Today’s hike was to Chimney Rock in the Shenandoah National Park. I started out from my rig a bit later than usual. There was a light rain in the area but was looking like it would clear off. Driving up into the mountains, I soon was out of the rain and heading up Skyline Drive.
I arrive at the Riprap parking area finding only two other cars. It was going to be a quiet hike no crowds today! Getting out my pack, I check the essentials, put my index card in the driver’s window (tells where I am going and when I expect to be back) and I’m off.
It’s starts off with a climb along the Appalachian Trail (A.T). The trail is wide easy walking. The air is clear with the scent of the morning rain.
As I hike up the ridge, I think of Ben and Matt (my sons) who have hiked the trail. I smile as I think now, I’m doing it too. My mind wonders about the many who hike the trail. For the hikers, that hike the trail from one end to the other, are called thru-hikers and have trail names. I think about Matt’s nickname “Bravo”.
The trail is blazed with white stripes giving me the assurance as I see the marks on the trees that I’m on the right trail. As I reach the top of the ridge, the trail intersects with the Riprap trail with blue blazes. I leave the A.T. and follow the park trail toward Chimney Rock.
The trail descends steeply, and I think to myself it will be very interesting climbing on the way back. As I descend a cool breeze brushes my face and I’m happy to have my wind breaker on. A scent of pine fills the air. The sun is out, and clouds long gone as I descend.
The ridge blocks the breeze, and the trail is quiet and still. A large doe walks gently on to the trail and is surprised to see me. I stop keeping my distance and speak softly to her. I wait.
She slowly and cautiously goes across the trail watching me. On the other side of the trail at the edge of the woods she stops and looks back. I realize that she’s not alone. I think perhaps she has her offspring with her or perhaps her mate.
A long still moment seems like hours, then with a big crash another deer charges across to her and they bound away with their white cotton tails bouncing up and down over the brush.
I continue along the trail. I come across a ridge of rocks large and going upward seemly to the sky. I think about whether I must hike up and through them. Thankfully, I spy the blue blaze to the right and follow the trail around the ridge behind them and start an upward climb.
At the top of the ridge, I descend to find a group of large boulders named Calvary Rocks. I attempt to photograph them but find the space too tight to do them justice with my camera.
I sit for a while taking in the enormous boulders and how they are amazingly stacked against and on each other. My mind wonders about the years they’ve been here. I think about how I am on this earth for just a moment, and they have been here long before and will be here long after I am gone.
Off again. The trail descends and then again rises. At the top of each rise the air is like an AC unit blowing cool air. The trail turns sharply, and I arrive at Chimney Rock. I sit on the edge looking out into the valley. The view takes my breath away.
I feel like I am on top of the world. The sun warms my face. The sweet scents of the forest in the air, and the quiet serenity captures my soul.
My mind wonders how I could ever share this with you. If you’ve never been in a place like this, sadly you will never know the feeling, smell the air, or enjoy the solitude without the noise of mankind.
This thought haunts me as I make some photographs. Sadly, I cannot add the beautiful smell of the fresh air or add gentle sounds of a bumblebee in the flowers along the trail.
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