The hike was divided into two parts, with Skyland as home base. The first part of the hike is in red; the second part in green. Dividing the hike into two parts enabled us to return to the cars between the two parts, so that we wouldn't have to carry dinner with us for the entire day.
On the way to Shenandoah National Park, we stopped at Roy's Orchard near Sperryville for fresh produce, jams and jellies, candy, and delicious ice cream!
It was unseasonably warm -- in the 70s, in the valley.
The forecast for the day was for overcast skies, with rain later in the day.
Rain? What rain?
Still life with gourds.
The first part of the hike included a short hike out to Miller's Head and back. A view along the way to Miller's Head.
Miller's Head has a nice lookout, with a 180-degree view of the west side of the park.
From Miller's head, we headed south, crossing the Appalachian Trail and Skyline Drive, to the Whiteoak Canyon Trail. We walked down the trail to the Old Rag Fire Road and then turned up the Bridle Path for the ascent back to Skyland. Along the way, we came across this beauty.
He was so still and so perfect-looking that he looked like one of those decoys that wildlife officials set up to catch illegal hunters.
Yep, he's real.
You can watch this video in higher quality on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YWrLvp-lgg
During a water break, Meredith passed around delicious antipasto-like appetizers on toothpicks.
Harpo the poodle completed the entire hike without any problem.
Returning to Skyland. After a brief break here to get our dinner supplies, the second part of the hike would take us down the Passamaquoddy Trail, up to Little Stony Man Cliffs, along the Appalachian Trail, and up the Stony Man summit trail.
The view of Stony Man from Skyland.
At 4011 feet above sea level, Stony Man is the second highest point in Shenandoah National Park (Hawksbill is the highest at 4,049 feet). Note the people at the summit.
I used my extreme digital zoom to get this shot, which starts to give the image a watercolor-painting look.
An even more extreme-zoom shot, which looks like an impressionist painting.
We passed this rain-created waterfall along the Passamaquoddy Trail to Little Stony Man Cliffs.
This is probably a more accurate representation of how dark it was getting. At this point, I switched the ISO from 200 to 400, and I took this shot with a faster shutter speed than the previous photo (1/80 sec. vs. 1/20 sec.).
Mike decides to cool off a little.
This shot was taken at 1/125 sec.
And this shot was taken at 1/20 sec.
We stopped for dinner at Little Stony Man Cliffs. It was windy, but had a great view and plenty of space to spread out for dinner.
In reality, it was darker than most of these photos make it appear. In order to show more detail, I started using longer and longer shutter speeds, because we were losing daylight.
This is probably closer to how dark it was getting.
The longer exposure shows the colors in the valley below, though it makes the sky and horizon look much brighter than they actually were.
The inside of my rain jacket was wetter than the outside, thanks to the sweat I worked up during the hike!
Vicky on Little Stony Man Cliffs.
Our potluck feast included crackers and tapenade, barbecued pork bao, stuffed grape leaves, couscous salad, Colombian rice with coconut milk and raisins, Thai rice noodles, mustard greens, Chinese pickeled cucumbers, persimmons, fried apples, French cookies, Halloween cookies, and fortune cookies.
I brought my mom's spicy peanut noodles (lower left). It's not usually made with fusilli, but I thought they would be easier to serve than long noodles on the hike.
It was the best picnic I've ever had on a hike!
Bi Bi enjoying the view after dinner.
Bebhinn enjoying the view on her first hike in the Shenandoahs.
Skyline Drive from Little Stony Man Cliffs.
Taken with a longer exposure
Heading for the summit of Stony Man.
Again, taken with a longer exposure.
We reached the summit of Stony Man just after sunset. This photo makes it look a lot lighter than it actually was because I pushed the ISO to 800, and I used a really long exposure (8/10 sec.). I wish I had brought my tripod!
This is a more accurate representation of how dark it was.
Keeping the camera still in the wind with longer shutter speeds was a challenge.
My idea for a Halloween shot. Even Harpo (lower left) got into the act.
Fortunately, the hike back to Skyland was along a fire road, which was wider and less rocky than the ascent. At this point, it was pitch black, so flashlights were a must.
Hiking in the dark.
Back at Skyland.
The cafe at Skyland has live music on Saturday nights while the resort is open.
A few final words from Paul.
Heading back to our cars for the drive home. It was a wonderful, rewarding hike!