Since the weather is perfect, our ambition got the better of us and we decided to try a longer hike. We usually hike for 2-3 hours. This Hazel River Trail kept us busy for just under 6 hours.
Here are the before pictures.
The trail wasn’t easy. The path was often steeply inclined, rocky, root clogged, and sandy making it very easy to slip. But the kids did a great job. They ran the flat sections and held our hands to hop down the steeper sections.
I have to admit I didn’t do a great job scouting the hike. We picked it because of the promise of a waterfall surrounded by caves. To get there you have to turn right after .5 miles, left after 1.6 miles, then right after an additional .9 miles, for a plummeting .2 mile descent to the pool and cave area where we wandered for another good .5 mile. All those distances looked so small on paper. Seems obvious but I forgot to add them up. (And that’s only halfway since you need to come back) I also forgot to factor in that this is Shenandoah where elevation change matters as much as mileage. So we took a lot of breaks.
The .2 decent. A carried M and I spotted R down the cliff of stairs.
And we made it! The waterfall’s tiny rock valley was as gorgeous and fun and magical as we had hoped. The caves were not large or deep, but sizable enough to be exciting exploring for a 2 and 3 year old.
The waterfall was beautiful.
This next picture is deceiving. We tried to suggest a nice relaxed nap by the water but the kids refused. Pity. So instead A let them go skinny-dipping in the ice cold mountain water. Craziness. I was opposed for energy reservation reasons but the kids loved it. R’s skin turned blue and we still had to drag him from the water against his will.
At this point I was finally starting to do my addition and it was making me nervous. We’d been on the trail for about 3 hours and since we hadn’t started til noon I was concerned we might run out of daylight before we made it back. The kids were also pretty spent so they wouldn’t be moving fast. A and I talked strategy and decided we’d probably need to carry the kids out most of the way.
So we headed back up the cliff stairs of the .2.
.2 sounds like nothing but this was seriously the hardest point of the hike. A was carrying M and R was doing great but I still needed to lift him up a few places. It was strenuous. And by that I mean my body started having fits of contractions. Bad sign. But we made it to the top and took a nice breather.
Then on we went. M was done at this point. She had to be carried and R was collapsing. So how do you hike out with 2 wilted kids and one physically compromised parent? Be amazed. I know A won’t like this picture but it is too impressive not to show. He did this for miles.
My contractions died down and then we did 2 and 4 minute shifts with M riding on my shoulders and R on A’s, then M on A’s shoulders and R walking with me. M was so tired she fell asleep sitting on our shoulders. But we finished in the daylight and everyone staid pretty happy. R did try to suggest we leave M to be eaten by bears so he could ride on A’s shoulders the whole way back but other than that I think it was great family bonding time. I love my family.
Goodbye Shenandoah the beautiful.