The sun wasn't up terribly high by the time we hit the trailhead at 8:30 and the woods were even darker, especially up in the canyon that is Little Devil's Stairs. Taking photographs in this dim light was a non-starter and so there are no photographs of the canyon itself or of Keyser Run coming down through it, which is a shame because it is ruggedly beautiful.
The first half a mile from the trailhead and parking lot was an easy walk through the woods. From there, the trail climbed a thousand feet over the next mile. Trekking poles were of no use going up and Ann stowed hers. The trail, as it meandered back and forth across the stream between the canyon walls, required handholds in a few places. It took me a little while to get used to climbing with my pack on. I'm not terribly used to the altered center of gravity which is not noticeable on most hikes.
From the top of the stairs, we continued the gentle climb to the Fourway intersection with the Keyser Run fire road and continued across on the Piney Branch trail, staying to the left at each trail intersection making a big counterclockwise loop that ultimately saw us rejoin the fire road at the Bolen Cemetery, a reminder of the hardscrabble life that people led up in the hollows before Shenandoah National Park was assembled in the 1930s.
|Bolen Cemetery: Life Before SNP|
|Cooling off in Piney Branch|
|Hiker Lunch: Goat Cheese, Arugula, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Chorizo Wraps|
There were lots of Doll's-Eyes in various stages of ripening, but only one that had fully turned white and that was in a little glimmer of sunlight. Too bad they are poisonous.
|Actea pachypoda (Doll's-Eyes or White Baneberry)|
|White Sweet Clover, Melilotus albus, Surprising in the Woods|
|Pale Touch-me-not, Impatiens pallida, All over the Stairs|
|A Geum, probably virginianum, Missing a Petal|
|A Beautiful Heal-All|
|Moth Feeding on a Heal-All|
|Meadow Rue in Full Bloom|
|Possibly Common Nipplewort, Lapsana communis|
|Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis|
|Fly Poison, Amianthium muscaetoxicum, a Lily|
|Also Indian Pipe??|
|Long-Leaved Bluet, Houstonia longifolia|
|Very Few Roses Still in Bloom|
|Purple Flowering Raspberries, Rubus odoratus, Everywhere|
|Black Cohosh Along the Fire Road|
|Northern Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum|
|Enjoying a Well-Earned Sauvignon Blanc|
Kelly invited us to stay for the staff blind tasting afterwards. Once all the guests had left, we all gathered on the back patio and tasting four blind wines. Had I known that this was going to happen, I would have brought a bottle along. We tasted a Virginia Rkatsiteli, a Willamette Pinot, a Piemontese Barbera, and a California Petit Sirah. Begrudgingly, we had to leave around 7:45 and got back to the house just before hiker midnight, 9pm. After a shower, that was all she wrote for Ann. Too much fun made her a sleepy girl!