Shenandoah Peaks

One of my favorite loops in the Blue Ridge is from Sperryville to Fort Valley, which splits the two ranges of Massanutten Mountain. The highlight of the day is the view of the Shenandoah Valley and Thornton Gap from the top of Fort Valley Road, near Kennedy Peak.

I love the panorama, but also the climb to that spot. Ridden counterclockwise, Fort Valley Road rises relatively gently past the Forest Service’s Camp Roosevelt site and through two hairpins. Clockwise, the summit is a punishing three-mile climb from the South Fork of the Shenandoah. Both make an impression.

Massanutten is one of two long climbs; the other is Thorton Gap, over which US 211 switches and swatches. From the west, the hike is about four miles from where it gets serious to Skyline Drive, and then falls for seven miles back to Sperryville. On this day — November 27 — the sun was setting as I approached the gap.

It has come to be that Thanksgiving is the first weekend that the trees are finally clear of foliage. (When I was a kid, the leaves were gone a couple weeks earlier.) I can see the contours of the hills and hollows of my circuit. They are especially beautiful in Gid Brown Hollow, on a 10-mile, horseshoe-shaped, paved and gravel road that backs up to Shenandoah National Park.

The flickr set is at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bikerben58/sets/72157625488386376/. It begins at sunrise, a view from my front yard. It ends just after sunset, near the same spot, with 90 miles in between.

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