Where We Live
Living in Sperryville, Va., just three miles outside Shenandoah National Park gives us access to some of the most beautiful places in the eastern United States. This small village is just amazing. Galleries, antiques, fine restaurants and artists and craftspeople all producing some of the best art, crafts and furniture you’ll see anywhere. There are two great bakeries, an espresso/wine bar and a coffee roaster that have spoiled me for life on any other coffees. Starbucks?? Meh…. Not so much anymore.
Still, after wandering the village or visiting friends and taking in the newest art exhibit it is always a great adventure to head up Route 211 to the Thornton Gap entrance to the Park. Decisions, decisions… “Where do I want to go today? What do I want to see? Rock scramble, waterfalls? Three hundred sixty degree panoramas that will truly show you why this is called the Blue Ridge? Those waves upon waves of rolling blue ridges fading into oblivion in the distance…
The choices are so varied you may enter a different world each time you head into the Park. This hike took us to the Rose River Loop, an incredible hike that keeps you interactively absorbed in the trail. Located at mile marker 49.4 on the Skyline Drive you can park at Fischer’s Gap Overlook parking lot, cross the Drive to the Rose River Fire Road and enter the trail by taking the left fork by the fire road. The descent is approximately 900 feet so it’s a good workout, but not overly strenuous.
Descending the trail you quickly lose the sound of cars on the Drive and become attuned to the forest. The trail winds away downhill and within a quarter of a mile you notice that the sound of water is present on your left, you’ve picked up the Rose River. The trail winds down the hollow and because many of the leaves have fallen your views become more broad. The crunch of leaves carries you along the trail and the river becomes more prominent. Waterfalls and pools, boulders and logs entice you from the trail for closer inspection.
Respect the land you walk on and take care to leave no trace or scar on the land that would help erosion gain a foothold here. The trails have been placed for maximum views and enjoyment of the surrounding environment and should be followed as much as possible. Sometimes though, the call of the river is irresistible and it is easy to gain access using existing paths or to boulder hop into the midst of the river where you can soak in the fullness of a mountain waterfall, a placid pool (maybe just perfect for a dip in July?) and the satisfaction of just resting by rushing water. Meditation, naturally. Enjoy…
At the bottom of the trail you can go a little further out onto the point of land created by the junction of the Rose River and Hogcamp Branch. It’s a beautiful spot to sit, maybe have lunch and just enjoy the call of the birds, rushing of the river and various sounds of the forest. Relax, find a spot in the sun, close your eyes and listen. This is the sound of peace, take it in and reflect on it so you can retrieve it when necessary. It’ll come back, I promise you.
The hike back up, following the Hogcamp Branch is one of the best hikes in the Park according to many, and I’d have to agree! It’s possible to closely follow, or even scramble up the river rocks. Surrounded by flowing water and reflecting on the quiet pools as you approach them is letting yourself feel in tune with the path. It’s knowing you are exactly where you’re supposed to be. The many small falls and pools really do make this one of the most beautiful and enjoyable hikes in the Park, one I’ll come back to again and again. Near the top the trail rejoins the Rose River Fire Road to complete the Loop.
On the way look to your left for the entrance to the Cave Family Cemetery where you’ll find the final resting place of some of the Park’s former inhabitants, among them Civil War Soldiers, farmers, and many graves marked by a simple stone. A fitting and beautiful final spot for families that made this land their own before the Park came into existence and still used currently, by their descendents.
Afterward, continue on up to the Drive, or in a short distance follow a sign and trail to your left to ascend Dark Hollow Falls Trail past spectacular waterfalls and up to the Drive for a bonus hiking experience. Wherever you go, you can’t go wrong. So get out, get going and enjoy!
Oh, and those bears we were talking about a few weeks back? This fellow decided he was curious about a couple hikers and hung about 30 yards off the trail as we passed by. Use caution and common sense, these guys are not to be taken lightly. A loud shout and/or other loud noises will usually send them on their way.
Till next time…..Peace