Ramble On

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Doyles River/Jones Run: A "75 @ 75" Hike

Jones Run Waterfall - 42 feet.
Knowing that I had a big hike planned for the upcoming Saturday, and because I’d planned to take that hike with neighbor Dan, who not only recently had completed a half marathon and is a GIS specialist at the Park, but also is one of the few people on the planet who has walked every footstep of Skyline Drive, I went looking for a warm-up hike on Wednesday, September 7. I chose the Doyles River/Jones Run combination because of its length and elevation, and because all of the waterfalls on that trail would give an interesting destination. Incidentally, I’ve hike the entire circuit of this trail before, you can find it under the “Day Hikes: Moderate” label.

Google Earth route for this hike.
When I do warm-up hikes like this, they don’t necessarily have to meet the rigorous qualifications I’ve set for “75 @ 75” hikes, although this one, at 5.8 miles and 1,120 total elevation gain, certainly met the requirement (a combination of at least five miles in length and 500 feet of net elevation gain). I thought that two days of rest between the warm-up and the actual hike would be enough, but my legs still stung from the lactic acid on Saturday morning as we made our way to the Wildcat Ridge trailhead for the main hike – which I’ll review later this week.

Before getting to the details of this one, I want to make a note about how I calculated elevation on this one. Normally, I’ll just take an altimeter reading on my Casio Pathfinder along the way of any given hike, catching the highest and the lowest point s. When I make the blog post about that hike, I simply subtract the lowest from the highest for net elevation, and that’s what I report – which typically will vary, for several reasons, including barometric pressure variations or the fact I don’t count “pointless ups and downs,” or PUDS, in my calculations.

Casio Pathfinder check point.
Elevation reference point.

In this case, I knew I was in for a descent from the trailhead down to the confluence of Doyles River and Jones Run, and then another climb to the Jones Run falls. As shown on the photos of the park markers, the altitude of these three locations were 2,200 feet, 1,480 feet, and 1,880 feet, respectively, giving a total climb of 1,120 feet. For reference, the 580 meters read out on my Casio translates to 1,798 feet, 400 or so feet off of actual, which is a typical variance due to the barometric method used by the watch – by the way, the operator’s manual suggests taking this kind of reading for reference early in the hike.

On to the hike: I decided to start from the Doyles River side, since that was a section of the trail I had not been on, since Chris, Tom and I had cut back along the fire road on our previous hike. This meant my route would follow Doyles River most of the way to the confluence with Jones Run, then make a southwesterly turn to begin the climb up to the trail alongside that watercourse.

Doyles River lower falls.
Doyles River upper falls.
Three waterfalls are the feature of this trail, two on Doyles River and one on Jones Run – the Jones Run waterfall is among the ten highest in the Park, at 42 feet. Both streams flow down steep gorges, and there had been some strong rains recently, so the sound of many smaller waterfalls and cascades accompanied me on the walk on those trails. Both waterways are designated trout streams, so with your license you can enjoy catch-and-release and harvest fishing.

There is a PATC cabin not far down the route on the Doyles River side, there is a nice stream there also. I met a couple who were staying the Labor Day week at the cabin; their two lab mixes could not stay out of the water during the hikes. Later, coming back, there were three does drinking from the stream at this same place, I was downhill and downwind from them so they were surprised when I suddenly appeared only 10 feet away!

One of the plentiful cascades along this route.
“Shenandoah Secrets”, a PATC publication by Carolyn and Jack Reeder (Amazon link at the end of the post), mentions that there was a lot going on in this area before the Park was founded – lumber mills, two distilleries, and farms. There was even a dedicated rail line here to support the timber industry, but today it would be challenging to even find a trace of these, even though they are reported to have been located near the spring.

The Heatwole book speculates that Confederate General Jubal Early used this area for a strategic retreat to regroup and reinforce, since there were probably pastures in the area and the steep rocks cliffs would have made Union General Sheridan’s pursuit difficult. Heatwole acknowledges that this is conjecture, there’s no record at these locations; only the reporting that the events took place nearby.

While, this hike wasn’t one of the planned efforts from my “75 @ 75” project, it turns out that it qualifies, so I’ll count it; as of the last status report I still have about 25 miles to go before Thanksgiving to meet my goal…which I hope to exceed. The next hike I’ll review is the Wildcat Ridge/RipRap Hollow Trail; this trail was a warm-up for that one.

Amazon link to the PATC Shenandoah Secrets book:

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