It was last spring in Virginia, which means green is abundant and the sun just starts to bring a burn on shoulders, and it also means I go in search of forest waterfalls.
Andy and I packed our daypacks for this very reason and headed to George Washington National Forest — more specifically, returning to Hone Quarry.
I first wrote about this area in my Hidden Rocks Hike post. There, I mentioned Hone Quarry holds three of the reportedly least used trail systems in the forest: Hone Quarry Falls, Hone Quarry Ridge, and Oak Knob. Intrigued by this “hidden gem” location, we planned to work our way down the list, starting with Hone Quarry Falls. It should be noted while seclusion is listed at the top of traits for this spot in the forest, what is more deserving of a mention is that there are two sets of ledge waterfalls that are supposedly the largest in the Shenandoah mountain region. Oh, and even better news for our unfit bodies, this walk was a known-to-be easy:
Five mile there-and-back hike
A small 660-foot elevation gain
Level Two of Five difficulty
In hiking, I think it gets no easier than walking on a fire road for a mile and a half, and so that is exactly how we started.
The area recently saw heavy rains so the ground was saturated and water droplets still clung to leaves. I admit though, this is my favorite time to hike — The smell of earth and water and life and freshness all give way to form one word called petrichor, which I just learned is that distinct, pure scent after rain. Another reason I most love being outside during this time: Nature and her colors are so vibrant that they appear almost florescent and glowing.
Even our walk along the fire road was beautiful as it passed beside a dam and wetlands. The water, so clear we stood by the edge to watch numerous fish swim. Past these wetlands, a marsh where reeds and tall grass grew happily.
Soon our entry to the old-growth forest approached . . .
Spring flowers peeked their little faces towards us as we followed the Slate Springs Trail to the Waterfall Trail, passing over many small streams from Pond Knob Mountain.
Halfway into the hike — so about two-and-a-half miles in — we found our twenty-five foot waterfall.
The waterfall was stunning and we skirted to the bottom to take in the view . . .
After, we continued on to a set of ledge falls that was a short distance upstream . . .
That’s when we found this area snake who had ventured out to wind its long black body up a limb until it disappeared . . .
Returning toward the water, Andy and I fixed our attention to the cascade once more — first starting below the waterfall . . .
then we climbed to find a place to sit on the flat rocks right before the water cascaded over the edge . . .
Dangling our feet over, we ate lunch as tiny birds swooped around us and chirped from their perches on limbs and butterflies congregated by the dozens around us . . .
Soon though, the call of the other ledge waterfall lead us on and so we stood once more to explore again . . .
In the end, the forest was all it promised — a beautiful, quiet place to seek solitude — and so we strayed along the falls for what felt like hours.
With a promise to return, our hike for this day was coming to a close and so with one last deep breath in, Andy and I followed the plush green moss on our trail home . . .
and excitedly I found a ‘wish rock,’ which — we learned in British Columbia — is a rock with a single unbroken white stripe circling its circumference. According to legend, if you close your eyes while tracing your finger around the line and making a wish, then casting the rock into the sea as far as you can throw or giving the rock to another person, your wish will come true.
Therefore, with hiking boots covered in mud, that’s exactly what I did . . .