In this post, I put up some pictures of the hike we went on last weekend. I was attempting to do some research on some other hikes and I ran across a blog where a couple reviews all of the hikes they go on and I thought that was pretty useful. So here goes:
We started at the parking area on Rt. 211. This is really just a small paved turn off on the left side of the road just before you start the uphill section of Rt. 211 (when heading west). I thought it was a little chilly so I had on a tank top, thermal, and light hoodie. We brought about 3L of water for the two of us and drank 2-2.5L. This was also my first trip out with my new camera, so I was pretty excited for the fall leaves.
Starting on Buck Hollow Trail at the parking area, we quickly made two stream crossings and then came to a fork, with Buck Ridge Trail to the left and Buck Hollow continuing to the right. We chose to make the left and go up Buck Ridge because I had read that it was the steeper of the two. I usually try to hike up the steeper trails when doing a circuit because it’s much better for the knees. So not very far down the Buck Ridge trail, the steps begin! I have no idea how many steps there were, but it was a lot. (As a side note, this made me even happier with the decision to go up Buck Ridge – I’m really bar about not wearing out my knees when going down steps.) About half way up the steps, I had to stop and take off my hoodie. This was also about the time that I realized that I’m pretty sure other than 1 two-mile hike with Sara the week before, I pretty much had not done any hiking since May because the summer was too hot and humid.
But there we were on a nice, steep, 9 mile hike and continuing on. We eventually reached the end of the steps and the walk along the ridge was quite pleasant with some nice views. Somewhere near the top of the steps, when the trail started to flatten out, I went up a hill between two of the larger rocks on the left side of the trail. There was a really nice view from up there. The rest of the Buck Ridge trail was fairly uneventful. We reached the Hazel Mountain trail and made a right on to it. At this point we started to pass many hikers going in the opposite direction down that trail. We thought we were past the steep uphill section of the hike so we split an orange as we were walking along the trail.
If you wanted to make this a shorter hike, just before reaching the Meadow Spring parking area on Skyline Drive, you can turn right to head back down the Buck Hollow trail. We did not decide to go that way and proceeded across Skyline Drive to the Meadow Spring Trail. When we were crossing through, the parking areas on both sides of the road here were fairly crowded. This seemed to make the cars going past slow down some, which was nice because visibility wasn’t the greatest and you do have to walk a small distance along the road to get to the other trail. So we start up the Meadow Spring Trail. It also was STEEP. (I don’t know how I didn’t do enough research to understand this before we went.) Eating that orange started to seem like a bad idea. It’s really better not to eat right before a steep uphill climb. At some point, we passed the “ruins of an old homestead.” It was really just a chimney in pretty good shape and didn’t seem like there was anything else left from the house.
A short distance later we made it to the Appalachian Trail, where we turned right to head toward Mary’s Rock. This section of the AT is much like most of the AT that I’ve seen (all of Maryland and parts of VA): fairly gentle rolling hills. We found a good outcropping along here to take some pictures of the mountains and (I) almost considered turning around at that point because I had nice pictures and knew that every bit further we walked was also that much further that we had to walk back. (See comment about not actually hiking for 5 months.(Also, this may be why I prefer circuit hikes, turning around before the end usually doesn’t make sense.)) But alas, we carried on… and it was worth it. Just at the top of what looks like a fairly sizable downhill section of the AT, there is a turn off to the left for Mary’s Rock. A short uphill took us to the summit of Mary’s Rock. It was windy (read: cold) and crowded, but still a great view. After quickly putting my hoodie (and my winter hat) back on, I took several pictures of the view down the other side of the mountains. We found a sunny spot to eat lunch and then proceeded back down the AT and down the Meadow Spring Trail. The downhill was a very welcome relief for my quads.
After crossing back over Skyline Drive, we headed down the Buck Hollow trail. I think walking through the trees on this section of trail was even better than the views from up top. For some reason, being down in the hollow made it feel more like we were really surrounded by the fall leaves and trees as opposed to looking out on them. This section of trail also follows the Buck Hollow stream, with a few crossings, and is overall just a nice stretch of trail. However, I may not have thought that gong in the reverse direction as there were also a few very steep sections to go down. At the final stream crossing before the parking lot, I spotted a frog in the water, which I thought was cool.
Overall: Pleasant, but strenuous, hike. Good fall scenery.