White Oak Canyon Shenadoahs, Luray, Waterfall Mountain, Virginia

I lied about the biscuits. I wanted to have an adventure last weekend but I was ill. A smart move would have been to wait until Thanksgiving and have a 4-day extravaganza but the weather was to be stupendous and I was restless so I hastily planned a trip, more like I did no planning at all.

Basically what I did was throw a clean shirt and some socks in the car and drove off at 7AM Saturday morning. I've always wanted to hike Whiteoak Canyon in the Shenandoahs, I had heard some good things about the trail so I thought I should give it a go. Naturally it would have been helpful to have a map of the area and some food but you can't plan everything. On my way there I stopped in the Sheetz Station in Warren, VA to buy a sandwich and was helpful in performing a successful Spanish to Ebonics translation for a latino and the counter help. It was evident that Saturday was going to be a great day.

I then had the problem of finding the trailhead, I knew White Oak was near Old Rag so I headed off in that direction.. When I got to Old Rag Mountain in Virginia I didn't know whether I had found a trailhead or experienced black friday at Wal-Mart. I never saw so many crazed hikers in one spot in my life. I wanted to run screaming through the parking lot, "Boyscouts, this is not what hiking and the outdoors is about. Please run away from your troop leaders immediately and find a more peaceful mountain!" But I was pressed for time and I still didn't know where the Whiteoak trailhead was so I refrained from causing a scene.

After driving around directionless I stumbled upon a sign for the Whiteoak trailhead. Although there were a number of hikers there too, they were in good spirits and I didn't mind the company. This particular trail in the canyon has a whole bunch of waterfalls and here are some pictures that I took with my cell phone, as my digital camera is on loan. The first part of the hike was a 2000 foot ascent but it felt like 500 feet because of all the nice switchbacks and well maintained trail. I met a couple of guys, John and George, who had roomed together at East Carolina State and were off on a hiking adventure of their own. They gave me some trail mix which was much appreciated because, of course, I failed to bring any food with me other than my Sheetz sandwich.

Normally I avoid the Shenandoahs like the plague because I feel that when you get to a precipice of a mountain you should be treated to peaceful serenity and a beautiful view, not cars and fatties which is what you get here because of the easy vehicle access of Skyline Drive that traverses the range. Sure enough I arrived at the top and there was a large family of orbs at the Whiteoak parking...in sweatpants...standing next to their giant SUV. I was temporarily blinded but sallied forth anyway.

Not wanting to go back the same way I came I figured I would romp south on the white-dotted trail a bit. It was cold up there and I saw lots of ice, which should have told me something about what to expect during the night. I met one guy from Salisbury State University complaining about all the beer he had to lug around while backpacking. I told him that in this weather the last thing he should have in his backpack was beer but he was determined, I hope he didn't catch influenza or somesuch.

Now things were going swimmingly up to this point in my adventure. However, during this time of year you have to pay special attention to the clock since sundown is at a firm 5PM. If you don't get out of the woods early you end up with a grande problemo. Naturally I forgot to take my headlamp and emergency blanket (I always seem to forget to take my headlamp and emergency blanket). I thought everything was going to be okay because I had 3 miles left, it was 2:40PM and I hike at 3 miles per hour. So I figured I would be back at my car at 3:40PM. What I had failed to realize was that I had a 2000 foot descent in a 2 mile distance on the Cedar Run trail. This trail was hardly maintained at all, was straight down and it was treacherous, especially since I was on the east side of the mountain and had no light. To make matters worse I had met 2 souls on the trail that were lost so I had to get them off the trail too. I had no clue as to where I was going and had to deal with about 4 stream crossings which were no picnic.

I arrived at my car at 5PM on the nose. The sun had just about disappeared and I didn't want to start driving around so I decided to stay put and sleep at the trailhead for the night. There wasn't much to do at the trailhead so I decided to go to bed eary after eating my remaining half a sandwich. All I can say is that it was colder than a witch's tit there and I had a heck of a time trying to get some sleep. I felt incredibly sorry for all those trying to sleep in the shelters at the top of the Shenandoah ridge. Brrrrr.

This morning I woke up and decided to head into Luray, VA for breakfast. Virginia to me means country ham and I wanted a big slice. I found Uncle Buck's Family Restaurant in downtown Luray. That place had pork and steak and trout and country ham and biscuits and gravy on the breakfast menu. I was very hungry, the food was absolutely delicious. I had the ham but I was dying to try the breakfast trout. I bet dinner there is amazing.

I felt my legs getting a little stiff and I knew I wasn't up for another 10 mile steep hike, so I drove toward the Masanuttens to see what I could see. I found the Storybook Trail over at Waterfall Mountain, 1/4 mile of paved trail with an overlook deck, with signage of information about geology. This trail was all I could do, I just wasn't up for a rock scramble over at Duncan Knob. I learned all about sandstone, shale and limestone and about how mountains folded and crumbled, but most of the information has already leaked out of my noggin. All I remember was that all these caverns in the area were formed by shale dissolving away or maybe it was limestone. Either way, I'm not that fond of caves because I find them claustraphobic so I don't really need to know anyway.

After I got done over at Waterfall Mountain I couldn't think of anything else to do with my time since I was too stiff to hike, so I drove home.

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