Bottom line, I don't needed no stinkin trail.
Big Devils Stairs is an area in the northern Shenandoah Mountains on the east side. Big Devils Stairs Trail is a trail maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. The blue blaze trail hangs off the Bluff Trail heading south and goes nowhere now because the property owner along its base at Route 622 had decided it didn't want to allow hikers access. This property owner herds cows so the access to the area is fenced off with barbed wire. Also, the entire perimeter of the property is posted with the obligatory "no trespassing" signs.
That would probably dissuade 99% of the hiking population. Naturally, I had to find a way in from the road. I did a minimal scout on Saturday figuring out the pasture perimeter's weak points afterwhich I was hungry. I noticed the Chester Gap Volunteer Fire Department was having a spaghetti dinner for $8, so I thought it was time to meet the locals. This turned out to be a good decision because I met two boys who had a great deal of experience crossing cow pastures fenced with barbed wire. They gave me some great pointers such as take extra care not to wake the bull because he will charge you, go over barbed wire rather than through it and be careful of private hunting lands because many of the locals set traps. Oddly enough after hearing their tales I was still determined to pull this little caper off.
I spent the night at the Inn at Little Washington. I can't see enough about the wonderful views, the decor, the ambience, the vistas, the peace and quiet, the Inn at Little Washington was probably one of the finest parking lots in which I have ever slept. Okay, the parking lot was nice but Little Washington turns out to be one of the most snootiest places I have ever been, avoid at all costs if money means nothing to you otherwise it is a great place to style and profile if that is what turns you on.
I woke before dawn and parked the minivan a ways up the road from the former Big Devils Stairs trailhead on route 622. I managed to infiltrate the barbwire fence and traverse the cow pasture without waking the cows before dawn. The next step in my caper was to find the base of the Little Devils Stairs ravine north of the pasture. I looked at my trail maps. DeLorme told me the trail went up along the ridge, National Geographic told me the trail was in the ravine. One was going to be wrong and one was going to be right and I was sure to pick the wrong one. I used my GPS to find the ravine and decided I had had my fill of cliffs, I was going to bushwhack the stream.
All I can say was that it was very difficult but a heck of a lot of fun. There was no trail, but boy was going upstream exciting. I found a cave.
The rocks at Big Devils are a wonderful shade of slate blue, that is because they are slate, which is very different than the granite of which you see so much in the area.
At one point I lost my camera and had to retrace my steps to find it, that had me on edge but luckily I found it. There were lots of waterfalls. There were some really difficult passages but with shear grit and determination I got through it without too much trauma.
Naturally, the trail I didn't find at the base of the ravine was up along the ridge but I am really glad I bushwhacked the stream bed. Once I got to the top I found the Bluff Trail and then headed west over to the Harris Hollow Trail.
After I got off the trail and back to my car I pulled about 10 ticks off of me and many of them were where no tick should ever go. If the Big Devils Stairs ravine intrigues you, if you are truly insane, in excellent physical shape and would like more information, I will be happy to clue you in on the details of how to get where you need to go, email me.