|The famous swimming hole.|
|Rocky formations in the hollow.|
Early on, as I began thinking about the project itself, I mentioned it to my neighbors Dan and Sally, who both thought it was a great idea. They both work at the Park, and they’ve been generous with insights and inspiration about the place over the years. When I mentioned this trail, Dan was particularly interested and he ended up joining me.
Apparently, in his job as a GIS specialist, there were some details of the trail he wanted to check out better on his own – he’d done the one-way trail from the RipRap trailhead to Wildcat before, without the AT section; some colleagues had subsequently done the whole thing and given him some hints on things to look for. In any case, Dan being the only person I know who has walked every foot of Skyline Drive, I knew I was in for some interesting insights on this trail, and I hope that he (and Sally too) might be able to join me again on another of the hikes.
|Here's a Google Earth view of the trail, with a fine blue line marking our GPS trace.|
|Neighbor Dan down in the hollow.|
We went onward, finally reaching the hollow, where our destination was the swimming hole down here. Heatwole calls this the largest in the Park. The swimming hole is 50 feet or so in diameter, and during our visit, it probably reached depths of six feet. The water is crystal clear and spring fed, so too cold for a dip in mid-September. Instead we settled in for lunch.
While a couple of other hiking parties came and went, we broke out our lunches…Dan’s was much better than mine: moose sausage snack sticks and smoked salmon that he had acquired from an Alaskan friend during a recent trip out west. He invited me to share, supplementing my Clif Bar and raisins; I did pass along a Honey Stinger Waffle in exchange for his generosity.
There are a couple of mentions of an old picnic shelter near the pool. It’s been taken down, but the areas around the pool show a lot of wear and tear – this is a popular place during the summer, and it is near the Park boundary, so there is a convenient hike-in route.
|Old beams in the stream.|
|Old masonry and more beams.|
We found the spot and made a short detour down to the stream edge. I have some photos of old beams in the streambed, and some masonry joined to the rocky cliffs that line the stream. As we looked, I tried to imagine what the work here would have been like, a few miles into the woods, a long track to the nearby mining activities. Not much of a challenge to hardworking mountain people, but pretty difficult for my “chairborne” lifestyle!
|Me at a less crowded view point.|
Upon reaching the two viewpoints we found them crowded with visitors sitting on ledges and enjoying the look out over Paine Run Hollow and Horsehead Mountain, so we didn’t stay long. We continued on to the AT connection and did that 3 mile stretch back to our parking area; we were passed on the way by a south bound thru hiker, who’d been held up in the rains and tropical storms of late. “Beautiful day, much better than last week!” he offered as he passed us by.
We finished the route in about 7.5 hours, making better time than Heatwole’s estimate. After a quick chat with the ranger at the Elkton gateway, we headed on to Mamma Mia’s in Shenandoah for dinner, before heading home.