|Gooney Run Overlook to Indian Run Overlook|
MILE 6.8, GOONEY RUN OVERLOOK. Elevation 2,085 feet. There is no view from the middle of the overlook. Looking to the right from the north end, you have a view across the Valley, with several meanders of the Shenandoah River in sight. Signal Knob is at the far end of the Massanutten. Farther right, on the near side of the Valley, is a part of Dickey Ridge. Gooney Run, which drains the Browntown Valley, passes about a mile straight out from the overlook, and about 1,300 feet down.
Legend: Gooney Run was originally called Sugar Tree Creek. When Lord Fairfax went hunting there his favorite hound, Gooney, was accidentally drowned. His Lordship changed the name of the creek to Gooney's Run in honor of the dog.
Geology: The overlook rests on the contact between the Pedlar granodiorite, below, and the Catoctin lava flows above. With very little walking you can see both. First cross the Drive. In the road cut are layers of basalt, separated by a layer of tuff (compressed volcanic ash.) The layers are rather hard to make out because the rocks are weathered and crumbling. Now return to the other side of the Drive, and look for a trail near the middle of the overlook.
If the trail is not too badly overgrown, follow it for about 250 feet to a
ledge of granodiorite, which looks like fine-grained granite.
MILE 7.3, GOONEY MANOR OVERLOOK. Elevation 1,930 feet. (See sketch). Hogback Mountain is more or less straight ahead across the Browntown Valley, which is drained by Gooney Run and its tributaries. Many of the homes in the valley belong to people who were displaced when the park was created. Browntown itself is about halfway between here and Hogback, just outside the sketch to the right. Descending to the right from Hogback is Gimlet Ridge, which breaks up into the three small hills that enclose the Browntown Valley on the west.
To the left of Compton Mountain (at the left of the sketch) is Carson Mountain, from which the Blue Ridge descends, still farther left, toward Chester Gap. If you have binoculars, look at a point a little way down the left slope of Compton Peak. The rock ledge you see there has a good view in this direction. It's one of the objectives of the Compton Peak hike, page 91. As you can imagine, it's not a difficult climb.
History: As I told you earlier, the Northern Neck became the property of Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax. Fairfax sold most of the land, but set aside several "manors" over which he kept seignorial rights. Two of these included land that is now within the Parkboth of them in the North Section. The Manor of Leeds was on the east side of the mountain, and I'll mention it later. Gooney Manor, consisting of about 13,000 acres, included a large part of the Browntown Valley below the overlook, as well as land farther north (toward Front Royal) on both sides of Dickey Ridge. Note that the term "manor" refers to the whole property; there was no mansion.
MILE 7.9, LOW GAP. Elevation 1,790 feet. Dickey Ridge Trail Crossing. Parking in the grass on both sides of the Drive. There's a concrete trail marker, but it's hard to see from a moving car unless you're looking for it. On the east side, it's 2.5 miles by trail to the Snead fire road, and 3.0 miles to the Fox Hollow Trail near the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center. On the west side it's 1.0 mile to Skyline Drive in Lands Run Gap, Mile 9.2.
MILE 9.2, LANDS RUN GAP. Elevation 2,015 feet. Dickey Ridge Trail crossing; fire road; hikes. Ample parking space beside the fire road, on the west side.
There are two trails on the east side of the Drive, with the start of an old road trace between them. Farthest right is the Dickey Ridge trail (which is also a horse trail here.) It goes a mile and a quarter to the Appalachian Trail near the Drive crossing in Compton Gap, Mile 10.4. The other trail goes to Hickerson Hollow.
Trivia: Harmony Hollow is drained by Happy Creek. Both names are more than 200 years old. I don't know whether they reflect former conditions in the hollow, or whether the names were used sarcastically.
The Dickey Ridge Trail goes north from the small parking area on the
west side of the Drive. It's 1.0 miles by trail to the Skyline Drive in Low Gap,
MILE 9.5, UNPAVED PARKING PULLOUT, west side. Rock lovers only: Park here and walk south (uphill) a little more than a hundred yards, to the rocks exposed on the east side of the Drive. These are "migmatitic, granitic gneiss" of the Pedlar formation. The bands of lighter-colored rock "define plunging folds." The nearly vertical bands are thickest, and easiest to see, near the downhill end of the exposure.
MILE 10.4, COMPTON GAP. Elevation 2,415 feet. Paved parking lot for several cars on the east side of the Drive. A. T. crossing; Dickey Ridge Trail access; hikes. See map below.
Dickey Ridge, on which the Drive has ascended to this point, joins the Blue
Ridge here. The rest of the Drive follows the Blue Ridge near its crest. The
Dickey Ridge Trail ends where it meets the Appalachian Trail, about a
quarter of a mile to the north. The Compton family, for which the gap and
Compton Peak were named, had its home near the present site of Indian
An old road crossed the mountain here. On the east side of the Drive it
goes 2.2 miles north to the Park boundary; it serves as both fire road and, for
most of this distance, as the A.T. On the other side of the Drive the old road
turned right and descended into Lands Run; it has been abandoned for
many years, and has nearly disappeared. The A.T. goes 2.0 miles south to
Jenkins Gap, where a short side trail leads to Skyline Drive at Mile 12.35.
MILE 10.8, INDIAN RUN OVERLOOK. Elevation 2,400 feet. You're looking across the hollow formed by Indian Run and, to the right, out into the Piedmont. (To your right, down the hollow, the Park boundary is less than a quarter of a mile away.)
In winter, after a long cold spell, the rocks in the road cut across the Drive build up impressive displays of icicles and cascades of ice.
Geology: The rocks across the Drive from the overlook are a part of the first (oldest) lava flow of the Catoctin formation. They're worth a closer look. Even if you don't care for geology you can enjoy the subtle colors of the rocks, which vary from medium gray, tan, and rusty rose, to various shades of gray-green.
Near the north end of the rock cut, about 50 yards beyond the north end of the overlook, is a good display of columnar jointing that extends for about 50 feet along the Drive. The lava, when it cooled, cracked into 4-, 5-, or 6-sided prisms from four to ten inches acrosssome nearly vertical, some fanning outward. Near the south end of this display (nearest the overlook), stop and look up. Fifteen or twenty feet overhead are inclined columns that have broken off, so that you view them endways. This is the same effect that you see on a much larger scale under the ledge on Compton Mountain. (See Compton Peak hike, above.)
MILE 11.75, ROAD TRACE, east side. In winter, this could be mistaken
for a trail head. It goes into the woods, curves left, parallels the Drive for 0.1
mile, and then disappears.