Sunday, May 11, 2014

Remembering Mom in White Oak Canyon

The first Mother's Day without Mom, and the first weekend Florian and I were able to get away, coincided this weekend, and we decided to make a trip to White Oak Canyon.

We'd seen an article on some of the top dog-friendly hikes in a dog magazine--an indulgence Florian loves to pick up for me when he's browsing for a French celebrity magazine for his own pleasure reading--and this one was described as challenging but worthwhile due to the presence of six spectacular waterfalls. 

We found the trailhead Saturday afternoon when we arrived in Shenandoah National Park. There were some threatening clouds but it was warm and pleasant, and the parking lot was packed; with Fozzie and Lamar in tow we started up the trail without thinking much about it. We had to think about it pretty quickly once it started to drizzle, then pour down rain, and with me in my sarong and tank top we had to admit it was probably not the best time to attempt a several-hour climb up steep, slippery rocks.

Drenched, we returned to the van and decided to drive to Charlottesville in our underwear, the heat cranked up and our sodden clothes draped over the vents. It worked like a charm! We looked only slightly scruffy but pretty dry for our walk through the scenic and pleasant university town. 

Returning to the Shenandoahs, we spent the night close to the trail so that we could get to the trailhead early, before it was packed with hikers and their dogs. 

Sunday broke clear and sunny, perfect for a Mother's Day hike to some waterfalls. 

A fitting hike for the day, as right away it reminded me of the places my parents used to take us in the Adirondacks when I was a kid. 
I'm the diminutive one in a basket on my dad's back
Trails, running water, swimming holes, picnics and sometimes a dog wash. 

Fond memories of my dad carrying me once when the trail had lots of slugs on it, and I was scared to step on one. 

No slugs on this trail, but rich vegetation that reminded me of the Adirondacks and a trail that started to climb fairly quickly. 

There are a total of six waterfalls in White Oak Canyon, one of them a drop of almost 90 feet.

The trail alongside the waterfalls stretches along only for about a mile, but it sure seems longer than that.

I'd been a bit worried about this trail as it's getting hard for Lamar to do really strenuous climbs.  

If you were 98 (in human years), would you want to ascend nearly 2000 feet over a rocky and uneven substrate just to indulge your wacky bipedal friends' desire to enjoy stunning natural scenery? 

Even if there are good resting places and plentiful places to relax and get a cool mountain-fresh beverage?

I'm not so sure I would. 

But Lamar done us really proud. 

He just kept on going, and we stopped and rested often for him, and when there was a steep, rocky part of the trail I walked behind him so I could give his behind a boost up stone stairs that were too much for his shaky hind quarters. 

And though his hind legs looked like wet noodles by the time we descended, I felt so proud Lamar was able to do the whole thing with us.  

So much to see on that trail. 

We got to see five of the six waterfalls, each one more stunning than the last. 

And the dogs got to cool off in the perfect swimming holes, some of which were right below the falls, and which we will have to return to when it's warm enough for the humans to join the dogs.

None of the trails we went to when I was a kid were quite like this. Probably because, I am willing to wager, young kids are even more of a pain on the trail than dogs, or maybe on a par with leash reactive dogs and dogs who need a frequent boost. 

But we were outside, on a trail, with the dogs, near the water, enjoying tasty snacks and each other's company, all day. 

Which is exactly the kind of day my parents taught me to enjoy when I was a kid, all those summers in the Adirondacks. 

Mom would have loved this trail, she loved water and flat rocks in the sun and enjoying nature with the dogs and family. 

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I hope you were there with us like I felt you were. 

Like I always feel you when I am remembering how well you taught me to enjoy the important things in life, like family, trees, flowers, dogs, and nature in all its wild and unfettered glory. 


  1. What a beautiful place! I love all the waterfalls. Looks like a great place to hike and for the dogs. Glad they were both able to make it all the way. :)

    I'm sure your mom would have loved it too.

  2. Very nice, I'm glad that we were able to "come along". Happy Mother's Day to all moms. We miss all the old days too. Ah Kirsten, you're just too cute on your dad's back.

  3. That's so nice. Looks like a beautiful place and way to spend the day.

  4. What a beautiful place Kirsten, I'm sure your mom was with you.


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