Snow, tracks, trails – oh my!

November 21, 2008

On Wednesday, my girlfriend and I set out on another day in Shenandoah National Park. Beautiful snow blanketed a significant amount of the park and deer were plentiful.

Arriving a little after 8:30 a.m., we made a leisurely drive to Dark Hollow Falls. The walk on any other day is quick and easy, but we took a little more time in the snow and were the only people on the trail, which was nice. Dark Hollow Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in the park because it is such a short distance at 1.4 miles roundtrip. It is located near mile 51, just north of Big Meadows.

Down the trail, I made one of my first discoveries of the day, a raccoon track. I attempted to follow it later, but it only led into the nearby stream, Hogcamp Branch.


Raccoon front paw track (Procyon lotor) on Dark Hollow Falls Trail.

Rocks along the trail and stream were coated in thick layers of ice and we took some time deciding what some of the ice formations looked like.

The waterfall was flowing heavily due to recent weather and besides being freezing cold on the trail, was a great experience.

We wound our way north toward the Skyland area and stopped to see a number of deer digging through the snow, and to have lunch at the Spitler Knoll Overlook. At this point, we had seen less than 10 cars all day. It was great.

Next we set out on another short trail, the Limberlost Trail. This area is handicapped accessible and a very gentle grade for the entire route of 1.3 miles. It is located at mile 43.

Though a frequent site for bear sightings, we found none. Instead, there was another track on the trail that I quickly noticed was a bobcat. The bobcat is one animal that I really want to find. I tracked it into the brush until it seemed to ascend a tree, but I couldn’t find it there.


Bobcat track (Lynx rufus) crossing Limberlost Trail.

Big Meadows was deserted, but we made our way through that area and watched the deer for a while.

Before leaving, we took the Blackrock Trail behind the Big Meadows Lodge. It is a 250 yard mini-hike uphill to a great overlook. Unless you know to go to it, this is a hidden gem.

Cruising Skyline Drive, we scanned the roadside for anything of interest and found a bear that ran downhill before it could be photographed. Close to the Dean Family Cemetery, I noticed a familiar sight, a barred owl.


The bird cooperated amazingly well and I photographed it as it perched on three different trees. Eventually, I moved along and we headed out after 4:30.

One Response to “Snow, tracks, trails – oh my!”

  1. […] few days later, while hiking on Limberlost Trail I noticed my first real sign of a bobcat, the […]

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