After a late awakening and a leisurely pot of coffee, we drove in the rain into Winchester to Steamy's to have a breakfast bagel of egg, bacon, and cheese with proprietor Lenny Sweet. I had on my chef shoes over my hiking socks and quite apparently there is a hole in the sole of my chef shoes. Predictably, my sock was soaked walking to and from breakfast and I had to change it out when we arrived at the Elizabeth Furnace day use area in Fort Valley, my right foot cold and miserable.
The very real threat of rain (though we only had sprinkles for about 10 minutes twice during the hike) was enough for me to leave the big Nikon at home and only bring the iPhone. Many was the time I was wishing for a big lens during the day.
|Ann on the Peak of Little Crease Mountain|
On a really crappy rainy day, we saw a lot of cars in the parking lot before the bridge, a lot more than we would have expected. As we were gearing up, a couple walked up to a nearby vehicle wearing waders and bearing fly rods. Then I started figuring out why all the vehicles were there, especially when we walked by the signs below on our way to the creek.
|Passage Creek is a Favorite Trout Stream|
|Fly Fisherman, Passage Creek|
|Rainy and Muddy Start to the Day|
|Peaceful Passage Creek|
|No Sign of Beavers Here|
Ann and I found it to be all the climb we wanted to take on. From the Old Dominion web site: "The next three miles are best left undescribed but are summed up in the phrase “Sherman Gap”. Rumor has it that the gap was not named for any great explorer but rather for the first (and possibly the last) endurance race runner to try to run up it. It is said that you can see his grave ten feet from the top, especially if you are one of the masses trying to do this part of the course in the dark."
|Monument Marking Start of Sherman Gap Trail|
|Hot Climb Above the Clouds|
|Old Dominion 100-Miler Blaze|
|One Tree, Four Blazes|
|Climbing Little Crease|
|High Peak and Buzzard Rocks above the Clouds|
|Lunch Spot Overlooking Page Valley|
|The Shenandoah River, Not So Visible|
|Bagel in Paradise|
The closer we got to the northern end of our ridge hike, the more the rocks started encroaching on the trail and the more and more it reminded me of walking a little further north near Buzzard Rocks. Beautiful, but hard to make time on a trail like this. Ultimately, we skirted around the eastern flank of High Peak on the combined Massanutten/Tuscarora trail and reached the gap or saddle at Shawl Gap where a white-blazed trail continues north on up to Buzzard Rocks, while the combined trail dives down the hillside back to Elizabeth Furnace where we left our car.
The large rocks and the endless switchbacks coming down the hill were a pain in the ass. We stuck to the orange-blue trail but I think if I were to do it again, rather than making huge and seemingly pointless switchbacks on that trail, I would take the old and unmaintained jeep trail straight down to the picnic ground at Elizabeth Furnace to save at least a half an hour of frustration.
This being our first trip to the Elizabeth Furnace day-use area, we did not know that there was an actual furnace here, a large stone furnace for smelting pig iron. Apparently, the Union did not take too kindly to the Rebs making ordnance here during the Civil War and trashed it. I would have liked to have spent a minute or two looking about, but it was dark and we had a dinner date for which we were already late.
|There is a Pig-Iron Furnace at Elizabeth Furnace|
|Taken in Near Darkness|
|Ahh! Schlafly Grapefruit IPA|