Near prefect conditions will be the way I will remember this day in early April. There was a clear view down to the Shenandoah Valley and you could see back to Charlottesville, VA. This hike was a daughter and Dad day hike and she had asked to keep it shorter than the Doyle River Loop we did back in October.
My plan was to enter the park in the South District and head north only around 5-7 miles which would put us at Beagle Gap. From there we would be able to get in two short day hikes and would not spend a lot of time driving up the Parkway to get to a trail head.
Beagle Gap sits between Bear Den Mountain and Little Calf Mountain. What's cool about this area that on both side of the Skyline Drive are meadows. This area was part of the Royal Orchard.
Our first leg of our day hike would take us up to the top of Bear Den Mountain via the Appalachian Trail. This area of the trail is not in Shenandoah National Park, but in the Appalachian Trail Park. At the top of Bear Den Mountain is the location of two radio antenna farms.
On our way up there was a side trail that took us to some rocks. As you can see in the picture above some idiot made a illegal camp fire. They did a good job of covering up the spot... But as you can see the small tree did sustain some damage. This was a very bad spot for a camp fire due to all the pine needles. Last year the Rocky Mount Fire took place 16 April 2016 and was the 2nd largest fire in the parks 90 year history which burned 10,326 acres. I am sure that fire was caused by humans.
Back in the mid 90's you could see down in the valley from this location. This spot is just off the AT and the radio towers are behind me. There are about four old tractor seats that at this location which makes a great place for a lunch. The owners of what was the Royal Orchard use to come to this spot for family picnics and to watch fire works.
I don't know how many times you are going to find a half inch steel table in the mountains, but we found one here and we used it to make our lunch. My daughter likes the backpacking meals and she has a fun time helping fix our meal.
The old apple trees are just starting to bloom.
The second leg of our hike takes us up to Little Calf Mountain. Just before getting to this point we met our first thru hiker of the season. He had start out on his hike 10 February and had just entered into the South District of the park. If you have a new PATC map of this section. the trail on the map does not match what is on the ground. This is not a big issue but just something to keep in mind. This also goes with some of the track logs and other online maps. Again not a big issue.
From Little Calf Mountain I wanted to make our way to Calf Mountain Shelter because I knew there was a spring there and I wanted to use my Sawyer Mini filter to be able to get some mountain spring water. I have to say, the Sawyer Mini is an easy filter system to use.
The spring is in better shape that the sign. Depending on the time of the year and rain fall you will reach water running across the trail. This is not the spring. The spring has a white PVC pipe at the source.
Pictured below is a benchmark for the Appalachian Trail Park. I think by the end of the day we still hiked as far as we did in October... Whether you just hike Bear Den Mountain or Little Calf Mountain, both are get short family hikes that gives you a great place to stop and have lunch.