Swimming Hole Hoop Hike
Left: Aden comes off the rocks as Matthew looks on. Right: Matthew heads for the water.
The two oldest grandsons – both to turn 9 in the fall – have lost a little in the way of hiking enthusiasm from when we first took them out, way back when they were like 6.
Still, if you have an attractor like an eight-foot deep natural pool with an eight-foot wall of rock to jump off of into it, then you can get 'em goin'. And even walking around the long way, where you hike three miles of the loop before you get to lunch and swimming. (Though I bet it won't be too many more trips before they balk at hanging the right just out of the parking lot and instead start talking about their going left, us right, and meeting up at the water hole.)
The walk up, heading right, has eight stream crossings (The Greatest Day Hiker won our contest with a pre-ascent guess of seven), and on this day they were all easy, as the stream was already showing signs of summer. After the trail's left turn away from the stream and its brief foray through open forest, the next left takes you into heavy rhododendron territory that announces the proximity of the other stream and its classic summer spot.
Aden especially had been talking about being staarrving for the last mile or so of the first part of the walk, and the assertion proved itself true when they both chose to eat before jumping in.
And then they jumped and jumped and we hung around awhile until, just after we got up to go, Aden's mother and father arrived and we sat back down for a little more good time at a great spot in the woods. Also along and enjoying the water (although never going in fully) were good dogs Sugar and Fluff; Fluff looked as healthy as ever these several months removed from this three-week disappearance in the woods last winter.
The only downside in the dog context: The Day Hiker had to lament that Cookie is still recuperating from surgery on a hind leg and can't yet return to hiking.
Hoop Hole lower trail. 4 miles
How to get there: U.S. 220 north out of Roanoke and on to a left on Va. 615/621 just north of the turn off to Eagle Rock and the crossing of the James.