Whiteoak Canyon can be hiked from basically two different locations. At the top of the hill on Skyline Drive or from the bottom of the hill near Old Rag. We decided to start at the bottom of the hill and walk up, leaving the second half of our day to be downhill. I pity the bastards that started at the top of the hill and had to finish by walking uphill all the way.
Winding our west south and west of Sperryville, we reached the trailhead parking about 8:45. I saw several fields on the way in with signs reading "Parking $10" and I noted that the parking lot for the trail was enormous. There were a half a dozen cars there when we arrived and checked in with the ranger on duty in the little hut at the end of the parking lot.
We got ourselves all saddled up and headed into woods on a very flat but extremely wide trail. I should have put together the parking situation and the very wide trail to figure out how crowded this place would become later in the day, but my math skills were a bit fuzzy on short sleep.
|Lowland Forest at the Beginning of the Trail|
|Baby Cucumber Tree with 12-15" Leaves|
|Annie Did Not Enjoy Herself|
|Heuchera americana in Full Bloom|
|Bumblebee in Penstemon canescens|
|Lots of Tiny Wild Roses with 2" Blooms|
|Finally, Mountain Laurel in Full Bloom|
|New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus|
|Water Moving Rapidly Through Chute|
|Living the Life!|
|The Uppermost Fall|
|Black and Tiger Swallowtails Drinking|
Down below the first pool, we were both glad that we had made an early start. The pool that we had to ourselves in the morning was filled with screaming kids and people were coming up the path in dozens. This must be the local water hole as accessible as it is. I doubt many of these people ventured higher up on the hill. I was truly glad to be back in the parking lot, because although the trip was downhill all the way, it was really, really tough on my knees to the point where each step was painful. I've said it before and I'll say it again, "I hate downhill."
Though we had just eaten a couple hours earlier, the word ravenous would be a great word to describe us after the hike. And thirsty. Beer thirsty. "I just finished a grueling hike and I would love a glass of wine," said no one ever. We had it in mind to stop at the Thornton River Grille in Sperryville to grab a late lunch and a beer. And so we arrived at 2:50, not knowing that they close at 3:00. There isn't cell phone service in the area so there was no way of checking and we would have never gone that close to closing had we known. But we didn't and we were there and it was obvious from her body language that our server was pissed that we were there. She let us know that the kitchen would be closing in 10 minutes and then she left. As in said goodbye to someone in the back and got in her car and left. Being in the business, I understand the sentiment when at the end of a long shift when you are tired and ready to go, a last-minute table walks in. But I will personally strangle any employee of mine who acts like that. After a couple of serverless minutes, we got up and left.
Although we thought about stopping at the Griffin Tavern in Flint Hill, based on the so-so last meal we had there, I decided to keep going to Pavemint Taphouse in Front Royal where we got our beer fix while deciding what to eat. I started with a Sierra Nevada Hoptimum Imperial IPA and Ann had an Allagash White. For round two, I had an Evolution PINE’HOP’LE IPA which sounded weird but tasted pretty good, the subtle pineapple working in tandem with the citrusy hops. Ann had a blackberry cider from Cobbler Mountain Cellars in Delaplane. I had a Whisky Melt burger and Ann got the fish and chips.
|Whisky Melt Burger|
|Fish and Chips|