For my Labor Day hike, I pushed a little longer and harder than I have done of late. My notebooks say that the last time I did the long circuit loop hike to South River Falls in Shenandoah NP was in 1999, back when my legs were fresher. It was a muggy day, but almost all of the walking was under the canopy, so the heat wasn’t oppressive. It’s post-breeding dispersal time, so almost all of the birds I detected were heard-only (Common Ravens croaking). I did see a few butterflies: some fritillaries, a few swallowtails.
The destination for this hike is the falls, and the falls (dropping 83 feet, including the upper and lower cascades) are worth the hike down and the long climb back to the car. I was astonished that, on a holiday weekend, I had the falls all to myself for a good ten minutes.
The PATC rates the 10-mile long circuit as Moderate, and that’s a fair assessment, save for the long 950-foot climb back from the bottom of the falls to the parking areas. There’s also a 600-foot gradual climb of Bareface Mountain in this circuit that sneaks up on you. I made the circuit in 6:45, not much more than PATC’s par of 5:45 when you consider that I missed a turn and came back on the fire road rather than the dedicated trail. Trail or fire road, both are generously sized: lots of room for walkers who need to overtake or take a breather.
At the beginning of this loop, I came across a couple of long-distance hikers on the AT, and one of them gave me a trail name. I’m not sure whether I’m going to own up to it.