I really wanted to visit a waterfall this past weekend. I never can decide where to go but decided to do a return trip to South River. If you’ve been following me for a few months, you may remember I went this past winter in 0 degree weather. I think I prefer that trip and I’ll explain why below. The South River Falls trailhead is located in the South River Picnic Grounds at mile marker 62.7. The circuit I hiked is approximately 6 miles long and covers 2,300 feet of elevation. I started on the South River Falls Trail and went all the way to the base of the falls. You’ll get to a post that says, “Base of Falls”. Continue down that path. On my way back up, I stay on the fire road. This will cross the Appalachian Trail where you’ll make a left. This will take you back to the South River Falls Trail where you’ll turn right and just about be at the parking lot.
South River Falls is not my favorite waterfall in Shenandoah National Park. It’s kind of weird looking and split. I much prefer Doyles River Falls but I love the hike to South River. There are many pretty cascades. I know it sounds silly but when I made my way to the river I was surprised at how different everything looked. I know. Duh. But in March we had a massive wind storm and the downed trees added to how it had changed. I had to spend time crawling on rocks, balancing on wet rocks and wading through water to get some of my photos. And I loved every minute. The green does add beauty to the photos but I also loved how wide open everything was during winter. I was able to get to some other small falls because I didn’t have to worry about poison ivy or as many ticks or stinging nettles. I had more to photograph and I like that. Also, I think the falls look really cool when they are partly frozen (better than they look now but that’s a personal opinion).
I kept telling myself to keep moving. It was partly cloudy and I was worried the sun would be too bright by the time I got to the falls. I just couldn’t help myself when I passed certain small falls and cascades. And unfortunately, a few of my shots ended up with dappled sun. And when I got to the falls the sun was hitting the top of the falls. A photographic disaster. (Laughing) I shot it in a few exposures and I guess the final image came out okay. Sometimes I rush and don’t really think about my compositions.
Eventually the sun was out to stay so I had to hike back. But, before I forget, I almost ran into a bear on the trail. I was all alone on the trail. And I mean really alone. I didn’t see anyone for 3 hours. I came around a corner and there was a bear. It was as surprised as me. I backed away slowly as I greeted the bear. I expected to hear it run off but it didn’t. I called out a few more times. Eventually, I saw it walk through the woods at a lazy pace. I was thrilled! Bears don’t scare me. I do wish I had gotten a photo but I thought I should follow protocol. I haven’t ever seen a bear while hiking so this was exciting.
Hiking back I forced my pace. With an upcoming Spartan Race this weekend, I wanted to test my fitness and not stop. I did have to stop once or twice but the 2,300 foot climb back up wasn’t so hard. Loved it!
I still recommend South River Falls. If you want to be in the water, it’s a great option! And the hike is just about 6 miles. Any time spent in Shenandoah National Park is time well spent.
If you live near/in Washington DC or are planning a visit, I highly recommend taking some time to visit Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The summer months are perfect because the ponds and ponds full of lotus flowers are blooming. I saw on Instagram that there was a rare Empress Lotus blooming at the park so I dragged my son with me on the 4th of July. We arrive early – approximately 7:30 am and so did every other photographer in DC. I thought I had a unique idea. (insert laugh here). The way the park is designed, there is almost always room for many photographers. I did have an experience where a woman just kept inching closer and closer to me. I finally stopped taking photos and waited. Eventually, she stepped right in front of me almost falling into the water. Trust me when I say that this behavior isn’t necessary. There are beautiful lotus flowers everywhere. Thousands.
The humidity was high. I’m sure it was 100%. My son left me to go find shade and I commenced to feeling bad that I brought him. However, I know he enjoyed it. He couldn’t hide it. He just hates the humidity – it gives him a headache. I searched for the Empress Lotus but, alas, did not locate it. I mistakenly thought it was a different one (and thought I was right as I overheard another man talking about it).
There is a nice boardwalk that offers a small amount of shade but I didn’t take it this time. I eventually settled in on trying to capture dragonflies and butterflies before giving up on wiping the sweat from my eyes. The gardens are a must-visit for anyone. Go and experience the beauty.
I hate cold weather. I don’t mind end of October when it is like in the 50s & 60s. I mind when it dips down to low 40s and below. I grew up in Michigan so I always get asked, “Don’t you like the cold?” Nope. I am writing this with a coat and large, bulky sweater covering my lap because my office is so incredibly cold.
I have a tradition of going hiking on Veteran’s Day. It is a day I have off of work but my kids still have school. I enjoy having the day to myself. This year, I almost didn’t go. I woke up and it was cold. Too cold. I got up and decided I would at least drive to Shenandoah to see if the colors had improved. I also wanted to stop at Buck Hallow Trail to photograph the stream that runs through that trail since it had rained a lot earlier in the week.
While I was photographing the stream it wasn’t too bad. I had on my hat, coat and gloves and was fine. If I had been hiking I would have been nice and warm. I figured, “Why not go and find a hike?” I drove along Skyline Drive wondering which trail to visit. I kept referring to my map and wasn’t deciding on anything. I started on one trail and the wind just about blew me off the mountain. I turned right around and went back to my car. Eventually I happened upon Little Stony Man. I got out and looked at the sign. It was a short hike to the view point so I decided that would be my hike. As I walked up the side of the mountain I warmed up nicely. The wind was minimal in that location. It only took me a few minutes to reach the Little Stony Man lookout area. And that’s when the wind hit me. It was far stronger than the other trail because you’re basically standing on the side of a mountain with no coverage. This is also the first time I’ve been on a rock formation in Shenandoah and didn’t want to look over. I presume this is why people go to climb. e
I took a few photos and headed back to my car. I blasted the heater and drove home. As I was driving I decided to stop at Ellanor C Lawrence Park. Someday I will explore more of this park as I generally hang around the creek and pond. The wind was still blowing but because of coverage it wasn’t too bad. I wandered around looking for something to photograph. I found a cool trail that I will probably explore at a different time. I was just too cold so I headed back towards my car.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a Blue Heron. They are probably my favorite bird. I have quite a few good photos of them. I went in all directions to photograph this bird. I got pretty close and have some beautiful shots of just its head.
Eventually I decided I would leave the bird alone and made my way back to my car. Because I hadn’t done a big hike I had time left in my day to relax. I do enjoy hiking in the winter. I like that posion ivy dies and I have more confidence to go off trail. I like finding birds without the leaves on the trees. But I really want spring to return because I am already tired of being cold.
Ok. Maybe ‘madness’ isn’t the right word but I did visit a ton this past weekend. I went Saturday morning to photograph the sunrise. I chose an overlook that I knew had a ton of beautiful ridges. Unfortunately, the angle was a bit off. So I didn’t get the sun directly. I guess that is ok because it gives you a different perspective. Plus, I can’t say that the sunrise was like super amazing or anything. But lack of drama doesn’t mean it wasn’t still gorgeous.
I chose Range View Overlook. It is probably one of my favorites in the park. If you look out directly from the overlook you are facing south so the sun comes up to the left. The trees block out quite a bit of it but once it comes up it illuminates the mountains nicely. It was a very chilly morning. The temperature read 48 degrees and the wind was whipping. It didn’t take long for my hands to freeze.
When I was finished I drove up through the north district. I have rarely driven this part of Skyline Drive and am not familiar with the overlooks. As they say – there isn’t a bad one in the whole of Shenandoah. Each one has something unique and beautiful about it. I took time to look at the different formations, the valleys, and communities below. It is also interesting to notice the different trees along the drive. I think that the trees in Shenandoah are unique – unique as you aren’t going to see the same ones along a trail where I live just 1.5 hrs away. They have beautiful shapes to them. Their shapes are one of the reasons I love going there in the winter. I once knew someone who proclaimed he hated all photos of trees in the winter because they have no leaves. Unfortunately, he’s unable to see the beauty in the angles, lines, and curvatures in branches.
I didn’t do a hike this day because I had to get home. I really wanted to just focus on photos of the overlooks. I don’t know how successful I was but it was a wonderful morning.