Things went very smoothly for our nine Adventurers on a seasonally chilly November day. There were lots of leaves covering the rocks, so we had to pick our way carefully, especially at Lambs Knoll, but at least the last mile was on a paved road, away from the tricky AT. As we were finishing up lunch at the White Rocks Overlook, two of our party suddenly recognized each other from their college days after a lapse of nearly two decades; it's a small world after all! We were surprised we never encountered anybody from the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Club, which was hiking south on the AT from I-70 while we were headed north; if they expected to reach their goal of Crampton Gap (our starting point) before dark, they might well have been behind schedule. After finishing our review of the September 1862 Battle of South Mountain at Fox's Gap, we drove just a mile downhill to the South Mountain Creamery, where we all enjoyed scrumptious fresh ice cream before returning home.
The site “Hiking Upward” rates Old Rag a “6” (on a scale from 1-5) for its vistas and a “0” for its sense of solitude. The 18 Adventurers who scaled its peak today would have to agree. The views were spectacular on this sunny, brisk autumn day. As we climbed, squeezed, and in some cases scraped our bloody way through the boulder jungle gym, there were expressions of wonderment, whether it was the hiker’s first time on Old Rag or their 20th. However, we had to share our sense of excitement with a couple thousand of our best (or at least our closest) friends. Even though we set forth from East Falls Church at the ungodly hour of 7:30 a.m, the Park Service parking lot was already full by the time many of us arrived. In the past that would have meant we would have had to drive home. Fortunately, an enterprising farmer has now stepped in, and latecomers are allowed to park on her land, but only after forking over 10 bucks per car. After contributing to her retirement fund, the stragglers joined the rest of the group, and together we began our trek to the windy, awe-inspiring summit of Old Rag.
The forecasters had promised that Veterans Day would be the "jewel of the week" weather-wise, and they sure got that right as 13 Adventurers enjoyed a splendid autumnal day sandwiched between two dismal, rainy washouts. Our round-trip was about a mile longer than planned as our resident jackrabbits got too far ahead of the group and overshot the intended turnaround spot. Still we found a nice place to lunch on the Potomac right next to the piers of an old railroad bridge washed out in the 1936 flood and never rebuilt. The scenic highlight of the day was undoubtedly the stretch of spectacular sheer cliffs on the WV side of the river at Miller's Bend, now topped by an impressive set of mansions.
Post-Halloween hangovers and a heavy morning dew combined to dwindle our numbers down to a magnificent seven, but our faith in the forecasters was more than justified as we were rewarded with a fantastic fall afternoon. We took Duke Street from the King Street Metro to see several sites associated with Alexandria's African American history. The most outstanding of these sites was a well-sculpted statue honoring the Edmonson Sisters, whose freedom was purchased by abolitionists after their failed attempt to escape slavery in 1848 aboard the good ship "Pearl." We inspected the new park at the site of the Freedman's Cemetery before our picnic next to the Jones Point Lighthouse. As we strolled across the Wilson Bridge in our T-shirts, we were amazed that we practically had the pathway to ourselves on such a gorgeous day. We arrived at National Harbor in plenty of time to grab the 2:50 water taxi back to Old Town, a voyage (again) with only a handful of other passengers. Those lying abed today have ample cause to regret not joining our happy few.
On a beautiful, crisp Halloween day, 28 Adventurers embarked on a colorful and delightful journey. We started our hike at approximately 12:15 pm from McCoy’s Ferry Campground. We enjoyed spectacular views of the Potomac, vibrant fall leaves, and plenty of history. We stopped at Dam #5 for a somewhat chilly lunch as the clouds rolled in. Shortly thereafter, we returned to the Canal towpath and then back to McCoy’s Ferry, where we exchanged goodbyes. It was a most pleasant day with wonderful company. Thanks to all that came out to make it an enjoyable day!
7 hikers and two dogs (Tilly and Ollie) arrived at Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, VA at the base of the Blue Ridge just in time for their Apple Harvest Festival. We first grabbed some lunch: Burgers, dogs, barbecue, funnel cakes and apple pie, with a side of bluegrass music. As Daniel, our Adventurer from Hungary exclaimed, "This is real America!" Then we shuttled down Route 670 a few miles until it dead-ended at the trailhead to the Rose River Fire Road, nee the Gordonsville-New Market Turnpike, completed in 1853 by the Blue Ridge Turnpike Company. This remote back entrance into Shenandoah National Park follows the Rose River and its picturesque sections of cascades and rapids. Today this historic road was lined with golden foliage. There were some pockets of peak color, but many areas had a few more days until peak.
What an enjoyable hike this was, along the banks of the rushing river on a beautifully brisk and sunny autumn day! We turned around just past the confluence of the lower Dark Hollow stream with the Rose River. Following the hike, we visited the Graves Mountain orchard bins back in Syria with purchases of many freshly-picked apples and jarred preserves. Four of us plus Tilly and Ollie remained at the Graves Mountain Lodge to enjoy drinks on the rocking porch and a second round in front of the fireplaces inside. Then we repaired to the communal restaurant upstairs for their traditional Sunday dinner of fried chicken and country ham with all the fix'ins, just like Grandma used to make.
Maryland Heights beckoned and 19 Adventurers (many first-timers) responded to the challenge. While Mother Nature was chary in providing color for our Fall Color Hike, she gave us an otherwise perfect autumnal day. Besides, the spectacular vistas of Maryland Heights don’t need any special colors to elicit oohs and ahhs from its admirers. We also had the benefit of starting and ending in Harpers Ferry on the very day the town was celebrating the 156th anniversary of the John Brown Raid, so there were lots of people wandering around in period costume. (Adventuring’s very own Civil War veteran was unfortunately Necessarily Absent in New York.) We look forward to seeing each and every one of this friendly group of hikers at Adventuring events in the near future.
26 hikers and three dogs turned out to renew our annual Columbus Day traditional hike in Rock Creek Park, and the weather was sunny and glorious. There were a number of first-time Adventurers, including two who learned about our club at the Northern Virginia Pride Festival earlier this month. Randy, our very own National Park Service employee, led the group north from the Cleveland Park Metro and descended into Rock Creek Park along the Melvin C. Hazel trail. The group climbed the hill leading up to the Klingle Mansion, an 1823 home for the land's original namesakes (the Peirce and Klingle families). Then we headed south on the Western Ridge Trail, where we saw the tunnel and a few majestic bridges. Because of heavy car traffic, we decided to forgo walking through the tunnel and did not visit the Edgewater Stables as planned. We took an alternative route through the woods that led to the Woodley Park neighborhood and the National Zoo entrance, and then we walked a few blocks up Connecticut Avenue to Cleveland Park. Thanks to Bill and Randy for continuing the tradition, and a warm welcome to all the new hikers!
Things started out rather dark and dismal for our nine Adventurers as we arrived at Hogback parking lot to begin our trek under grey skies, with chilly temperatures and very soggy ground from recent rains. Conditions had improved considerably by the time we reached our overlook above Overall Run Falls. Here we lunched amidst a small mob as eager as we were to enjoy a spectacular view of both the falls (as full as I've ever seen them) and the mountains and valleys stretching out to the western horizons. One of our party discovered a trail to the lip of the falls, which he insisted was both easy and safe. Portions of our return leg were rather challenging, especially the steep sections, but at least the crossing of rain-swollen Overall Run was easily accomplished. We particularly enjoyed our stroll along the Weddlewood Trail, a scenic gem of a woodland path little used by hikers, though obviously it is quite popular with the resident bear population, judging by the signs they deposited. We maintained a strong pace of better than 2 mph throughout our hike, so we returned to Hogback comfortably ahead of schedule. From there one carload headed north for a Mexican dinner in Front Royal, while the other headed east to New Baltimore for some all-American comfort food.
The weather expectations were grim and with Metro single-tracking, our numbers were slightly reduced. Today, however, turned out to be an almost perfect fall day. The temperatures were in the high 60s to low 70s, and we actually saw some sunshine. Sixteen Adventurers left the King Street Metro Station around 9:20 a.m. and strolled through Old Town Alexandria on our way to the Mount Vernon Trail. Once there, we enjoyed beautiful views of the Potomac and encountered numerous other outdoor enthusiasts. We stopped for lunch at Gravelly Point Park around 11:30, a little more than halfway through our journey. After lunch we stopped twice for group photos, first at the Navy and (Merchant) Marine Memorial and then at "The Hiker" statue (how fitting) outside of Arlington National Cemetery. Thank you to all that came out today for what turned out to be a wonderful hike!
The ever-fickle Weather Gods must have decided to have some fun with the seven veteran hikers who started the long trail down Jeremys Run and its 14 crossings on a prematurely autumnal September day. They had set the stage the day before with the first respectable rain in weeks, putting a respectable but hardly intimidating amount of water into the stream. But just as we completed crossing #5, the Weather Gods unleashed a steady and unpredicted dousing upon us that lasted for more than an hour. They punctuated their mischief with one single loud thunderclap, unaccompanied by any lightning, that raised fears of a sudden downpour and a rare flash flood. But we soldiered on regardless, and mastered each crossing with many a helping hand for the unsteady in our midst. Just as we completed the final crossing, the Weather Gods got tired of toying with us and the rain finally relented. After a leisurely lunch, we proceeded up (and up, and up) Neighbor Mountain, which looked more attractive in the emerging sun than the Jeremys Run valley had in the rain. As we neared the end of our trek, we encountered a couple of brothers who were speed-hiking the AT in the Shenandoah area; 60 miles a day were as nothing to them. That put the trials of our mere 10.7-mile stroll into proper perspective.
Seven Adventurers were able to participate at least to some extent during our wonderful holiday weekend excursion. Joined by both John of Berkeley and William of West Virginia, we maxed out our attendance on Saturday for our first event, a circuit hike at the northern end of the North Fork Mountain Trail. We went up towards Chimney Top the very steep hard way, and muggy conditions just made it more challenging. Everybody else that day seemed to prefer going uphill the easy way via the Landis Trail; but hey, that's the Adventuring spirit! After this hike we checked into our cabins at Yokum's, which frankly could have used some upgrades; still, our breakfasts in their restaurant were outstanding. Weather was practically ideal on Sunday, a day marked by a whirlwind of activities; many thanks to John, BTW, for offering his services as one of our drivers before heading off on his own adventures. We started with a relatively easy up-and-back hike along the crest of North Fork Mountain at the southern end of its eponymous trail. Then we drove a few miles over to Spruce Knob, highest point in WV, where we drank in spectacular views in every direction. After a quick spin through the beautiful Germany Valley, we ended our day with a quick thousand-foot ascent of Seneca Rocks for yet more views; lots of company on this trail. That evening we witnessed a great fireball streaking across the sky, even brighter and longer-lasting than anything we had seen at Big Meadows during the recent Perseids. On Labor Day our final three Adventurers hiked a relocated section of the Tuscarora Trail along the VA/WV line for one last vast panorama at Eagle Rock. En route we had a delightful conversation with a young gentleman who was running up and down the rocky trail bare-footed; he provided excellent advice on where we should lunch atop Eagle Rock. On our return leg we chatted with some friendly equestrians; what they and their horses were doing on our footpath in the first place, however, was not clear. We ended our fantastic weekend with ice cream at our old favorite, Pickle Bob's.
Nine Adventurers gathered at noon in the large but still overflowing parking lot at Crabtree Falls after a long, long drive from East Falls Church. We immediately ate lunch on a bench at the base of the falls before starting up the well-engineered trail. As we had feared in light of the on-going drought, there wasn't much water falling at the falls, but even a trickle looks pretty impressive when it drops hundreds of feet at a time. The trail was quite crowded, mostly with families with small children if not papooses; not too many UVA students, alas. We reached the top of the falls in less than an hour and Lollygagged Dynamically (TM) while soaking in the wonderful panorama. We retraced our steps to the bottom and then, with time and energy on our hands, drove down the mountain a ways so we could hike a few miles on the Appalachian Trail. The AT's impressive suspension footbridge over the Tye River was the scenic star of this part of our outing. We ended the day with a feast at the Bavarian Chef on Route 29 just south of the Madison Sheetz. Everything was outstanding, especially the bell pepper soup and the array of ten German-style vegetables we were served family-style. We hadn't dined here in years, an oversight which hopefully we won't repeat.
Ten Adventurers met up at 11 at the Skyland Lodge for a morning cup of joe and a hike down the Appalachian Trail on a day of beautiful weather. We spent about an hour getting cars shuttled to our endpoint (inspiring me to start any future shuttle hikes at an earlier time so we get out on the trails earlier). Our climb to the top of Hawksbill led to stunning views in almost every direction. We grabbed a quick lunch on the summit before heading back down to the AT. We finished our hike at Big Meadows, with a casual dinner and blackberry ice cream in its New Market Taproom. By the time we headed home, it was dark out. With a supermoon predicted for the next day, the view of the near-supermoon out of our car windows during the drive home was truly stunning.
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.
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