Thursday, June 5, 2014

Moorman River Hike: Black bears, snakes & horse apples, oh my!


Moorman River

This past weekend was another stunner in terms of the weather here in Virginia.  You know the type - sunny with a high of 75 and please-get-me-out-of-the-house-and-somewhere-beautiful-and-inspiring!  So with not enough time for an overnight excursion but overcome with a raging case of wanderlust, hubby and I decided to drive west past Charlottesville and enjoy a day on the Moorman River up in the Blue Ridge on the southern tip of the Shenandoah National Park.

The second crossing...and a very reluctant puppy!
Although I'd never been to Moorman River before, my husband had and was excited to return after an absence of nearly 18 years.  His family used to hike the Moorman River regularly, as it's hardly a hike and more like a walk, perfect for kids and dogs alike.  The trail crisscrosses the river three times, necessitating either taking your shoes off at each ford or walking around with wet feet, culminating at a pretty little waterfall some 1.5 to 2 hours walk from the parking lot.  The crossings aren't deep; even after a fairly wet April and May, the deepest part was only about 2 feet.

One of the many swimming holes along the way.
My husband explained to me that the trail is somewhat different from his childhood visits.  In June 1995, nearly a foot of rain triggered massive landslides and irrevocably altered the landscape.  All the tall, wide sycamore trees, one of which he remembers growing right out of a swimming hole, are gone.  As it's been nearly twenty years since the landslides, the forest has grown up again and unless you were familiar with the trail prior to 1995, you'd not really notice the difference.

The river is perfect for a day of relaxation.  Plenty of large rocks dot the banks, and some create mini islands in the river.  As it's within a 20 minute drive from Charlottesville, the place is popular with students and families alike, so don't expect to have the place to yourself.  We saw many sunbathers, picnickers, and fishermen (although the trout population is still in recovery mode from the 1995 incident so I can't attest to whether it's a good place to fish).

Taking a breather.  No, sadly, that's not a beer.
And oh, the wildlife!  We didn't see any four-footed friends while on the trail (other than dogs - probably the reason why we didn't see any!), but we saw our fill of snakes.  Our dog Dixie, oblivious as always, actually stepped on a garter snake while on the trail, but thankfully wasn't bitten.  We also saw a king snake and one that was definitely poisonous.  In Virginia, we only have three venomous snakes, and all can be found in the mountains: rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths.

We also saw quite a few, erm, horse apples, if you know what I mean.  Hubby wanted to take a picture, but I wouldn't let him.  Still, I don't really know why a horse would be on the trail unless a ranger brought it up.

After walking up the trail, we picnicked at the Big Branch falls, the biggest of the two falls.  Of course, "big" is a relative term as it's only about a 25-30 feet drop and not very wide.  However, it was beautiful, and the swimming hole tempted us to take a dip.  Once in, I was soon back out!  It felt like there should've been ice cubes floating around!

Snake #1 - King Snake only 6" long (so is it just a prince snake? har har...)
Snake #2 - Garter Snake that Dixie stepped on.

Snake #3 - either a copperhead or cottonmouth, but we weren't going to
get close enough to tell!
First glimpse of the waterfall
Beautiful.
The river just disappears over the edge.
Panorama of the river.


We spent the better part of the day there before walking back to drive home.  As we were driving past the Charlottesville Reservoir (the Moorman River is dammed to provide water for the city), I looked over to the right and caught a glimpse of this baby bear!  He hammed it up for the camera as we snapped a few pictures.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Have you been to the Moorman River before?





Local Adventurer
Linking up with Esther & Jacob for the Local Adventurer link-up!

14 comments:

  1. That is so cool you got that shot of the bear!! I could do without the snakes.

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    1. No kidding! I like snakes from a safe distance!

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  2. thanks so much for participating in the link up! That's insane that you saw three snakes and a bear on your hike. I think I've only ran into a rattlesnake once on a hike.. and I was the oblivious one until it rattled at me! I did see a bear once.. but it was so far away I couldn't even take photos of it. That baby bear looks so huggable! :D

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    1. I was excited to join in! I'm trying to be more of a tourist in my backyard, too, and Mariah from Food, Booze & Baggage pointed me in your direction for the linkup!

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  3. I've never heard of this hike but it looks gorgeous - I really want to check it out when I'm back in VA. HOWEVER, I hope the snakes get the memo to stay in that day - I HATE them!!!!!

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    1. Haha, I hear you! I don't mind snakes from a distance, but would prefer that they give me a wide berth. It's such an easy hike to do, though. Honestly, it was more of a walk than a hike! And the water scenery was beautiful.

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  4. Sounds like a great day out - apart from the snakes, I'm definitely not a fan! The bear is soo cute, what a great end to the day :)

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    1. I reeeeeeally wanted to take him home! However, I'm sure mama bear was close by keeping an eye out!

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  5. Oh my snakes.. they're the last thing on earth I want to encounter.. they can sense fear, right? and they'll attack you! But the scenery is really beautiful. Your photos are pretty nice, even the snakes' shots. :)

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    1. Haha, thanks! Snakes in Virginia (and most of the US) are not aggressive unless you're trying to mess with them. The first two snakes are bug and rodent eaters, and the king snake will also eat copperheads and other poisonous snakes.

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  6. I'm not crazy about hikes, but that one looks easy and beautiful enough. :) I don't know if I could handle being so close to that bear, though!!!

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    1. It's really easy! It's more like a walk. People were doing it in flip-flops and crocs, although the last few yards up to the waterfall might be a little bit difficult in such attire. And you don't have to make it all the way up to the waterfall before finding a beautiful spot on the river to claim as your own with no other people!

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  7. That is a northern water snake - not venomous, but could be aggressive if cornered. Cottonmouths are not actually found in the mountains - only the SE part of VA. So, any snake seen in the water in the Va. mountains is non-venomous - good to know!

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