Shenandoah Camping Adventure Part II
On Thursday of our epic adventure, we work up bright and... well... not so early. But we ate breakfast, packed lunches, and headed out to do some hiking. The weather was perfect - not too hot with a nice breeze, blue skies and lots of sun. We decided to do the Stony Man trail first...a "moderately" challenging trail, about a mile long, which would take us to the summit of Stony Man Mountain. Some of us quickly realized that we were not in quite as good of shape as we thought we were (but on the up side I did not have an asthma attack like I did earlier in the summer when I attempted Stony Man - that day was much hotter with air quality alerts and I didn't have an inhaler). When we reached the cliffs part-way up the trail, we stopped for a breather and (of course) pictures, and after awhile we were ready to tackle the rest. Up at the summit the view was amazing, and we enjoyed a rest, a picnic with breath-taking views, and some moderately safe off-belay rock-climbing. Other hikers, especially those with children, were a little nervous watching our group climbing out along the ridge in front of Stony Man's "face."
By the time we hiked back down to the car we still had time for another trail, and this time we wanted to swim. Gibb and I had been to "the best swimmin' hole in the world" with our trusty guide Andy earlier in the summer, but we couldn't remember where it was. So we picked the least scary looking trail with "falls" in the title - the Dark Hollow Falls Trail. Spooky sounding. And it kicked our butts. To be fair, the trail description was something along the lines of "moderate difficulty/steep return." It was literally like walking down stairs for about a mile along a beautiful series of little falls. Unfortunately, we did not find any real swimming holes along the way. Jordan, determined to swim, faceplanted in a jacuzzi-sized pool at the bottom, and then we hiked back up a little way and some of us jumped into a deep but narrow pool in another place. It was very, very cold. And then we hiked back up a mile of natural stairs. Ouch.
Friday morning, we packed up our campsite and set out for one last hike. Thanks to a very helpful ranger, we managed to find the mysterious swimmin' hole! I'll tell you where it is, if you promise not to tell anyone... If you park at the Whiteoak Canyon parking at the bottom of the hill and then take the Cedar Run Falls Trail, and go past the first place to swim, you eventually come to a majestic swimming hole with a waterfall that you can slide down and rocks to jump off. We found it! And it was everything we hoped for. The water was cold, but refreshing and we had plenty of fun jumping and sliding and swimming and taking pictures. We didn't even mind walking back to the car in wet clothes. It was the perfect end to our camping trip.
Or it would have been the perfect end to our camping trip if Gibb, Phil and I had not found an even better way to bookend our adventure...
As it happens, while we were on our way off the beaten track to find the swimmin' hole, we drove by DuCard Vineyards. We found it on the our Virginia Winery map and decided to part ways with the rest of the group and stop off to taste some more wine. And taste we did. DuCard is nestled in a beautiful spot at the bottom of the mountain, with a pretty patio where guests can enjoy the view and a glass of wine. We were the only people there and the owner made us right at home.
The first wine was another viognier, the DuCard Signature Viognier which we liked more than the one at Jefferson. Next we had the Gibson Hollow Viognier, paired with fresh peaches... delicious. After that we had the Popham Run Bordeaux blend, which was lovely and peppery (Gibb says). And then we had the Virginia Native Norton, which - go figure - is made with Norton grapes which are native to Virginia. This wine was a little hard hitting, but then we had another taste with dark chocolate from chocolate maker and it was really nice. I bought a bottle for my parents; it goes well with steak, dark chocolate and spicy ethnic foods, which are all things my parents like. Finally, we had a Vidal Blanc which was nice but sweeter than I was expecting. Our experience was comfortable and delicious! Plus, later I found this nifty page on their environmental stewardship efforts! A very cool place. We ended our visit by enjoying a glass of the Gibson Hollow Viognier on the patio - with more fresh peaches! That really was the best way to end our trip.