Ramble On

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hazel Mountain, a 75@75 Hike

I’m overdue for a post on the status of my “75@75” project – this was the effort I’d planned where I hoped to hike 75 miles to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of Shenandoah National Park.  I was going to get this done by May 2012, but I’m still working on completing it. 

Late summer of this year, Chris and I got together for a hike and he agreed we could try to take on one from the 75@75 list – Hazel Mountain.  Here’s the entry I wrote about this hike as I began to plan this project:

·         Hike 4 - Hazel Mountain, mile post 33.5, distance 5.3 miles and elevation change 1,070 feet (the easiest on this list!).  No summit here, but it is interesting for a combination of a falls, cascade, and a small cave.  Depending on when we go, maybe no spelunking – the snake scene in True Grit still creeps me out.

The day Chris and I took this one on, in September, I’d forgotten my Heatwole guide and other materials related to the hike.  So, what we did was a hike that was actually longer in distance – I’m estimating that we did about 6.5 miles on the route, but the elevation achievement was more on the order of 660 feet, just taken from the readings on my Casio Pathfinder.  Also, although there was a stream crossing, and it was clear we were moving through an area of second growth forest that had previously been settled and farmed, we didn’t see a waterfall and didn’t come close to anything resembling a small cave.

We used the map provided by rangers at the entry station to devise a hike. Of course, the map didn’t include the kind of detail that you find in the Heatwole guide.  Still, we had a nice day of it out there, and found the break from some of the more rigorous hikes we’ve done in this series to be very welcome.

Heatwole’s guide suggests that we may have passed the site of the old Hazel School somewhere along the way – he describes an overgrown area that I remember passing by and making a note of it to Chris on our hike.   It was one of several areas that we passed that had this appearance, as I recall; Heatwole says this area was one of the more heavily populated areas in the Park.

It was definitely a good time of year to be out on a hike – the forest was still very much a greenscape, and there were butterflies out all along the drive.  I’ve got a photo here of a yellow swallowtail we saw at the trailhead.  The hike qualifies on distance and elevation as moderate, by my standards – requiring five miles in distance and at least 500 feet of elevation change – but it is not particularly noteworthy as a physical challenge.  Instead, I’d give it high marks simply for the experience of being outside in the Shenandoah National Park, which is a kind of therapy in itself, and a part of what I’m seeking with all of these hikes in the first place.

On the way back, I made a point of taking a photo of Old Rag from the Pinnacles area where there is an overlook that provides a good view.  Seems a long time now since I’ve been on that mountain, but a summit from August 2011 is included in the 75@75 project.  As a note, here’s my progress chart on the project:

I’m posting this today to start the month of December – to date I have completed 54.8 miles out of my originally planned 75 miles.   Chris and I are tentatively planned to get in the Buck Hollow trail later this month – that’s 6+ miles; and if we have enough daylight we may summit Mary’s Rock from the Meadow Spring Trailhead, for a total of 9.1 miles.

If we are successful, this approach to the Mary’s Rock summit would check off another list for me – the 4th edition of Best Easy Day Hikes includes the southern approach as one of the routes, and it is one I haven’t been on yet.  If we complete that whole hike, which is admittedly aggressive, I will still need to complete more than 11 miles to be able to report the completion of my project.  

I’ll keep working on it, even though in the end it is probably going to have taken me almost two years to complete!

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