Sky Meadows State Park, VA Recon
In preparation for a future hike that I am leading I went to scout out some trails with Mike Kilby at Sky Meadows State Park near Delaplane, VA
I again wanted to scout some trails for an upcoming POPUMC Hiking Group hike. So Mike Kilby and I went to Sky Meadows State Park near Delaplane, VA. The area of the park east of US 17 called Lost Mountain is one area that I had never explored. Looking at the park map, it looked like there were some really nice trails in that area. Unfortionately, the map did not tell all.
My game plan was to hike the Rolling Meadows and Lost Mountain trails. I figured 4.7 miles, some flat pasture hiking and some small ridges to climb, piece of cake. But even the best laid plans go awry (who said that originally?).
Mike K and I got to the Lost Mountain trailhead around 9:00 AM. It was very blustery when we arrived. It made it seem colder than the 39 degrees that it was. We then started our counterclockwise loop of the blue blazed Rolling Meadows and yellow blazed Lost Mountain Trails.
About .2 miles in we came to a fork in the trail. Left went along a fenceline and right went along a stone wall. There were no blazes. The right fork looked more inviting so we took it. We were able to keep an eye on the left fork just in case we took the wrong trail. The 2 trails intersected again after about .2 miles. That was weird. We then hiked about a tenth of a mile and came to our first opportunity.
We came to what I later found out was a tributary of Gap Run. This creek was not on the park map. It had rained heavilly the day before this trip. This combined with the huge amounts of rain and snow that we have received over the last few months made for a roaring river that was impossible to cross. We walked up and down this creek and could not find a satistactory spot to cross. There were some downed trees across the creek. But getting to them and off of them safely was just not possible.
So what do we do now? Our choices were to either cross and get our shoes, socks and pants very wet on a cool day, turn around and go home or find an alternative route. We chose to find an alternative route.
We bushwhacked back out to the pastureland and a fenceline, then turned right and walked along it. We guessed that we could find the other side of this loop that we were trying to follow and go from there. We later found out that we were on the .81 miles long Hayfield Trail.
There were some wet and muddy stretches but we eventually came to a 3 way intersection. We first tried turning right and get to the Lost Mountain Trail from the other side. However, we again came across that darned creek and could not cross.
So at this point we decided to hike back to Mike K's vehicle, drive across the street to the Sky Meadows SP visitors center, then decide what to do. We did, we renewed our yearly passes, used the facilities and then decided to hike up to the AT.
Being as how we weren't sure where we were, we ended up on the 1.54 mile South Ridge Trail, which was the longest and steepest way to get up on top of the ridge to the AT. We trudged along with me wanteing to take numerous breaks. Mike K was clearly in better shape than I was.
This seemed to be taking a long time to get to the AT and I was getting tired. When we got to the North Trail intersection we still had .4 more miles to go. I was exhausted. There was a bench there so I told Mike K to keep going to the AT, then come back and get me and we would take the North Ridge Trail back down.
Mike came back about 25 minutes later and we started back down. The up took us about 2 hours. The down only took an hour. So we got back to Mike Ks vehicle around 2:00 PM. I had to be in MAnassas Park, VA by 3:00 PM to pick up my RV before the repair place closed. Mike K did not spped but we took some shortcuts and made it there by 2:55 and I got my RV back. We then had lunch at Guappos down the street and parted ways.
I will probably have to make another trip out to this park before December, 2019 as I am still not sure which trails that we will be hiking in this park. Even though some things on this recon went well and some did not, it was a great day to be outside. I am sure that we can carve out a decent hike in this park, which is beautiful as well as challenging.
Also, I learned an important tip from Mike K: Place 2 neatly folded black plastic trash bags and 4 rubber bands in a freezer bag and keep a set in your day pack and your backpack. That way, if you encounter a stream like we did and want to stay dry, just place a trash bag over each leg, secure them with a rubber band and you have a better chance of getting across a cold, rushing, deep stream. As long as you do not fall or spring a leak in one of the trash bags. I can not wait to try this!