News from the Valley Trails
Southern Shenandoah Valley Chapter of PATC
If you have a Facebook page, be sure to look for and like our page, PATC Southern Shenandoah Valley Chapter. On there, we will try to post updates as we have them. If you don't already receive them, you can also subscribe to our email blast by using the link on our home page: SSVC PATC
From the President's Desk
As I look back over the past year, I think about how blessed our chapter has been. One of our members mentioned that we should have been awarded the title of PATC Chapter of the Year this year, and, if there was such an award, I think our chapter certainly earned it. Our chapter held more hikes (64 to be exact) and more events than any other PATC chapter this year. We had a lot of wonderful, enthusiastic new members join who are hiking and doing trail maintenance. We have also had some longtime friends who have disappeared because of the pandemic. I hope to see them joining us back on the trail soon.
Each year PATC gives awards to exemplary volunteers who have gone above and beyond in their service to the trails. This year SSVC recognized many of their volunteers with awards.
The Hawksbill Award went to Jim Fye for his outstanding work on Crawford Knob. Jim and I hiked what we could of the trail in March and Jim told me that a portion of the trail was inaccessible. I put forth the challenge that we open the trail and Jim took it on without a second thought. Jim organized several work trips in early spring to get the Crawford Knob trail open for hikes. We had over 30 volunteers who put in more than 300 hours of service this spring to open the trail. Several of his volunteers worked on five or six work days. Jim has since taken on the position of Trail Maintainer, with John Burkhardt volunteering to be his co-maintainer. Thank you to both of you for helping continue to keep this trail open for a wonderful, though strenuous, hike.
Several of our members who worked on multiple work days on Crawford Knob received PATC Service Awards. They are Paul Boisen, John Burkhardt, Nancy Hall, and Ron Stoltzfus. Thank you to all of you for your help.
Jeff and Jon Bolander also received PATC Service Awards for their leadership and outstanding work on helping the chapter keep its section of the AT in outstanding shape for hikers.
John Kolp received a PATC Service Award for his outstanding leadership as a hike leader and his innovativeness in setting up the Staunton hiking tours. These tours were an outstanding success during the winter months when getting out on the trails was harder due to weather.
A new member this year, Patrick Bastow, received an award for his active participation and enthusiasm in SSVC's hiking program, trail maintenance, and other events. Patrick took part in several of our trail maintenance days and had a lot of on the job training for several types of work on the trail.
Jim Todd and Russell Fitzgerald received service awards for their outstanding assistance when needed for trail maintenance. Jim and Russell never say no when asked to go out and help with blowdowns on the trail. We appreciate their work so much!
Thank you to everyone who has helped this year to make our trails a safer and better place. I also want to thank Pam Heinrich for all the work she has done as Vice President this year. I often say that a thought is no sooner out of my mouth than Pam has started the process to get it done. She has been wonderful to work with and I thank her so much for all she does.
Thank you from the Trail
Pam and I received a special “Thank You” for SSVC's Trail Magic from two AT thru-hikers which we would like to pass along to all who participated in our Trail Magic Day this year. Happy Meal and Hickory were from Nashville, TN and completed the trail in October. We were able to follow them through their YouTube videos. They sent us a thank you text at the end of their journey for our trail magic on a rainy, miserable day on the trail. I also want to thank Dave Bennick for all his suggestions and his help in pulling our trail magic day together.
35 Miles for 35 Years Patches
This past year we celebrated the chapter's 35 years in existence by challenging our members to hike 35 miles for each of the 35 years we have been around. We had 27 members complete the challenge and earn their patch. The list of members who earned the patch is below:
Patrick Bastow, John Burkhardt, Sharon Carderelli,
Millie Davis, Brian Denny, Heather Denny,
Kathy Dickenson, Jim Fye, Michael Groah,
Nancy Hall, Pam Heinrich, Randy Heneberger
Mary Huffer, John Kolp, Barbara Martin,
Jeff Monroe, Lisa Priest, Lane Quarrels,
Michael Seth Michael Smith, Jean Stephens,
Ron Stoltzfus, Jana Walters, Bill Weech,
Karen Wilson, Milla Sue Wisecarver, and Jill York.
I have also given honorary patches to three members. Mike and Karen Waterman faithfully led shorter hikes each month. Although they didn't make 35 miles, they are longtime members and helped us tremendously by being available to lead the less strenuous hikes on our schedule. I have also given a patch to one of our newest members, Lavern Beachy. Lavern met our group hiking on the Chimney Hollow/Crawford Mountain hike in October. Our members talked up the group so well that he joined PATC. He has hiked with us since November and although he didn't complete the 35 miles by the deadline, he has completed the 35 miles in two months and I felt we should reward that enthusiasm with a patch.
I hope to see all of you on the trail sometime this year. If you have a hike you would like to do but we have not offered it, go to the SSVC website and put your suggestion in the Hike Suggestion box or let one of our hike leaders know and they can get your suggestion back to us. We are planning a Family Day picnic again this summer to celebrate PATC's 95th Anniversary. We are also planning on offering several hikes on the Tuscarora Trail to help you with the PATC Tuscarora Trail Challenge (details coming soon). Another Trail Magic Day is in the works, as well as another challenge on the North River Ranger District trails. I wish each and every one of you a Happy New Year and a wonderful 2022.
PATC’s Tuscarora Challenge
PATC is excited to announce the 2022 hiking challenge, the 𝐓𝐓𝟔𝟎 𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐠𝐞!
In honor of the 60th anniversary of the Tuscarora Trail, we will be hosting the TT60 Challenge.
The Tuscarora Trail is a 250-mile-long trail through the Ridge and Valley Appalachians of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Coupling the experience of remote wilderness, green pastures, small towns, rugged tread-way and country back roads, the Tuscarora offers a truly unique hiking adventure.
Similar to the MacKaye Challenge, there are three ways to complete the challenge: hiking, performing trail maintenance, or completing a combination of both hiking and trail maintenance that adds up to 60.
However you choose to complete your TT60 Challenge is up to you. The goal is simply to get outside and have fun!
For rules and other important information, please visit: www.patc.net/TT60Challenge.
Mark Your Calendar: Hikes and Work Trips
Winter and a new year have arrived. We are looking forward to offering some new challenges this year. We think this will bring a variety of hikes and locations. Our January schedule is below. More hikes and work trips may be added as our leaders finalize their plans. Watch your email for upcoming hikes for the week.
If you have a suggested hike, you can email us at
Snowshoe Alert Group: A number of SSVC members have snowshoes so let's link up and go snowshoeing whenever the weather gods bless us with sufficient snow to give us an opportunity for a beautiful and vigorous outing. Contact John Kolp at email@example.com to register as a member of this elite alert group. John will contact the group whenever a snow event presents itself to set up a place and time for an adventure.
Sunday, January 9: Massarora, Tuscanutten or Three Birds with One Stone Hike.
Exploratory hike on Massanutten: Estimated 7 miles, moderately strenuous. For those of you who are trying to hike all the trails in Massanutten or start on the Tuscarora challenge, here you go. If the seasonal gate is open off of State Route 771 in Fort Valley, we will start at Mudhole Gap and go NE on either trail #408 or #405.3 and return on the other. We may include the option of continuing on to Signal Knob (this will add 2 ½ miles to the hike). Should the gate be closed, we will start at Mine Gap. This will add 2 ½ miles. This hike is for experienced hikers. Hiker numbers will be limited to 7,so sign up for your spot now. Contact hike leader: Jim Fye (firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-830-2023) to register and for final details.
Tuesday, January 11: Saddleback Loop: 4 miles easy/moderate. From South River Picnic Area, we will take a right onto the A.T. to Saddleback Mountain Trail until we run into the A.T. again. At that point we will turn right and hike back to the parking. WHERE: Shenandoah National Park - Skyline Drive; South River Picnic parking area - milepost 62.8. Please be at the trail head by 9AM. Contact hike leader: Kathy Dickenson (540-421-7410 or email@example.com).
Wednesday, January 12: Sherando Lake, 4 miles, easy-moderate. To participate in this hike, contact Karen and Mike, (Karen and Mike Waterman (home 540-337-1273 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Saturday, January 15: Saturday, January 15: Turk Branch - Moorman's River Loop in Shenandoah National Park. Continuing the leader's "Circuit Hikes" series this is hike # 29 in the PATC's Circuit Hikes in Shenandoah National Park. This will be an 8-mile hike with 2030 feet of elevation change as described in the PATC book. There is a recommended 2-mile side trip to the summit of Turk Mountain which we might do if the weather is very cooperative and the group is up for the challenge. Meet at Jarman Gap parking lot 3/10 of a mile north of Milepost 97 on the east side of Skyline Drive.
The hike should last about 5 1/2 hours so meet at the trailhead parking lot at 9:30 AM. NOTE: in the event of snow or ice conditions Skyline Drive will be closed and the hike will have to be re-scheduled. BE SURE TO CHECK ON CONDITIONS IF THERE IS ANY QUESTION ABOUT WEATHER. For the most up-to-date road status, call 540-999-3500 (option 1, option 1).
Contact our hike leader to attend or for more information: John Kolp (email@example.com or 917-288-2622).
Thursday, January 20: Hazel Mountain / Moderately Strenuous/ 8.5 miles
AGENDA: From Meadow Spring parking we will hike down the Hazel Mountain Trail taking a right onto Catlett Mountain Trail to a right on Catlett Spur Trail until we run into Hazel Mountain Trail again. At that point we will turn left and hike back up to parking. There IS water on this trail so make sure you are prepared.
WHERE: Shenandoah National Park - Skyline Drive; Meadow Spring parking area - milepost 33.6. Please be at the trail head and ready to go by 9:00AM. Contact hike leader: Kathy Dickenson (540-421-7410 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Saturday, January 22: Work trip on the club's section of the AT: Primary task would be to clean water bars and move rocks for water bar reconstruction in the spring. We are planning for a short workday this afternoon, probably from 2:00-4:00 pm. To attend and help out, contact Jeff Bolander (email@example.com or 540-421-9275).
Sunday, January 23: Trimble Mountain Trail: 4 miles, moderate. One of the hikes this month to explore the trails in North River District. To learn more about the hike, you can click on this link: www.hikingupward.com/gwnf/trimblemountain/
Contact hike leader, Pam Heinrich (540-290-5595 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Saturday, January 29: Sugarloaf Loop, 5 miles moderate circuit hike with 1,120 feet elevation gain. This hike is located in the north district of Shenandoah National park. We will begin at the Piney River Parking Area (mile 22 on the Skyline Drive) and use the Piney Branch Upper, Pole Bridge Link, Sugarloaf and Appalachian Trail to complete the loop. Contact hike leader, Sharon Carderelli (email@example.com or 540-810-9648).
Saturday/Sunday, January 29-30: Wilderness First Aid will be offered in Bridgewater. We have not received information on how to sign up yet. If you are interested in attending, contact Jean Stephens (443-986-5649 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Notice for all hikes
All SSVC hikes will follow Covid-19 guidelines. The option to offer carpooling is a decision made by each hike leader. Hikers may always meet the group at the trailhead. Attendance will be limited at the discretion of our hike leaders. Preference will be given to PATC members. PATC rules do not permit children under the age of 18 to participate in a hike without a parent or guardian present. Dogs are not allowed on our chapter hikes.
by Lynn Cameron
Many of us would like to know more about the history of our favorite trails. After much wondering and guessing who built the SMT (my favorite trail), I did some research in the archives of the Staunton News Leader and discovered the SMT from Rt. 250 to FR 95 was built in 1914, almost 20 years before the Civilian Conservation Corp was formed. That blew my theory that it was built by the CCC.
The SMT is perhaps the oldest trail in what is now the George Washington National Forest. At least I have not been able to document any others that are older. When the Weeks Act was passed in 1911, the Federal Government was authorized to purchase private land for watershed and river protection and fire prevention. S.H. Marsh and several other Forest Officials were sent to our area to survey and purchase land that would become Shenandoah National Forest in 1918. They set up camp near Mountain House. In addition to surveying and purchasing land, they hired local people to build the SMT from Rt. 250 to FR 95 to provide access for firefighters, horses and equipment to protect Ramseys Draft's virgin hemlock forest from fire. The purpose helps account for the gentle grade many of us have come to appreciate. Hauling equipment by horse would require a gentile grade. Even then, the Forest Officials recognized what a rare and unique treasure Ramseys Draft was. The local hired men completed the entire 11-mile trail in 1914, before fire towers, like the ones on Hardscrabble and Reddish Knob, were constructed. It's amazing how well the SMT has held up over the years.
PATC founder Myron Avery said it was one of his favorite trails, and he would haul bus loads of PATC members from the DC area to hike on the SMT in the 1920s and 30s. PATC liked the Shenandoah Mountain area so much they built Sexton Shelter on Jerrys Run in 1938. The cabin burned in 1966 and was reconstructed in 1968, using materials hauled in by draft horses via the SMT. After Ramseys Draft was added to the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1984, the FS required PATC to remove the cabin. The cabin was dismantled and the parts were transported back out by draft horses via the SMT once again in 1985. All that remains is a slab and a chimney.
Today, PATC continues to have a strong interest in the SMT. The following North River trail maintainers are currently stewards of this historic trail: Jeff Monroe, Barbara Martin, Roger and Jan Orndorff, and Billy Flint. In addition, SSVC, Charlottesville Chapter, and our current Shenandoah Mountain Work Crew have all invested many hours in maintaining this section of the SMT.
I have pondered why the SMT is a favorite of so many hikers. What's not to like! It offers scenic views into Highland County and beyond, especially in the winter. It has a wide variety of special wildflowers, including several varieties of trilliums. It has some of the largest trees anywhere on Shenandoah Mountain, and it is so well laid out that it's a pleasure to hike. Added to all these qualities is the intriguing history of the SMT. I look forward to uncovering more of its secrets as time goes by.
North River District Hawksbill Award Winners
by Lynn Cameron
Just by chance Malcolm and I met Roger Orndorff on the Shenandoah Mountain Trail a couple of years ago. Roger was testing a new backpack and had stopped to rest at the Jerrys Run intersection; our crew was headed to Jerrys Run to remove a blowdown. The other crew members proceeded to Jerrys Run, but I lingered to talk to Roger. We quickly discovered we had a mutual interest in the SMT and its history. We shared our appreciation for the hard work that had gone into constructing the SMT over 100 years ago. Roger and his wife Jan joined PATC a few months later and adopted the most remote section of the SMT between Al's Run overlook and Ramseys Draft Trail intersection. They have amazing energy and initiative and have become extraordinary volunteers.
Roger attended the SAWS Crosscut Saw Workshop in 2021 and became a certified B Level Crosscut Sawyer. He also attended the 2-day Tread Workshop offered by SAWS. Roger, a certified sawyer, and Jan, an apprentice sawyer, have put their skills to work on the SMT, Ramseys Draft Trail, and Buck Mountain Trail, removing dozens of large blowdowns. In addition to clipping vegetation and removing blowdowns, Roger and Jan are in the process of restoring parts of the historic SMT to its original location by digging out sidehill. Their section of the SMT is a model for the rest of us. Roger and Jan had worked over 600 hours on the SMT and had made 40 trips to work on their section by October. Keep in mind that they have to walk 8-10+ miles each time they work on their trails. Since October, have added many more hours and trips.
We have many outstanding volunteers in the North River District, but Roger and Jan are clearly deserving of the North River Hawksbill Award this year.