 minutes south on Skyline Drive to Little Stony Man Parking.

The trail is pet friendly, just make sure they stay on the leash and are physically able to do the trail or be carried. And here’s a friendly reminder to leave no trace behind…

Start walking the trail from the parking lot. You’ll soon come across the trail markers for the Appalachian Trail. The small concrete pillars will point you in the correct direction depending on what you’re there to hike that day. For now, make a left and follow the white trail markers.

At about 0.3 miles you will reach a trail junction. There is an overlook there or you can continue climbing. Doing both is also a great idea if you have the time. Here’s what the clearing to the first overlook is like. I’m pretty sure you can typically see mountains, but on that day it was clouds.

From these viewpoints you can see the Blue Ridge. On most days anyways. On days like the one we went on, you can really watch the clouds rolling in. We caught a quick glimpse of the mountains before they were covered in clouds again.

We decided to head back down seeing how we weren’t going to get any good views of sunset. Not to mention it was getting dark and starting to drizzle. I’d made the amateur move of leaving my raincoat in the car.

When you get to the junction heading down, you are 0.25 miles away from Little Stony Man Summit if you went up to the right. We decided to skip it and head down to the left. If you’re doing sunset hikes don’t forget to bring headlamps or lanterns for the walk down. It wasn’t totally dark as we headed down. In certain sections however, like the one Nicole is going to enter, the trees make it darker.

I like the ease of this hike. I’m sure this counts as a high reward low effort hike when the sunsets are visible. The trail is easy to follow and the overlook has flat areas where you can lay down a blanket. The best part is that you can share it with your four legged friends.

Once we were in the car, we continued driving on Skyline Drive and found this interesting sign. I had read on google that there can be anywhere between 200-1,000 bears in the park at any given time. Not wanting to hurt a bear or potentially hurt ourselves, I slowed down my driving.

And then this sign asked me to slow down even more.

And with good reason. Remember the clouds from the overlook? Well now we had a very dense fog that reduced visibility even more. I feel like this picture doesn’t even begin to show how dense the fog got in certain areas.

I spent the rest of the night on Skyline Drive trying to see through the fog and avoiding potential bears/deers on the road. I recalled route 33 ran through the park. That was going to be my escape to a straighter highway and hopefully faster way to the Airbnb. The road curves a great deal in the park and that adds more travel time then I expected. Before making a right off the Skyline we saw a pair out for a stroll. Being the optimist I can be sometimes I thought to myself, “Tomorrow is another day and another chance to see some pretty scenery.” Good night guys!

“Tomorrow we’ll see the sun rise”

Mariana Torres (before checking the weather)

KANARRA FALLS

GPS: 37.539003, -113.174801

TIME: 2.5 H

LENGTH: 3.2 MILES RT

DATE: APRIL 24, 2019

🗣 Not all hikes are created equal!

We were done with the strenuous Angels Landing and took a nice stroll on Riverside Walk that day. However, it was early enough in the day where we could fit in another hike and still make it to our AirBnb in a decent time.

Having done so much research I had yellow stars scattered all along my offline google maps. So I started clicking around and found Kanarra Falls. It was perfect. Short enough to complete (the section we wanted to do is only 3.2 miles long RT) and on the way to our next destination for the night. I was also bewitched by the idea that we’d be alone in a narrow canyon and it’s awesome waterfall. When we arrived there were only two other cars in the lot and one was pulling out.

There’s a $12.00 per person fee at the trailhead just up the stairs from the parking lot. I had my first red flag disguised as a pleasant surprise when we saw the permit station employee. He was getting ready to close and saw that we were on the fence about paying $12 per person ($48 total). So he did us a huge favor and told us to pay $12 for parking and all four of us could get access to the trailhead. He must have known we wouldn’t make it all the way as the water was rising. Instead of questioning his decision to hook us up I took it and ran with it. He gave us a small map and it looked pretty straight forward.

At the entrance there are also signs to warn hikers about the rattle snakes. More on that later…

Excited to potentially do three hikes in a day we started our trek. The first 10 minutes of it are on a road. At the top of the hill there are facilities. And just past the facilities is the first encounter with water. Be prepared to wet your shoes, socks and pants. We crossed and were on our way. Below you’ll see Nicole leading the way and CJ and Tony behind me. We walked next to the creek the whole time.

Soon after however, we realized there aren’t any trail markers. That wouldn’t have been a problem where the ground is worn and the trail is easy to follow. We obviously know from high school geography that this creek leads into the falls. The problem arrises when there are false paths intersecting the creek and trail and you’re not sure which way to go.

We crossed the creek three or four times. We made it to what I believe is the portion where the rest of the hike is done in the creek. But at this point the water was really cold and the current was strong. The water was above knee level in certain spots for me (I’m 5’5″) and I was uncomfortable with the idea that it would only get deeper. We stopped and talked about the pros/cons of continuing for a while. Preferring to be better safe than sorry, we decided to turn around.

I realize as I write this that I don’t have video of the deeper creek crossings and I know exactly why. I was more scared concerned with not getting swept away by the current than taking pictures or videos for “the gram.” It was not worth risking a steady foot placement.

Now let me tell you about the snake. At one point on our way out I was walking right next to Tony. He said something along the lines of “what is that?” and immediately we heard a rattle. If you’ve never had the experience of hearing it in person, here’s a LINK. We were out of there so fast! I could not believe how close it was to the trail itself. That sound was ONE BIG NOPE! Almost running to the car, I made sure to stay away from the shrubbery at the sides of the trail.

Then we arrived at the first creek crossing we had at the trailhead, which was also the shallowest of them all. It was ankle deep when we started. By the time we were leaving it was just below Tony’s knees (he’s 6’1″). And the crossing itself was much wider than we initially saw it. The pictures below are screen grabs from a GoPro video I have of everyone crossing at the trailhead on the way out.

Nicole right before her foot drops into the deeper section
Tony crossing almost knee deep waters

By the end of our trip we named this the hike that shall not be named. Between the lack of trail markers, rattle snake and strong currents I felt defeated.

Finally in the car and out of our wet shoes, I pulled out of our parking spot. I couldn’t believe that just across the road, not even 20 ft. from us, there were three very large deers making their way down. After what felt like a very rough afternoon, it was calming to see them walking. Side by side, unbothered by the presence of our vehicle. It reminded me why we were out there in the first place.

I’ve said it in other posts and I’ll say it again. I can become so concerned with the destination of a hike that I forget about the actual hike itself. The journey that afternoon was adventurous! It gave us higher water levels to really concentrate balancing in, adrenaline from hearing the rattle snake, and conviction to complete every hike thereafter.

For the future, when I attempt this hike again, I will make sure to check out their website first. It looks like they are attempting to update hikers on a more daily basis. This would be super helpful for day-of hikers looking to check water levels and currents.

And yes, you read that correctly. When I attempt this hike again. It’s the first time I’ve prematurely turned around on a hike. Maybe it won’t be the last either. But I haven’t crossed it off my list and when I’m in the area again I’m determined to conquer it.

“The will to conquer is the first condition of victory.”

Ferdinand Foch