Out for a Drive: A Special Saturday

Though the peak of fall leaf season has come and gone in the Virginia Shenandoahs, I still wanted to get out for a day with the wife. We finally had a Saturday with no agenda, so we took the opportunity to visit our favorite BBQ shop and see the last of the fall leaves in western Virginia.
While some people might not look forward to a day of 7+ hours driving, I do. Especially when it is with the best company in the world. With a loose agenda for the day, we were given the luxury of an easy pace. 

Our first stop after the drive from Norfolk, Va through Richmond was the BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville, Va. We have a soft spot in our hearts and bellies for this place. For me, it is the Colonel Bacon BBQ sauce. For Sara, it has to be the cupcakes. Regardless, this has become a staple for us, and it filled us up for our hike in the afternoon. 

From Gordonsville we made our way to the Crabtree Falls (see http://www.hikingupward.com/GWNF/CrabtreeFalls/) trail in George Washington National Forest. This is said to be the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi, and is a relatively easy hike ~1300ft elevation gain and is about 1.7 miles to the top. As such, it is just about the busiest hike in the park. If it is solitude you see, look elsewhere. Still, it is a fun hike and the falls are pretty. Even though most of the leaves had fallen, there were still some beautiful things to be found. Fun bonus: the parking fee is usually $3 but it was waved for Veteran’s Day. Score!

The trail was hidden from the sun most of the hike until you reach the top, so it was a bit chilly as we hiked up and down. We spotted a few patches of ice here and there. 

Additionally, by throwing the tenkara rod in the backpack and a gotubb with my line and flies, I was easily able to bring along the gear up to the top to find some pocket water to pick off one last brookie before I let them spawn for November. 

After the hike, we were ready to eat again. Being in the area of the Brew Ridge Trail, we had no other option than to get some grub at one of the awesome microbreweries. The Blue Mountain Brewery was our destination. I sampled some phenomenal beers (some twice) and the food was excellent. Get a pizza and the bread pudding and you will not be disappointed. 

After that, it was time for a nice drive home with my buddy. Sara and I got to share a great day together. As she is almost 25 weeks pregnant, quiet, one-on-one car rides will soon be a thing of the past. Of course, it will be fun in its own way. 
My Leaky Waders might just become My Leaky Baby And Waders. 

Day Hike at Bear Church Rock

Sara getting us started. 

Yesterday, Sara and I woke up early and drove to the Rapidan Wilderness Area to hike up Bear Church Rock. I found the hike on the site HikingUpward.com which has a great list of hikes throughout Virginia and West Virginia. It rates the hikes for their difficulty, views, streams, solitude and camping. I was looking for something that had good views and streams. I was hoping I might squeeze in a tiny bit of fishing along the way.

This guys reminded us of our cat. Very Fluffy.

Bear Church Rock is an outlook that gives a nearly 180 degree view of the wilderness area. It is about 3100ft in elevation. You hike 3.9 miles (one way) climbing 2210ft from the parking area. The first 0.5 miles of the trail is along the Rapidan river. The next 1.7 miles or so hugs the Staunton River before turning up the mountain to snake through a canopy of mountain laurels and eventually navigate its way to the Bear Church Rock Overlook. There is also a small cabin 0.3mi off the trail you can rent. We met a friendly couple who was spending a few nights there.

We set out to enjoy a day hiking, have lunch at the overlook, possibly do a bit of fishing on the way down, and grab some barbecue and cupcakes at BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville for dinner.

Although I didn’t catch anything in the 30 minutes I spent fishing,
I saw several nice fish in the Staunton River. I think I’ll come back and try to tackle them again. 
Plenty of fungi for this fun guy.….

We did all of that. As you can see by photos, it was a great day to hike. We spotted lots of treasures along the way. The butterflies were out in full force as were the fungi. I got to see a ghost plant (Monotropa uniflora) which was super cool. I even stole about 30 minutes to fish the Staunton with the Tenkara rod. No fish in hand, but I had several takes. Several were nice sized fish as well, probably over 10″. This would be a great river to return to in the fall.

Finding bright colors all over the forest floor.

We made our way back to the car and headed to BBQ Exchange. This place is so good and even better after a day of hiking. I suppose it doesn’t really matter what you eat after a good day of hiking. Any food always seems to be very fulfilling. But I’ll tell you this, there was no talking as Sara and I each got lost in a good BBQ sandwich paired with some fresh slaw.

We found several groups of Monotropa uniflora also known as the ghost plant, Indian Pipe, or corpse plant. 

These are parasitic, non-photosynthisizing flowers. 

Sara by the big tree stump.

Mountain laurel canopy. Very cool. 

I think crossing the path was this little guy’s summer activity. 
The panorama view shows no man-made object in sight.

The Tenkara rod came along, but no fish to hand. 

BLTs at the top. Hit the spot.