Saturday, September 15, 2012

Day 5 - Shenandoah National Park Vacation

Shenandoah National Park Vacation
Day 5
Cedar Run - White Oak Canyon Loop
Shenandoah National Park, VA
Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

One of the reasons why we decided to visit Shenandoah is that I saw a photo in the April 2012 edition of Popular Photography Magazine and I immediately knew I wanted to visit that spot someday.  That photo was of Whiteoak Canyon Falls.

Therefore, Whiteoak Canyon was on my must do list of hikes.  Further research showed that there would be a total of six major waterfalls in Whiteoak Canyon and I wanted to see them all!  A 9-mile loop hike would take me to those six, plus several others along the Cedar Run Trail.

This would also be the most difficult hike of the trip with over 2000 feet of elevation change.  This would definitely not be an Amy approved hike, but she was more than happy to stay behind at our cabin with her Kindle loaded with books!

I got a nice early start in hopes of catching a sunrise before the hike, but the mountain was all fogged in.  The fog was like pea soup making the drive much longer than I was anticipating as I did not feel comfortable driving more than 20mph.  There were many Deer out an about alongside and on the road and I definitely would have hit one if I was going much faster!  I came pretty close even at slow speed!

Just as I was about to give up on sunrise, there was a break in the clouds shortly before I arrived at the trailhead.  It was actually about 30 minutes after sunrise, but I still managed to get a few good shots.

Sunrise along the Skyline Drive

I started my hike on the Cedar Run Trail which descends about 2,200 feet over the course of about 4 miles.  Cedar Run Creek was almost completely dry, but as I continued my descent it did gain a little bit of water.  Unfortunately not enough to really make the waterfalls on Cedar Run photo worthy.

Waterfalls along Cedar Run

My only hope was that Whiteoak Run would be a larger creek with more water or else this would end up being a total dissappointment.  I took a connecting trail to meet up with the Whiteoak Canyon Trail and was happy to see a little bit more water in this creek.

As I was hiking along the creek, I heard a loud growl and turned around to see a large black bear about 50-feet away scampering out of the creek and into the brush.  I think I scared him more than he scared me.  The bear was out of view before I had a chance to pull out my camera, but it was still exciting to see it!

Soon after I arrived at the base of Lower Whiteoak Falls (aka Whiteoak Falls #6) where I took a little photography break.

Lower Whiteoak Falls (Whiteoak Falls #6)

According to my Kevin Adam's "Waterfalls of Virginia and West Virginia" guide book, the next two waterfalls up the creek would require a bit of off trail exploring to get to.  It was a steep climb, but not too difficult to make my way to the base of Whiteoak Falls #5.

Whiteoak Falls #5

I couldn't remember which side of the creek Kevin recommended to get to the next waterfall, but I chose the left side.  Crossing the creek was not an issue due to the low flow, but would probably not be a good idea with high water.

Again it was steep but fairly easy to get to the base of Whiteoak Falls #4

Me at Whiteoak Falls #4

Whiteoak Falls #4

After a nice photo break, I backtracked and returned to the trail at the base of the Lower Falls to continue my hike upstream.

The trail leaves the creek for a while, so if you stick to the trail you would definitely miss waterfalls #4 and #5.  It returns to the creek upstream from those falls and soon arrives at Whiteoak Falls #3 which turned out to be my least favorite of the bunch.

Whiteoak Falls #3

Continuing on the trail I soon arrived at Whiteoak Falls #2

Whiteoak Falls #2

Continuing on, I actually arrived all the way at the upper overlook for Upper Whiteoak Falls (aka Whiteoak Falls #1) before I realized I missed the side trail to the base, so I had to backtrack downhill and repeat that climb later.  But it was worth it as I would not have wanted to miss the base of the Upper Whiteoak Falls.

Upper Whiteoak Falls (Whiteoak Falls #1)

The Whiteoak Canyon trail continues a good ways upstream, but since there are no more major waterfalls, I took the Whiteoak Fire Road in order to complete my loop back at the Cedar Run Trailhead.

This was a great hike, but the low waterflow was a bit dissappointing.  I would definitely like to do this hike again someday during much higher water!

The complete set of Photos from Day 5 is posted here:

1 comment:

HemlockMan said...

Dang. Whiteoak Canyon water levels look really pathetic from my last visit there. I make it no secret that I don't care for Shenandoah National Park--it's a textbook case of ecological sickness.