Reaching the trail head involved winding back up into what West Virginiaians would call a "holler" - a single lane dirt road and the trail branched off from it. Finding parking would be a challenge as it seems that the majority of the people who own property that bumps up to SNP are crotchety rednecks who aren't fond of hikers. I'm sure there's good reason for this, but it's frustrating for one who truly wants to just park, hike, and leave. I'd love to buy some SNP boundry property someday and create a welcoming place for hikers to park and maybe offer snacks and stuff too...but I digress...
I ended up driving all the way down the road and turned around - I only located the trailhead because another car had parked there and the occupants were getting ready to hike. Luckily there was room for me too so I pulled in. I gave the other hikers a head start and I never saw them again until they arrived back at their car about 5 mins after I arrived back.
Part of the loop I was planning to hike went along the Hazel River - in fact the trail crossed the river 4 times. The guide book had warned hikers to be prepared to wade if the water was high. We've had a drought but it's also rained a lot lately so I had no idea what to expect. I opted to go up the ridge first and then hike along the river at the end, that way if I got wet I'd be almost back at the car!
I headed up the ridge and was glad that I'd did it first - it was quite steep and I would have hated to have to walk down it! Besides I enjoy the uphill much more than the downhill! (I know, I'm crazy). The trail had wonderful winter views of the surrounding mountains, not many that were photo worthy though. Hard to capture the mountains through the trees!
The area I was hiking through had burned in November 2003. It was the largest forest fire in SNP. It was actually 2 fires - one that started on Old Rag Mountain and the other started in a picnic area on Skyline Drive. The two fires converged and a huge section of the park burned. I saw the fire from Skyline Drive as it was coming down the mountain behind Panorama - it was awesome to see. While the area burned it is not dead - the picture above shows a burned out tree - it was only one of a few reminders of the huge fire!
The last mile and a half of the hike I walked along the beautiful and senic Hazel River. The Hazel River is your typical mountain river with big boulders, rushing water and lots of moss! I had to cross the river 4 times. The first time I stayed dry. The second time I got my right foot wet. The third time I got my left foot wet. The fourth time I got both feet soaked. My right foot was so squishy I felt certain that there was at leasy of cup of water in my boot and I considered taking my boot off to dump the water. At this point I was quite happy I was less than a mile from the car as I would not have wanted to hike 6 miles with soaking feet! It was about 50 degrees outside but I really wasn't cold....again though, I'm glad I was close to the car!
The picture above is one of the cascades in the river. My dad had been showing my how to change the sensitivity on my camera and change the sutter speed - I slowed it down for this picture and it mad ethe water blurry! Pretty cool!
I returned to my car tired, but thrilled that it was only 4:00 - I thought I'd be able to get home and do something with my evening. I thought wrong. Very soon after I got in the car my typical post hike headache got going. This happens almost everytime I go hiking in SNP - it didn't happen in Alaska, Glacier, the Tetons, etc.... By the time I got to Warrenton, about halfway home, I took some Tylenol - it did nothing and by the time I got home I thought my head was going split open. I showered and crawled into bed before 8. I woke up at 3am and my head was still pounding so I took some Advil and when I woke up the next morning the headache was mostly gone.
I have explored various theories on these headaches - dehydration, not eating enough, allergies, asthma. On Saturday's hike all those things were controlled for. My new theory is that when I hike I'm getting migraines triggered by leaf mold and other outdoor allergens. I'll check with the doctor next time I see her. I did buy some Advil Migriane today to try the next time I hike. We'll see. I hope it works because I love hiking and I can only enjoy it in winter as it is!