Doyles River Hike, 6.5 mi


Identifier: 20060729-DoylesRiverHike
Purpose of outing: Waterfall hike and backpacking campout
Advancements: Hiking MB
Mode of travel: Car
Planning horizon: 3 weeks
Capacity: Patrol (12)
Distance: 110 mi, >2 hrs
Location: Dundo Group Campground (milepost 83), Shenandoah National Park
Contact: Troop 1501
Dates: 2006-07-29 - 2006-07-30
Description: Principal activity: Carrying daypacks with water and a trail lunch, complete a circuit hike combining portions of the Appalachian Trail, Brown’s Gap Fire Road, Doyles River Trail, and Jones Run Trail. The total distance was approximately 6.5 miles over challenging terrain (the trail is steep and rocky with several stream crossings). Transportation: With several packs carried on the hitch haul, everyone and their gear fit in one vehicle. Weather: Mostly clear skies, with daytime temperatures estimated to be in the high 80s. Thundershowers passed-through the area in the late afternoon, missing us. We departed by 8:00 Saturday morning. The trip distance was approx. 110 miles and took just over 2 hours. We entered SNP at Swift Run Gap, about at the Park’s mid-point. After arriving we set up in our assigned site, site D, there were only 2 other groups in the area. Capacity of the campground was 7 or 8. Camp sites were grassy, with a fire pit, a gravel parking area, and gravel under a line of 3 picnic tables. Bear pole, water, picnic tables and pit toilets were provided. We filled 2 bear bags with our food and smellables hung them on the bear pole and then packed our day packs and set out on the trail. Access was easy as there was a spur trail from our site directly to the AT. We hiked the circuit counterclockwise traveling along the AT, to Brown’s Gap fire road and to Doyles River Trail. We took lunch on the rocks just before the first falls on the Doyles River. The water level was low and after stopping and exploring the second, and much taller water fall, the scouts continued the hike along the stream bed. This was the easy part, at the confluence of Doyles River and Jones Run we began to climb out of the stream valley. That was the hard part. On the way up we discovered a fairly deep pool and took the opportunity for a cooling dip. We did some “scout shirt” minnow fishing, too. As we were leaving we could see the sky darkening through the trees and could hear thunder in the distance. We made it back to camp before the rains came, closed everything tight and quickly put up the dining fly. As it happened, the storm passed us by. The evening brought out the critters--deer and rabbits were spotted. We were told that a pair of black bears was in camp that morning before we arrived. We didn’t doubt that given the trampled berry bushes and scat we noticed near camp. Thankfully, there was no sign of them that night. Dinner was cooked on lightweight backpacking stoves. Menus included crab quesadillas and stovetop stuffing with chicken. Dessert included fresh-picked berries from the bushes behind our tents. We played a couple hands of gin rummy before settling in for an uneventful night. We also roasted marshmallows over a fire started without matches (the guys used sparks from a survival tool). Sunday morning, after a hearty breakfast of James’ home made granola, we set out on a second, shorter circuit hike of about 3 miles from the campground along the Appalachian Trail to the top of Blackrock Mountain. After a bit of boulder-field exploring and practice locating visible peaks on topo maps, we were back in camp packing for the trip home. We were on our way by noon. A short way along Skyline drive we spotted a black bear peering over the bushes along the side of the road as we passed. We stopped but it did not show itself again; however, we did find a freshly trampled path into the bushes near where the bear was seen. Critical resource: PATC map #11, National Geographic Trails Map of the Shenandoah National Park, and National Geographic Topo mapping software.
  • The site reservation was made by calling the reservation line about 3 weeks in advance. Confirmation was made by return postcard which was left on the car’s dashboard as proof of reservation.
  • The original plan was to camp at Big Meadows campground and drive to the trailhead (for a different circuit hike). We learned of the option we took from another scouter at summer camp and benefited from his unit’s experience with Dundo.
  • The ground, though covered in grass, had a hard layer of material just below the surface. A hammer would have been handy, but rocks worked.
  • Overall, this was an excellent outing. One thing that would have improved it would have been greater availability of scouts.