Saturday, October 28: Today is a crisp fall day, just the kind of day I love and the kind that has been slow in coming this year. It’s been unseasonably warm throughout October, and now, thank goodness, it’s finally cool. Not cold, but cool enough for a hike.
Mike and I head early to Shenandoah National Park to get ahead of the crowds, arriving at Hawksbill Gap parking lot, already overflowing, by 10:15. We start our hike at the trailhead by 10:30 a.m.
We’re doing the Hawksbill Loop Hike, a 2.9 mile circuit with a 860-feet elevation gain and a 2-hour hiking time. This is a rather short walk in Shenandoah National Park, but it’s just right for our first hike of the season. Everyone who knows me knows I don’t hike in summer; I despise the heat and would rather stay indoors all summer long!
Sadly, the colors of the leaves are not as vibrant up here in the mountains as I hoped they’d be; people say the colors aren’t great because it’s been so warm and wet. Many of the trees are already bare and the leaves underfoot are mostly brown and dead.
I love the rocks covered in moss.
I love the weathered misshapen trees found in the mountains; their shapes are a testament to their steadfast resistance to the elements.
I always love bracket fungi, also known as shelf fungi, with their fruiting bodies, or conks, of interconnected rows. They are mainly found on living or dead trees or coarse woody debris, and sometimes look like mushrooms.
I love the ferns, moss and lichens on the rocks.
Some trees are so hardy that they grow on top of boulders.
We continue along the path, with moss-covered rocks all around us.
Nearing the summit, we find a lone yellow tree glowing amidst the bare trees.
Many trees and branches are all a-tumble and askew in the forest.
And some of the trees have very strange and convoluted shapes.
We reach one overlook where we can see the valley with Massanutten Mountain on the other side.
Hawksbill is Shenandoah’s highest peak at 4,051 ft. We finally reach the summit, which is packed. People are sitting around eating their picnic lunches. We didn’t bring a lunch because we plan to visit Old Bust Head Brewing Co. for a beer, accompanied by lunch from a food truck.
I love the white trunks and branches of some of the bare trees.
After making our way back down from the summit, we hop in our car and drive along Skyline Drive, stopping at several of the overlooks.
Every once in a while, we find some brighter splashes of color.
At Old Bust Head Brewing Co., we eat nachos and chili from a food truck. Mike has a Chukker, or Czech Style Pilsner, which he got addicted to on our trip to Czech Republic, while I have an Apricot Belgian Wit. There’s a lot of activity at the brewery today because it’s overflowing with bikers from The Great Pumpkin Ride. This ride is sponsored by the Fauquier Trails Coalition, a non-profit organization, and is a fundraiser to extend and connect existing trails in scenic Fauquier County. It has options for 32, 53 or 67 miles.
I’m glad I got an October hike in before month-end. Steps today: 11,108 (4.71 miles). Now we have to find one for November!