|Upper Stoney Falls|
While most people complained about the weather yesterday, I was busy bundling up and planning a hike. On what has been the coldest day of the year thus far, I couldn't let my off day slip through my fingers. Earlier in the year I had hiked with dad at the Hanging Rock area in Dungannon (VA) and with recent heavy rains and the chance of ice accumulations I knew there would be no better choice than frigid Little Stoney Creek.
|first bridge crossing|
|long sliding cascade|
|cascades along the way|
The hike starts at the Hanging Rock Recreation Area which features picnic tables and shelters but during the off season is gated. It's only a short stroll up through the picnic area to the trail head for Little Stoney National Recreation Trail though. The main attraction along the trail is the falls of Little Stoney. Several nice cascades and two large waterfalls are located on the trail at about the 2.6 mile mark. The first part of the hike is fun as you make your way along a large exposed cliff creek side, monstrous boulders have to be negotiated up and around and there's even a section you can squeeze between two of them if you choose to do so. After about half a mile the trail crosses the creek on a large suspension bridge built high above the creek to avoid flooding. The recent snow was piled deep on the bridge and I found myself with wet feet just as my hike was starting. Shortly after the bridge the park service had posted signs indicating the trail was closed due to trees being down and a collapse in the trail along a steep section. I didn't want to waste all the gas and a perfectly good hike on a warning sign so I proceeded on up the creek. The snow was still at least a foot deep in places due to the sun not reaching the valley floor but it was pleasant and absolutely beautiful. I eventually found the section they were referring to in the sign. The trail wound narrowly about fifteen feet above the creek and two large trees had fell taking their roots as well as the trail with them. I had to slide down the bank and then use whatever I could hold onto to get back up to the trail. Several more wooden bridges cross the creek just upstream and eventually you wind up on the right side of the creek. Cascades really begin to pick up in this area and several small waterfalls enter into the creek from side streams.
|huge cliffs lining the trails|
|Stoney Creek from the trail|
|trail crossing a waterfall|
My favorite part is just before Lower Stoney Falls the trail crosses a side stream in the middle of a waterfall! The upper part of the falls is hidden by trees while the lower section drops over two different fifteen foot sections. It's a tricky crossing and the result of missing a step would be at the least some wet clothes and the worst a broken bone or two. Finally after just over two miles Lower Stoney Falls comes into earshot. As the trail winds upwards the falls become visible. It is the better of the two falls cascading over a cliff before pooling below and dropping over a few smaller falls downstream. The spray from them had iced everything around and footing was tricky as I lined up photos. I loved the icicles hanging around the sides of the falls and it framed up nicely with what light was peeking through over the ridge. I managed not to fall in the creek and headed up trail to the Upper falls. This one free falls into a large deep pool and during the summer you will never have the falls to yourself, but on this 19 degree day I was alone. I took some pictures from the stairs framing the falls with the trees before heading down to the base. I found some nice opportunities using the cliff wall covered with icicles with the falls alongside it. The cold weather didn't bother me but was messing with the response time with my camera so I decided to pack up and head back toward Hanging Rock.
|Foot deep snow on the rails|
|Upper Stoney Falls|
|Middle Stoney Falls|
|Lower Stoney Falls|
It's funny how on some of the hikes out, I see things I completely missed on my way in, but that adds to the joy of hiking. I probably took another fifty pictures just on the way back. I made really good time, even in the areas with deep snow and found myself back to the truck within an hour. Sadly the Hanging Rock Rec Area is still slated to close due to budget shortfalls, so I encourage you to contact Congressman Morgan Griffin's office to voice your opinion and save this Scott County beauty. If you ever hike there, you will see why we should keep it around for future generations. Until next time, happy trails!