HUMPBACK ROCKS

GPS: 37.969127, -78.896155

TIME: 1H 10M

LENGTH: 1.6 MILES RT

ELEVATION CHANGE:  800 ft

We get to the trail head just in time to hike up to humpback rocks and see sunset. Fingers crossed. It was 7:15pm and sunset was at 8:25-ish. At the trailhead there are several different options for trails. We walked up to the kiosk and saw this posting. There was an alert for bear activity but there were several other people on the trail. So not really worried… As the sign said, the trail to humpback rock was right behind the kiosk.

To ensure hikers are going the right way, they also have these signs. We were only doing the 0.8 one way, but it’s many feet to climb in a short distance.

For anyone worried about the steep climb, there are benches along the way. It’s perfect for someone who needs to pace themselves to reach the top.

The trail is wide and has blue blazes all the way up. They almost felt redundant as the trail is very clear to follow. However, in the dark the blue blazes were helpful. As we climbed the steep trail, I almost stepped on this little guy. I was so glad he was a bright orange color because it caught my eye and he got to live another day.

You’ll come across about 45 wooden stairs that have been placed in the middle of the trail. It helps to gain some elevation rather quickly.

So, let’s talk about the bear. At this point we are still following the blue blazes and people are steadily heading down dogs and all. After the section below, the trail turns left. There was a black bear about 20 feet from the trail. The woman who saw him before us said they saw each other but the bear did not seem to want to interact. We decided it would be best to wait for two girls who were a few minutes behind us and walk up as a group. And that’s exactly what we did. One of the girls had seen a bear before on this same hike and said nothing came of it. Good to hear.

And then you’re almost there! Even though this hike is only 0.8 miles long, it felt eternal. After the bear, every dark shape seemed like it was another bear to me. The tension and adrenaline did not help make the hike any easier on my body either.

Then out of what feels like no where, you turn a corner and see this opening. I completely forgot about the bear and was so happy to see this view.

If you’re dumb brave enough, you can climb up on either side. I climbed up the right side and Nicole captured this shot from the top of the left side. It was a hazy evening, but the view went on for miles. Days with clear skies must have what seems like a endless view. But alas, no pretty sunset. FYI, those rocks are also super sharp and gloves would have been a plus to have on my person.

I have zero pictures of the descent from humpback and with good reason. By 8:25pm it was getting really dark really fast. Knowing that bears are dawn and dusk animals we made lots of noise on our way down. We essentially were running downhill yelling at each other and clapping randomly. We didn’t want to give a bear a chance to sneak up on us. And I’m sure we looked like a pair of crazies. But as Beyonce says, “I’d rather be crazy.” Below is the view from my car as we left the park.

Exactly…

“True Compassion is showing Kindness towards animals, without expecting anything in return”

– Paul Oxton

SOUTH RIVER FALLS

GPS: 38.381196, -78.518068

TIME: 2H 30M

LENGTH: 4.1 MILES RT

ELEVATION CHANGE:  993 ft

The picnic area where the trail head is located is encompassed by a one way road. You’ll see a large sign next to a facilities structure. When we arrived at 7:20am there was plenty of parking.

There are two options for this waterfall hike. You can do an in-and-out hike to the observation point or a loop with the option to hike down to the waterfall. There was no way I was skipping standing at the base of the waterfall. So I mentally prepared for the long climb back.

From the parking lot you walk onto a well defined trail. There is a slight decline as you walk deeper into the trail.

When you approach the AT (Appalachian Trail) cement pillar, you’ll have a clear idea of which way to go. Whether you’re doing the loop or the in/out hike continue straight on the path past the intersection.

You’ll follow the blue blazes down. Keep in mind that every step you take carries you deeper into the valley. Meaning you’ll have to climb back up if you decide to retrace your steps. There are a few portions where stairs have been made on the trail. They seem to also serve as retainers for that corner specifically.

It took us just under an hour to reach the overlook. It had rained the night before and there was plenty of water flowing down from the South River. Unfortunately, the trees obstruct the view a little. The falls are only slightly visible from this point. If you decide to walk down to the falls that will add on an additional 1.5 miles that are very steep. Trust me, my calves have not recovered yet lol.

Like I said, I wasn’t missing this waterfall. So we kept walking past the overlook until we came upon another pillar. We made sure it was pointing towards the base of the falls and we headed deeper into the valley.

You’ll get to another point on the hike where the pillar below is standing. This is not the end of the hike. Continue following the blue trail blazes on the tree to the right.

Not too long after you’ll have an awesome view of the falls. It was awesome to be the first ones there that morning and have the place to ourselves.

The blue trail takes you right up to the falls on the right hand side.

After about an hour of hanging out and taking pictures we saw the first sign of humanity. An older couple from Naples, Florida joined us at the waterfall. They were amazing. They shared their stories with us of traveling to Iceland, Peru and several states to visit national parks. They are retired and have decided to travel as much as possible in their golden years.

Having had our fill of stories shared with the elderly couple, we were ready to head back up. We decided to save time and retrace our steps. Truthfully it was so nice and tranquil by the waterfall that I didn’t want to leave. But it was also a nice idea to leave the waterfall to the nice couple for them to enjoy alone.

I also learned a couple things about myself that day:

  1. I cannot wait for Tony and I to retire to travel whatever corners of the world we haven’t reached by then. We have done a good amount of traveling since we started dating in 2012 but is it ever enough? For me the answer is no. God willingly we live long lives and get to do something like the couple from Naples.
  2. I will hike the most strenuous hikes with steep inclines. So long as I’m going UP first. That means I’ll be hiking down at the end of my hike and I love that. I am NOT a fan of down then up hikes. Especially when gaining over 1000 ft in elevation. If I’m somewhere that requires me to do a hike like this, I’ll still do it. But I remain steady on NOT being a fan.

We also saw a few creepy critters on this hike as well. Some hiding in plain sight and others camouflaged to their environment. The frog and crayfish were hardest to spot:

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

– Anthony Bourdain