In Ramsey's Draft Wilderness: Road Hollow Trail, Shenandoah Mountain Trail, Jerry's Run Trail, Ramsey's Draft Trail. 7.8 miles.
Here's what we forgot about a summer hike in beautiful Ramsey's Draft Wilderness, and did not remember until we had made our way up the Road Hollow Trail, along the pleasant Shenandoah Mountain Trail, and had started down the Jerry's Run Trail: STINGING NETTLE IS HORRIBLE ON JERRY'S RUN! On a hot, humid day on a trail so narrow that you cannot avoid its leaves (unless, of course, you thought ahead enough to consider the simple solution of LONG PANTS!) the nettle is nothing less than… well, really really irritating.
Part way down Jerry's Run, we encountered two men removing fallen trees from the trail and semi-jokingly asked if they had removed the nettle from the part of the trail below us. No, they said semi-jokingly and calling it "the famous Jerry's Run nettle," they had left that for us to do.
The Day Hiker and I had differing reactions to the plague of the nettle. Hers: Plow through and get it over with. Mine: Try walking down the streambed to avoid it. Which, on this day that featured a strong rain shower during the worst of the nettle stretch, was of course a semi-treacherous thing to do, to the extent that I fell hard at one point and got good-and-wet and good-and-miffed at my plight for a few minutes while the pain in my wrist subsided. And – in some sort of living Charlie Brown moment – as my cap floated by, heading slowly and mutely on downstream.
Recovery from nettle burn is a matter of only minutes once you're out of it, but reactions to the aftermath of the plague were also different as we reached the less nettlesome Ramsey's Draft Trail and its route along the stream, with multiple crossings of relatively high water. The Day Hiker, soaked and vowing again and again never to walk Jerry's Run again, came to the first ford, paused briefly as she looked upstream and downstream for a series of rocks to take her across and then… waded on into the creek with the water coming up well over her already-soaked shoes. I, on the other hand, continued to pretend I was keeping my shoes dry by picking my way across the rocks; sort of trail etiquette or something, to uphold the rock-hop as the manner of crossing.
The hike was occasioned by a scheduled visit after the hike with my father and his lady friend Virginia at her farm in Singers Glen west of Harrisonburg. The shower, the food, the wine and the camaraderie of the evening soon melted away all remnants and recollections of stinging nettle, as will happen a few years from now, when we'll forget again (or maybe remember the daggone zip-on legs of one set of our hiking shorts), and remember only the wildness, the remoteness, the scenic views and the great stream that are the Ramsey's Draft Wilderness.
June 13, 2009