Heading west on I-64 from Richmond, Virginia, Hannah and I have just had one of the Top Ten weekends of our lives this late April day. Our son Will married Laurel Ann Crane yesterday under rainy skies; rain that was a blessing – a blessing because that kept the twenty- and thirty-something energy in the modern day barn all night long rocking to the music.
Because of the rain and mid-40s, 30 degrees below normal, everyone stayed in the barn. These young’uns never stopped dancing. Given their father’s reluctance to dance, you might never have guessed that the York Rothermel kids can boogie. Can they ever! Robyn didn’t miss a beat. For her rocking style at the wedding, Molly earned a bronze medal for her moves. Will and his cousin Abby rocked on the dance floor all night long for dancing supremacy. The judges could not decide and awarded each the gold medal.
And, yes, I got my groove on and danced, and then danced some more. Since there were so many people dancing (thanks to the rain) I could hide in the crowd and catch my dancing groove. My secret? I’d watch the kids dancing and mirror their moves. It was all very cool, even if I wasn’t quite as cool as I thought I was.
Have you classmates in the Fair Lawn High School class of 1966 or others of that era got to this point in your lives? There was no traditional “couples” dance where the dj asks all married couples to come to the dance floor. She then asks those married, say five years, to leave the dance floor. More music is played and then those married ten years or less are asked to leave. As it turns out, our nearly 43 years married would have won! Tonight, we needed no such attention. We’ll take our notoriety in being the parents of the groom.
Driving from the site of Will and Laurel’s wedding at the Vintager B&B in Quinton, Virginia, we leave behind our new family, Will and Laurel, her parents Sandy and Ken, and her sister Courtney and husband Josh. The forecast for the Shenandoahs this morning is for clearing as we drive past Charlottesville to the Skyline Drive heading north. (By the way, heading south at this point is the Blue Ridge Highway.) The ranger directs us to the Jones Run Falls Trail which has three waterfalls for our hiking pleasure.
Throughout the park, the Skyline Drive is a winding ribbon of highway along the ridge of the Shenandoahs. Just after the ranger station, we see a mother bear and three cubs crossing the Skyline Drive directly in front of us; the cubs no bigger than a foot long (they looked like black lab puppies). Once safely across, mama bear raises high on her back legs to make sure that we are moving on. Mother bears of all species would do the same.
Twenty miles after the ranger station we pull into the trailhead at Jones Run Trail with room for twenty cars. Our car thermometer shows the temperature has dropped to 43F. With overcast skies, we take no chances and pull on pants, long sleeve shirts, and sweatshirts for this 6.5 mile loop trail with a 1700’ of elevation gain which is rated “moderate.”
For the first mile we are hiking north on the Appalachian Trail as this ridge hike descends gently into the Virginia forest. Within minutes, we meet up with two AT hikers, the younger of which is a flip-flopper.
As a flip flopper, he started hiking in the middle of the AT at Harper’s Ferry, WV and is heading to Georgia during the better spring weather in the American South. Hiking 1120 miles to Springer Mountain, he will then be driven back to Harper’s Ferry and hike the 1160 miles to the trail terminus at Mount Katahdin in Maine. He is using a hockey stick as his trekking pole. Hence the trail name – Slapshot.
Within minutes we pass a young couple out for three days of backpacking. Guys have hit gold when they find an adventurous female willing to sleep on the ground in a tent, eat pork and beans from a can, and think that hiking in the pouring rain is a hoot. My gold is Hannah who likes to hike for three or four hours, return to the motel for showers, a glass of wine, and then sweet slumber.
As we hike the Browns Gap Fire Road, we see more day hikers coming back from the waterfalls this Sunday. Once two miles in, we turn east to hike along the Doyles River itself. We are in luck as the leaves are within a week or two of leafing out so we can clearly see the torrent of river; all from the same storm that doused Will and Laurel’s wedding last night near Richmond.
Still descending, we come upon the 28’ Upper Doyles River Falls. With melting snows and heavy rains feeding it, we are transfixed by nature’s exuberance – waterfalls. See the video below.
Soon we are descending the serpentine trail to the 63’ Lower Doyles River
Falls. We love us some falls. I hope you do too for here is our second falls video.
We continue descending on our trail with rocks that are manageable and nothing like the boot shredding rocks of the AT in Pennsylvania. Two hours into our hike we turn at the Jones Run Falls Trail and make our climb towards Skyline Drive. The temperature has gone to the high 5os now as we are down to tee shirts with our long sleeve shirts wrapped around our waists.
River crossings are few, but we come across one where we fortunately find two 5 to 6 foot river-crossing-branches that we use to steady ourselves. Though we must balance on slightly submerged rocks, we successful ford the stream and are on our way.
Soon we come to the third of three waterfalls, the Jones Run Falls.
Into our third hour of hiking, it’s all up hill. But the trail is not one that has us mountain climbing at all. In fact, it’s gentle rise over two or three miles is pleasant and easy going. The Jones Run Falls Trail Loop with its three falls is a “don’t miss” hike in western Virginia.
It’s a good 75 minutes to our overnight stay in Luray, VA. Still aglow this day after our Second Wedding of the Century, we are just so damn happy for them and for ourselves.
Bon voyage Will and Laurel.