Shenandoah National Park Trip Report May 22-25, 2011
I selected this 37 mile loop trip starting at the Brown Gap parking so I would end the trip hiking past Doyle Run Falls late on my third day and Jones Run falls on my way out on Day 4. The loop took me over the following peaks: Trayfoot, Furnace, Austin, Lewis, Rockytop, Brown, Rocky, and Loft. The mountain laurels were in full bloom and I saw at least hundred different varieties of wildflower.
There is a link to a 10 minute long video of my trip on YouTube at the end of this report.
Swift Run Gap Entrance sign
I arrived at the ranger station at the entrance around 1 p.m. After filling out the permit form, I handed it back to the ranger to get signed. She scanned it quickly and said I had done a good job filling it out. She asked me 3 questions: 1) did I have a map of where I was going? 2) did I have something to bury my waste? 3) did I have water? I guess I was qualified to spend 4 days backpacking in the park based on my answers to her questions because she signed the form.
Here’s a map of my route – the 1C, 2C, and 3C mini-Post-it notes mark my planned camping sites for each night.
Here’s a 4 x 6 index card showing the trails I would be hiking on and mileage between each major intersection
Brown Gap sign at my starting point
The trail intersections were marked with these concrete posts with trail information and mileage on all four sides.
Mountain Laurel lining both sides of the trail.
Talus field on the northern side of Trayfoot Mountain
View of Austin Mountain from Furnace Mountain
View the next morning looking back at Furnace Mountain from the side of Austin Mountain
I had to cross Big Run multiple times. I made the mistake of crossing once across through the brown muck. I had to take off my shoes and socks and thoroughly rinse them out before I could continue hiking. After that crossing, I stayed on the gravel and rocks.
The mosquitoes along Big Run were absolutely ferocious. They flew under my eyeglasses and tried to bite me on upper part of cheeks where there was no DEET. One successfully bit me on the palm of my hand while I was eating dinner. They literally swarmed on backpack when I took it off. Later in the trip I encountered some small biting small flies.
View of the Shenandoah Valley from Lewis Peak on the western edge of the park
View of Skyline Drive while climbing Loft Mountain
Doyles Run Fall
Doyles Run and Jones Run converge
My tent at the campsite across the junction of Doyles Run and Jones Run. Notice the trunk of the downed tree that definitely would have been a widow maker if it had fallen on a tent at this site.
A swimming hole hiking up Jones Run before the falls.
Jones Run falls
There seemed like literally hundreds of species of wildflowers blooming alongside the trail. Two samples below:
I really like to take photos of fungi. They don’t move like animals and insects and rarely sway in the wind like flowers.
A massive, hollow tree that fell across the trail up Jones Run
A huge tree – somehow, the settlers/loggers axes must have missed this one.
I thought these arrow-straight trees would make terrific sailing masts in the days of wooden sailing ships.
A spring someone had carefully walled up around a metal pipe to provide a good clean flow into your water bottles.
Trip wildlife: a small, thin, bright green snack; a well-fed woodchuck crossed trail on way to its den inside pile of rocks; a ring-necked pheasant, many turkey vultures; Rufous Sided Towhees; orange spotted salamanders; about 12 ticks (2 had started to bite, but were easily removed); many centipedes; a whippoorwill (who started calling loudly at 5:30 am in the morning); and one fat toad. No bears.
Trail wildlife – salamander, centipedes, butterfly
I immediately thought "Lord of the Rings" when I saw this tree
Traffic jam leaving the park held up by the paving crews.
Link to ~10 minute YouTube video of my trip with videos of the falls; dozens more views; my workout on the trail and dozens and dozens of wildflower photos
SNP Trip YouTube Video (~10 minutes long)