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Little Stony Man EarthCache

Hidden : 07/24/2008
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Geocache Description:

This Cache is located in Shenandoah National Park. Parking is available at MP 39.1. This hike is relatively easy as the elevation change is approximately 450 feet. This is a multi-cache with 4 stops.

Waypoint #1: N38 36.523 and W078 21.969 You can see a beautiful view of the face of Stony Man Mountain from this vantage point. Stony Man Mountain is located to the south (directly in front of you). Imagine for a moment what Stony Man may have looked like millions of years ago when this mountain was much younger? What changes had to occur in order for you to be able to visualize the face of a man?

Stony Man’s face was formed by weathering and erosion As you fix your eyes on Stony Man, imagine for a moment that the Blue Ridge Mountains were once as tall as the Rockies!

The rocks that make up Stony Man’s face are Catoctin Formation volcanic rocks that erupted and buried Pedlar Formation Granite. Stony Man’s “beard” is formed by Lava Flows 1, 2, and 3, his “nose” is formed by volcanic breccia between Flows 3 and 4, his “eye” is formed by the contact between Flows 4 & 5, and his “forehead” is formed by Flow 5 (See Lava Flow Diagram). The process of weathering has softened the jagged peaks that form the silhouette of Stony Man’s face.

WAYPOINT #1: Left: Lava Flow Diagram / Right: Stony Man Mountain, Sleeping Giant

ASSIGNMENT: Facing south, take a digital photograph of Stony Man Mountain. What direction is the valley below? What natural changes had to occur over time in order for you to be able to visualize the face of a man?

Waypoint #2: N38 36.410 and W078 22.002 You can see a beautiful example of the Pedlar Formation Granite that has been hydrothermally altered. A hydrothermally altered rock had to, at some point, come into contact with heat from magma. Magma is the hot molten rock within the earth that cools to form igneous rock. The Pedlar Rock is the oldest in the Park dating to approximately 1.2 billion years. The source of heat that changed this rock came from underground magma. Groundwater that flowed through the fractures in the Pedlar Granite became superheated when it got close to the magma causing chemical changes to the minerals in the rock. Let’s put this idea into perspective, the point at which you are standing was once inhabited by superheated water that was so hot it had the capacity to change the mineral composition of the rocks that you are now looking at! These changes appear in the form of various bands of colors. While not “hydrothermally” altered, humans experience similar changes that come with age and experiences throughout our lives that make us more “colorful” people as well.

LEFT-WAYPOINT #2: Hydrothermally altered rock along Little Stony Man Trail / RIGHT-WAYPOINT #3: Volcanic Breccia Rock at lower overlook

ASSIGNMENT: What colors do you see in the hydrothermally altered rock at this site?

Waypoint #3: N38 36.236 and W078 22.073 Special Navigation Note: As you navigate to waypoint #3, remember that you must always stay on the trail! Your compass will be directing you to your next destination in a straight line, however, as you continue to follow the trail the arrow will begin to point straight ahead to your destination.

Here is a picturesque viewpoint of the town of Luray in the Shenandoah Valley. On a clear day, if you look to the right, you will see a large manmade lake. It is located outside the Luray town limits and is named Lake Arrowhead. From this vantage point, looking west (left), you can also see the New Market Gap where route 211 passes through the Massanutten Mountains. Looking away from the overlook, you will notice a large rock outcrop. This rock is an example of volcanic breccia. Breccia is a rock created by lava moving broken rubble as it flows. It is composed of sharp fragments embedded in a fine-grained surrounding substance. The volcanic breccia contains fragments of dark red shales and siltstones. Sediment on top of Lava Flow 3 was already deposited and as Lava Flow 4 advanced over the already existing rock, it picked up bits and pieces of the rock and moved them along. If you had the opportunity to stand at this point 570 million years ago, you would have been right in the midst of moving lava! From this vantage point, you are not standing directly on the profile of Stony Man’s face. However, you are on the same Lava Flows that you read about at waypoint 1.

ASSIGNMENT: If the day is clear, take a digital picture of you and your fellow Cachers holding your GPS units with either the lake or the gap in the background. If fog has descended or haze has blocked your view, take a picture near the volcanic breccia. Make sure you take time to explore the colors and textures of the volcanic breccia. Also, imagine what it may have been like to feel the heat from the lava flow and hear the sound of the lava moving bits and pieces of rock along its path.

WAYPOINT #4: N38 36.205 and W078 22.074 Special Navigation Note: In order to successfully locate Waypoint #4, you will have to backtrack from this lower viewpoint until you reach the intersection where the trail splits. A cement marker is there to help guide you.

Waypoint #4 will take you to the Upper Cliffs of Little Stony Man. This viewpoint is not to be confused with the Stony Man Summit. The Summit can be better accessed by way of a parking area near the Skyland Resort. Waypoint #4 gives a striking view of the valley below. This is also a popular destination for rock climbers. Depending on the time of year you are caching, you may be able to see the climbers ropes’ draped over the rocks! Standing at this viewpoint, facing the valley below, you can look to your left at an even closer view of the Stony Man Mountain Silhouette.

WAYPOINT #4: LEFT- Rocks showing human impact-no lichen / RIGHT- Less human impact-lichen covered rock

ASSIGNMENT: Since this is a widely traveled area, take a moment to look for signs of human and natural impact. Do you notice an organism that is missing from these rock outcroppings? What visible effects can be observed resulting from human activity in this particular area? Also, look around and see if there are any visible signs of the process of nature through weathering and erosion. Think about ways we, as visitors, can help preserve the beauty of the National Park for future generations of visitors.

Badger, Robert, 2004, Geology Along Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, VA, pg 36-38

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

[WAYPOINT #1 HINT:] Fgnaq arkg gb gnyy qrnq gerr [WAYPOINT #2 HINT:] Yrsg fvqr bs gur genvy [WAYPOINT #3 HINT:] Ybbx njnl sebz gur bireybbx [WAYPOINT #4 HINT:] Yvpura, gung nggnpu gurzfryirf gb ebpxf, ner yvivat betnavfzf

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)