Sugarloaf circuit

Pleasant weather and I’m off for a hike in Shenandoah National Park. New weather was coming in, so I had clouds and breezy conditions, warmth only when the sun broke through, and even a few sprinkles of rain.

I walked an easy-rated 5-mile loop starting with the Sugarloaf Trail (hike #3, short circuit, in PATC’s Circuit Hikes in Shenandoah National Park). The footing was definitely soft in spots, due to overnight rain. The Sugarloaf Trail descends 700 feet through an impressive tract of mountain laurel (not in bloom at this time of the year, alas).

braided streamThe trail crosses a braided stream (Piney River, which feeds into the Thornton) that seemed determined to follow the trail bed for a stretch. The circuit then ascends gradually on the Keyser Run Fire Road. Crossing Skyline Drive, you pick up the Appalachian Trail for a climb of Little Hogback. After a dip, a series of short, stiff switchbacks climbs 400 feet to the ridgeline of Hogback Mountain.

sun and shadowSome fine prospects along this stretch.

the valleyOff-season so I had the trail completely to myself, with the company of an occasional raven, woodpecker, or flick of juncos (that’s something smaller than a flock). Otherwise, very quiet, with sometimes nothing but the creaking of bare trees in the wind.