Late last week I was having a hard time deciding what to do on Saturday. Should I go for a full day hike? Maybe I should drive down 95 to check out 2 other RV brands, just for comparisons sake. Then there’s always game day. Hmmm… Then I got an email from Leigh, “my farmer” – he was giving away eggs and having a little open house. That settled it, even though I couldn’t get the eggs until 11 which would put me getting a later start than I’d like but that was ok!
It was a cold, cloudy morning. Colder and cloudier than I thought was forecast. I was feeling optimistic that maybe the predicted winter weather was coming faster and more furiously than forecast (it was forecast to be a very minor event). It was cold and damp and it seemed that the air was pregnant with snow ready to burst!
My stop at the farm was busy, but quick – I gathered some late growing lettuce (although upon closer examination it might be broccoli greens), sampled some other random lettuces (only on the farm do you pick a plant and taste it!), some arugula from the greenhouse, made friends with Angora, one of 2 Great Pyrenees Dogs who keep watch over the crops, seen the inside of the hen house, learned about the beginnings of the season, and picked up a dozen eggs. Soon I was headed west to Shenandoah.
When I arrived the Ranger at the gate told me that they were closing Skyline Drive at 5:00 because of the forecasted snow and ice. I quickly realized that this was going to cramp my style – it was already 12:30 and where I wanted to hike was about 20 miles down Skyline Drive! I figured I’d hike in a set amount of time and then turn around. But first I needed to stop at the “comfort station” at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center and put on my long underwear – I’m very glad that got left in the car last week!
As I made my way from Dickey Ridge to the Elkwallow Picnic Area there wasn’t much in the way of views. The entire Massanutten Range was obstructed by clouds! I thought I saw a few drops of rain hit the windshield, but it was very light. When I arrived at the Elkwallow picnic area there was a couple and their dogs just heading out and about 5 other cars there! Surprising since it wasn’t the nicest day in everyone’s opinion – I thought it was just about perfect!
Jeremy’s Run is a lovely creek that had a trail alongside it. The trail takes you deep in the Shenandoah Backcountry. There's a very nice 13 mile loop that allows you to hike the whole length of the run, that was a little much for today! I hiked the whole loop a few years ago and have been wanting to go and explore just the run since then. It was 1:20 when I left the car, I decided I’d hike down the run until 2:20 and turn around which would put me back at the car before 4 (I was assuming that it would take longer to hike up than down) which would give me plenty of time to get back to the entrance station before 5.
As I started down the trail I saw a few snowflakes beginning to fall! They were light and few and far between, but still, it was snowing a little!
The great thing about this trail is you get the downhill part over with first! I hate hiking downhill!
Just about the time the trail joined up with the run the snow started falling in earnest! It wasn’t sticking, but it was coming down! It was also raining/sleeting – I could hear it lightly falling on the leaves! Soon I came to the 1st stream crossing. It was an easy crossing, although I was worried about getting my feet wet, it was not the day to be hiking with wet feet!
After the stream crossing the snow was really picking up and it made me wonder if the NPS would close Skyline Drive before 5 since the snow was seeming to come early. I then began to wonder what would happen if I got “locked” in. I know that when they close the drive at night during deer hunting season you can call the ranger and they’ll let you out, but a weather closing seemed different. I knew that during the October snowstorm there were people stuck in the campgrounds and lodges – the ranger told me they’d tried to evacuate everyone but some folks didn’t want to go. Getting locked in on Skyline Drive in my car with no extra clothes and no extra food/water did not sound like fun. It did make me think that if I had an RV, it would be fun. It would almost be like finding a loophole for winter camping in Shenandoah! If I had an RV I’d prob drive it when I went hiking because it needs to be driven to keep it healthy. If I parked it at a trailhead and then headed out to hike and made sure not to get back until after Skyline Drive had closed (by accident of course…got too far and couldn’t get back) what would they do to me? I’d just have to make sure the trailhead I’d parked at is one that has good cell coverage so I could email and Facebook! :-)
Fantasy aside, it’s time to get back to reality! By the time I reached the 2nd stream crossing it was still snowing a lot and it was 2:00. This spot didn’t look as easy to get across without getting my feet wet so I decided to turn around 20 minutes early.
On the way back up it started raining and snowing! My clothes were getting really wet! I was really glad I’d worn my synthetic hiking clothes, I’d considered just wearing jeans! I should have stopped and put on my raincoat, but I knew it would make me hot and the climb up from the run was already doing that! I was wet inside and out! But it was a good feeling!
I was about 1/2 way up when I ran into 2 folks hiking down! They were also out for the day and enjoying the snow!
I got back to the car by 2:45 – it seemed a lot later because it was so dark and cloudy and snowing! In the picnic area the snow was starting to stick! Since I was so wet I decided to change into my jeans (I’d brought them because I was going to Wegmans after and though I might want to wear something else then).
It was now decision time. I was about 10 miles from the park exit at Thorton Gap, but that was going to mean a longer drive outside the park to get back to Gainsville. It was 20 miles up Skyline Drive to the Front Royal Entrance. I was getting even more concerned that they’d close Skyline Drive with me still inside.
I decided that getting to drive on Skyline Drive when it it snowing is a rare event (12 years I’ve been here – this is the 1st time I’d been out there when it was snowing!) and I should go for it and drive back to Front Royal!
The drive back was lovely! Snow falling and beginning to fill the woods! No views, at all, just thick low clouds. Skyline Drive was mostly just wet, but there were a few spots that were snow covered. There were a lot more cars than I’d expected!
At the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center it was snowing like crazy and sticking, but about a mile down the road it was snowing and not sticking at all. By the time I got out of the park (they hadn’t closed the drive) and into Front Royal it was a mix of snow and rain, more rain than snow.
As I drove east on 66 the temp kept going up and slowly the snow and rain mix became only a gross, disgusting “so close, yet so far away” 37* rain. Really wishing I had an RV and could have gotten “stuck” on the drive!
Overall though a great day, even if it wasn’t a big hike (only ended up walking 2 miles) and I wasn’t there very long it was a day I’ll remember for awhile! :-)