Before the sun was even awake this morning I was pulling together my gear to head out to Shenandoah National Park to get some elevation training in. I plotted and planned out 16 miles, to include climbing Hawksbill; the highest point in the park. It’s kind of a pain to get out there as it’s 2 hours away, but given that those are the closest ‘mountains’ around you work with what you’ve got.
My plan had been to go down White Oak Canyon Trail to Cedar Run up Hawksbill and then reverse the trip; 16(ish) miles. The whole reason I was doing this particular stretch was to get some fairly decent elevation changes to get Mountain Pony (my trail name given by my brothers) back into the swing of things. As you can see things didn’t exactly go according to plan.
By the time I got to the trail head it was a little after 0800 and COLD. I’m really glad I brought the extra clothes. The temperature gauge on the car said 37 and with the wind chill it had to be colder that that. I started down the trail really hoping that I’d be able to warm up fairly quickly.
The first part of the trail was actually decent running. As I swung around following the yellow blazes turned into a steady climb. Something in my gut said that I was off path. The great thing about AllTrails is that if you download your map to your phone, even if you have zero signal it will still ping on the GPS. Sure enough I was WAY off where I was supposed to be. I made the executive decision that I was going to stay on the horse trail as it intersected back with Cedar Run. I had turned my SPOT geolocator tracking on so I knew that if something happened my family would still know where I was, and I was still in the general vicinity of where I said I was going to be. In hindsight, I’m REALLY glad I made that decision (I’ll get to that).
We hooked back up with Cedar Run bombed across Skyline Drive and started the ascent of Hawksbill. I stopped momentarily before making the climb to read the trailhead sign. The signed said 1.7 miles and 1 1/2 hours. What are people crawling the up the mountain? As we climbed the temperature started to drop out a bit. We kept it moving in an attempt to keep warm. Nearing the top the wind came whipping across and took the air right out of my lungs. A quick photo opportunity for Perry and one for me and we immediately started to descent back to warmer temperatures. Or at least out of the wind anyway. Just as an aside, whoever at Ultimate Direction that designed the hand cover/warmer things is a GENIUS.
Not wanting to make the repeat mistake of cutting my run short this time I was absolutely positive that I was on Cedar Run. I had to unleash my inner mountain goat. Good googley moogley. Our pace slowed WAY down. As we picked out way back down to the bottom I was extremely grateful we hadn’t climbed this way initially. I think that we both would have been completely torn apart.
After the Noah’s Ark quantity of rain that we’ve had recently the stream was exceptionally swollen. There were a couple of spots where I’m sure in the summer you just tromp through the water or just hop over it. Today, however, the water was at least 3 feet deep in spots. There were some log rock combinations that enabled me to cross, but I had to take Perry off leash to enable me to do so without being dumped in the drink. He always waited, impatiently, on the other side while I picked my way across. The look on his face said it all, “Geez mama, why don’t you just take the easy way like I do, THROUGH the water.”
Around mile 10 we started to climb. This wasn’t just any climb this was straight up climbing, but not on trail. Oh no! That would be too easy. This was mountain goat picking from rock to rock to climb. We powered up the elevation passing all sorts of folks, including several teenage boys who were out with their Scout troop. I must admit it was rather boosting to the nearly 40 year old ego as we blew past the 15 year olds.
Somewhere on our way back to the car we found ourselves on the horse trail again. I can’t say I was heart broken. The trail was in better condition and I knew it was going to drop us on the Old Rag Fireroad which intersected back with White Canyon. We attempted to jog a little bit when we hit the Fireroad, but by this time the temperature was dropping out again and every muscle in my body was starting to tense up. We picked up White Oak Canyon and made it back to the car in 4 hours and 55 minutes.
Total miles: 14.05
Total elevation gain: 4,031
Total calories burned: 1651
Snacks for me: Tailwind, 2 picky bars, 1 Justin’s Hazelnut, 1 Honey Stinger
Snacks for Perry: 1 Justin’s Maple Almond Butter
Liquid consumed: 140 ounces (by Perry and myself, not counting the stream and puddle water he drank)