The Day Hiker uses her stick to point out blossoms of what she says is ginseng (she could be wrong too, you know), long before her face took on many other expressions altogether. Check the stoopit socks.
In the Hone Quarry Recreation Area from FR 62: Cliff Trail to Meadow Knob Trail to Pond Knob Trail to FR 62, to apparent end of FR 62 and back. About 13 miles.
The key things in the woods when you're in a new place and don't have a map are really few and simple: know where the sun is in relation to your walking direction; keep an eye out, especially when you're in a place like this were you're walking around a rim, to see where you are and have been on the terrain; keep a mental idea of distance covered, from where and in what direction; and use that smoke over there from a smoldering planned burn as an orientation device.
With these, you can't to go wrong.
Which is why, after we've completed about three quarters of our semi-planned loop (like I said, no map), I know sure as shootin' that we need to turn right on FR 62 when we come down off of Pond Knob.
"The car's down there," The Day Hiker says calmly, pointing in the other direction.
I shake my head and get a stick to draw a little diagram in the dirt road to get her straightened out.
"Got to be. We walked with the sun behind us and now it's ahead of us. We didn't come as far back around as we walked out on the Cliff Trail to start."
She sort of shrugs and off we set in the direction chosen by the confident, expert woodsman.
Maybe half hour later she checks in. I'm still fairly adamant.
Another 15-20 minutes and she's starting to turn against me a little like she does when it feels like we're lost in a place we've never been before and you're aware that it will indeed get dark before too long. This is when I assure her that I will make absolutely sure we always have a map in a new place, noting that it's been years since we've been in this kind of situation.
Then she starts talking about getting a little panicky-feeling. This about the time the road is about the climb steeply into nothingness.
"You see that?" Gail says all of a sudden. She's looking off into the woods.
"A bear! I saw a bear and you know how I love to see a bear. That helps."
Pretty soon after that, the road surely turned to puny trail-to-nowhere, we turn around.
She has us do a little jogging every now and then as we retrace the two-three miles of my certainty. On past where we got off the Pond Knob Trail, her own confidence wanes just a little, about which time a cyclist appears out of nowhere from behind. The male instinct in me to never ask directions is by this time fully dormant and I am pretty blunt: "Yo, where the hell are we?"
"Hone Quarry Rec Area," he says, looking a little incredulous.
With his reassurance that we are headed in the right direction, The Day Hiker at first brightens a bit. But soon begins a pretty strong line of grief that has continued off and on since.
Hey, we were out of the woods by 7:30, with plenty of daylight left. Got lots of good exercise in a pretty and new place. And one of us saw a bear.
Lunch, by the way, was on Oak Knob, at about 3,500 feet and with a nice cleared area – a nifty place to spread out the blanket and eat. And get fortified for a long walk ahead.
How to get there: Entrance is off of Va. 257 west of Harrisonburg.
May 9, 2010