Yesterday I took my 30th hike in Shenandoah National Park. Not my 30th hike, of course, but my 30th in this particular national park alone.
I hike in other places too, such as along the C&O Canal; even when I hike in the Blue Ridge, I sometimes go to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Washington and Jefferson National Forests and so on. But Shenandoah is always a special place. I started hiking in Shenandoah 7 years ago, and now, my 30th time.
What can be a better destination than White Oak Canyon after some soaking rain recently? I took the White Oak Canyon-Cedar Run loop trail this time, about 10 miles with an elevation change of 2,000 feet — not too shabby for a day’s work, wouldn’t you say?
Take this from me — White Oak Canyon is the prettiest trail in the park (I would probably place Old Rag a close second). It boasts 6 waterfalls, and if you take the loop trail that I took, you can boost the total to 8.
But so much for arithmetic — I have always had a hard time counting waterfalls: for example: Some waterfalls are too short to count, but then again, what is the threshold for what counts and what does not? Or, when there is a two-stage waterfall, do you count that as one or two?
I was immediately presented with this problem — the first (lowest) falls are (is?) a two-stage waterfall(s?), is this/are they one or two?
The White Oak Canyon trail is pretty steep, after a couple of miles, you will reach the Upper Falls. This is the second highest waterfall in the park, and in my opinion the most beautiful.
After rounding the Upper Falls, I took the White Oak Fire Road toward the Hawks Bill Gap (a relatively “boring” stretch but delightfully easy thanks to the gentle grade of the fire road, a much needed respite after the strenuous climb up). From there I took the Cedar Run trail down. This is an exceedingly rocky trail — it took me 3 hours to cover the 3 miles (I normally cover a mile in 20 minutes on level ground, and this is going down). There are two waterfalls along this trail, but they are not as spectacular as the ones in White Oak Canyon and not as close to the trail.
One interesting thing was that I saw several giant fungi on a fallen log. I don’t know their scientific name, but they are creamy yellow and white and look like humongous popcorn, thus I name them “popcorn fungi”.
So that was my 30th hike. If you want to take this hike someday, I suggest that you park at the White Oak Canyon parking lot on Route 600 (see map and directions here) instead of starting from the Skyline Drive. The reason: this is a strenuous hike, and it is a good idea to climb up first when your legs are still fresh. To get the best views for the least effort, you can retrace your steps after reaching the Upper Falls.