It’s Father’s Day weekend following an exhausting week for Sprout (in particular, Sprout’s stomach) and this new mother and father. We always feel reinvigorated after time spent in the woods, so we envisioned a leisurely walk to an overlook where we could picnic and relax — an outing heavy on scenery, light on physical exertion. Crawford Mountain Trail, about 15 miles west of Staunton, VA, on appearance offered what we were looking for. Strangely, not much was written on the web about this trail, but according to our super official-looking “Trails Illustrated” map, the trail head elevation was 3000 feet with the trail rising to 760 feet over 2.5 miles — sounded leisurely enough for us and baby. The worst part (judging by the topo contours on the map) was going to be at the head of the trail where it climbs out of the gap in the ridge where the road crosses. Or so it seemed….
Let it be known that on the way to the trail head, Sprout had her best ever 20 minutes awake in the car — not a single scream. It was another gorgeous sunny day in the Shenandoah Valley and she seemed happy to watch, wide-eyed, as the cow-strewn foothills rolled by her window. She’s not old enough, either, to fret or care that the dangerous side of forest road to the trail head was falling into a moderately deep stream gorge. We parked, readied the gear and baby, and as we were stepping toward the trail a slightly frazzled woman driving by informed us that she just saw two bear cubs crossing the road. It was a good reminder to remember to make noise on the trail. “Yo Bear!”
As anticipated, the first half mile or so was a steady climb. The grade wasn’t particularly challenging, but we broke a sweat with Sprout in tow, not quite yet in our top condition this season. The trail leveled out, the breeze was refreshing and the view of the wide mountain valley to the west through the gnarly trees was cute. Now, to find a clear place with a little shade, a little sun to lay our blanket…. So we following the twisting path along the top of narrow ridge on the lookout for an overlook.
In contrast to ridge hiking in Pennsylvania, the brush can be deceptively thick on ridge tops in Virginia. Our ankles don’t particularly miss all of the rocky obstacles, but with all the vegetation, our search for a spot was more complicated than we predicted at the outset. The primary obstacle on the trail was fresh bear scat. Sprout did not appreciate the loud, sudden signaling Aaron was making as we walked, although the alternative has the potential to be more scary. All of the greenery plus fertilizer, however, did make for some nice pictures.
Our quest for some rustic, alpine R&R was further complicated by the fact that the trail kept becoming more alpine. The ridge was not quite as flat as our map led us to believe; contours 250 feet apart apparently can miss some nontrivial topographic details! After less than two miles down the trail, we were tired of climbing and G was hungry. Not wanting to let our little girl starve (or scream for the next 45 minutes), Jacqui tried to improvise and successfully managed to feed her while she was in the Ergo. With Sprout satiated, we headed back the way we came and found a fallen tree where we could sit, enjoy our lunch, and change Sprout’s diaper. Our search for an alpine heaven must be on another trail. But we had a great time anyway!