The trail to the summit climbed over 1,200 feet in less than two miles, but the views from the top were spectacular, perhaps the best I’ve seen in Shenandoah National Park.
The trail left the parking lot at Thorton Gap and snaked its way up the mountainside revealing several views toward the east along the ascent. The trail was lined with flowered bushes and several switchbacks, making the climb difficult but beautiful.
The trail opened up to a beautiful vista just below the summit. The view was unobstructed except to the south, where Mary’s Rock (the summit) was. The summit was about a hundred feet to the south and required some very minor rock scrambling. Mary’s Rock provided a 360 degree view.
The view to the west was hazy, but I could see the farms and fields that dotted the Shenandoah Valley. The view to the east was obscured by fog that had filled every valley, making it impossible to see the landscape underneath. Looking north, Thorton Gap and the Ranger station were in clear view. Several other peaks, like Stony Man and the Little Stony Man, were visible to the south.
The windy weather on the rocks at the summit provided a great respite from the heat. I headed back to the parking lot after taking several photos and drinking a quart of Gatorade.
The trail wasn’t too challenging but I “barely” made it to Camp Hoover. A black bear was foraging 30 yards from the trail. After stopping to watch the bear for a few minutes, I continued down the trail to Big Rock Falls and Camp Hoover.
The waterfall was nice, but not the object of the trip. I was hiking to see Camp Hoover (also known as Camp Rapidan), located just below Big Rock Falls. Camp Hoover was the presidential retreat of President Hoover during the 20’s and 30’s. Several buildings remain nestled up to the mountain stream.
I arrived at the camp to see a tour group preparing for a tour of the Brown House. The ranger invited me along. The Brown House derives its name from its color and that it was the White House of the camp. The building contained many artifacts from the era, but no photography was allowed.
I made lots of noise as I headed back up the trail in order to ward off any bears.