You couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather as a spirited group of seven Adventurers traveled to Shenandoah National Park for our annual Big Meadows hiking weekend. Saturday’s adventure was the Riprap Hollow Circuit in southern SNP, where we had numerous opportunities to check out the magnificent vistas and also plunge into the chilly waters of a swimming hole (though only two of our group indulged in that eye-opening experience). On Sunday, there were more vistas as we hiked up and around Stony Man, the second highest peak in Shenandoah. In between the two hikes, we spent a delightful evening and morning at Big Meadows Lodge, where we had our fill of delicious food, potent “Prohibition” drinks, and a father-son singing duo that would have been visually improved if the father had stayed home. We also got to raise a few glasses with our buddies in the Capital Climbers. Saturday evening was capped with astronomical wonder as we ventured outside on a clear, moonless night to marvel at the magnificent abundance of stars (and some shooting stars) that are normally hidden from us by the bright lights of DC. Definitely a Big Meadows weekend to remember!
28 people turned out at Gathland State Park on a pluperferct summer day, marked by comfortable temperatures, mostly sunny skies and light zephyrs. Arranging the shuttle of 10 cars between our starting point at Gathland and the Park & Ride lot at the Weverton end of our trail was only slightly less complicated than planning the invasion of Normandy. This operation took quite a long time, in part because we had to shoehorn our cars into only a handful of available spaces at the Weverton lot, already choked with vehicles associated with a Boy Scout expedition in the area. It was lunchtime by the time we finished shuttling, so we ate in the big picnic pavilion at Gathland. Following a quick review of the Civil War-era history of what was then known as Crampton's Gap, we finally got our hike underway around noon. We made good progress on the 5 miles of the Appalachian Trail between Gathland and Weverton Cliffs, since the AT was mostly level and wide, though the rockier sections were a bit troublesome for some of our crew. We reached the cliffs around 3 p.m. and enjoyed the spectacular views up and down the Potomac while wondering what was going on with all the low-flying helicopters and the sirens wailing from every direction. It did not take long to work our way down off South Mountain on the steepest and trickiest part of our trail to the Weverton parking lot. We were all back at Gathland and saying our good-byes by 4:30, more or less on schedule despite the delays necessitated by all the car shuttling. Lovely hike, lovely views, lovely company.
We eight left East Falls Church on time at 9. We arrived at the Upper Whiteoak Canyon Trail Parking Lot on time at 11. We ate lunch at the Falls Overlook on time at 12:30. Then we had to switch from Plan A to Plan B to Plan C to... Plan Z, ending our hike at 5:15 at the Lower Whiteoak Canyon Trail Parking Lot. Many thanks to those who helped to improvise a Plan Z that was actually quite pleasant in some ways. Dinner was at the Roadside 29 instead of at Skyland, and nobody complained. We arrived back at East Falls Church at 8:30, precisely as predicted. Nothing to see here, folks; just move along.
Although a forecast of morning rains caused a 4-hour delay, a convivial group of ten Adventurers still turned out for the 6th annual July 4 Holiday Hike at Great Falls, MD. In sunny but sultry weather, the group traversed the cooler, shaded Berma Road to Old Anglers Inn Parking Lot, then turned and headed upstream along the scenic Widewater section of the C&O Canal, stopping along the way to observe and photograph several turtle-filled estuaries. However, just as the group approached the turnoff for Great Falls Overlook, thunder and heavy clouds rolled in. The group divided, with four members (including the event host) heading for shelter at the Visitor Center, while the remaining six bravely soldiered on to the Falls, even as heavy rain ensued. While the whole group never re-convened after that, one of the Overlook visitors (who had come prepared with a hooded poncho) later reported that the Falls were "well worth it" despite the rain.
Two Adventurers and five Outriders set out early Saturday morning from Columbia Island Marina for a 50-mile bike ride to Baltimore. We picked up an additional Adventurer on the Metropolitan Branch Trail just north of Union Station. After a brief stop at Glut food co-op in Mt. Rainier we hopped on the Northeast Branch Trail for a scenic and traffic-free ride through Maryland's inner suburbs. Once beyond the Beltway it was pretty much smooth sailing all the way to Baltimore. Well, one of us did have a blowout to contend with, but he replaced that rear tire's inner tube quickly. And then there was that long work train that blocked the road as it slowly moved rail cars to be loaded with trash from one track to another at the Jessup waste transfer station. Oh, and our ignoring that "Road Closed" sign paid off because the road was fine and we had no cars to contend with. We celebrated our arrival in Baltimore with a great meal at the City Café. Getting back to DC was a breeze thanks to MARC commuter rail's new bike car service. The bike car had racks for 23 bikes and ample seating. We were back in DC well before sunset. If you missed this ride you'll have another opportunity in the coming months because I plan to lead this great ride again. Watch the calendar.
Another fantastic day of what-is-so-rare-as-a-day-in-June weather, thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Bill, which left us nothing but fair skies and refreshing breezes after smiting the Wicked in TX & OK. Our climb from the Park's stables to the crest was not very taxing, thanks to lots of switchbacks and level sections. The unlimited views we savored during lunch at Cranny Crow Overlook were stunning, though we argued about just which way we were looking. We hiked a bit more along the ridgeline before our rapid descent towards our cars via a steep but wide forest road. Our swim in the Park's pool afterwards was perfect. Those of us who dined at Jalisco in Front Royal on the way home enjoyed the experience, as our novice server was not the least bit intimidated by our fussiness.
Nineteen Adventurers celebrated the end of May in Gambrill State Park, starting at High Knob where there are many overlooks and buildings constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. After a threat of thunderstorms all week, today's weather turned out to be perfectly hike-able as we trekked the 8.5 mile Yellow Trail, including the Yellow Trail Extension. Because of the cooler than usual spring, the mountain laurel blooms were mostly pre-peak. However, where patches of laurel were in full sun, we discovered wonderful white and blush pink passageways and archways. Reflecting the amount of rain this area has had, the foliage was quite full, providing us with breathtaking stands of ferns and various other flowers along the green moss-lined trails. We hiked along both the west and east sides of the ridgeline of the Catoctin Mountains and were rewarded with wonderful views of Frederick and Middletown, as well as South Mountain.
I'm pleased to report that the trilliums put on a wonderful display for our band of 20 hikers. Mayapples and wild geraniums were also in abundance. We encountered a few birders, wildflower enthusiasts and AT thru-hikers but, surprisingly, mostly had the trails to ourselves. Craig, our esteemed woods coordinator, showed us the very spot where his head had an unfortunate encounter with a rock on a prior hike. Happily, he recovered fully from that trauma. At our lunch stop at the shelter John of Berkeley delighted us when he offered us an assortment of chocolate bars. We gave the leftovers to two guys, AT thru-hikers calling themselves "Roadside" and "Heat Pack," who appeared as we were finishing up our lunch. I asked Heat Pack how he got that trail name after Roadside encouraged me to do just that. I think they expected we would be embarrassed by the answer, but far from it! Interestingly, neither knew what LGBT stands for.
Spectacular weather and a gorgeous flower display greeted 32 Adventurers at our annual "ramble" around the National Arboretum. After a few glitches due to parking issues (a perennial problem), we got underway a little after 10 and headed directly for the azaleas, which helpfully produced their peak bloom on this very weekend. As an unexpected bonus, we were able to view one of DC's 3 bald eagle's nests, through a telescope helpfully set up by the inner-city Earth Conservation Corps, which provides observers daily. One eagle was clearly seen defending the nest, as if sitting for a portrait, after another flew off, presumably for forage. We then trekked to the eastern edge of the park to view dogwood, camellias, and Asian flora. We returned by way of the famous Capitol Columns, which once held up the east front of the Capitol during the Lincoln Inauguration and many others until their removal in the 1950s. A picnic lunch on the Visitor Center patio capped a perfect day.
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