Prince William Forest Park's 15,000 forested acres is a mere 32 miles south of DC but it is often overlooked by us in favor of the more distant and far more famous Shenandoah National Park to the west. That's a shame because PWFP offers 37 miles of trails to explore in a terrain of gentle hills and streams. Sun-dappled meadows of ferns were one of the highlights of this hike for me. Although the day was warm the shade of the forest kept us comfortable throughout the hike. We ate our lunch on some shaded rocks beside a rippling stream. Our group of six completed this 7.1-mile hike in 4 hours and were back in town by 3 PM.
33 Adventurers, including a couple of old friends from the Desert Southwest, enjoyed a pluperfect Last Day of Spring while hiking the classic Rose River Loop in Shenandoah National Park. Things got off to a rough start when one of our party took a fall, but his injury was quickly tended to by our resident nurse and all turned out well. We waved to a hefty-sized but preoccupied bear as we headed down to Rose River Falls, where there were enough rocks for everybody to sit down for lunch with a view. Several of our group took a quick dip in the inviting pool at the base of the falls. We Lollygagged Dynamically (TM) at a couple of exceptionally scenic spots during our ascent of Hogcamp Branch towards Dark Hollow Falls. When we were done, most of us headed off to Skyland's Mountain Taproom in hopes of indulging in Shenandoah's scrumptious blackberry ice cream, which was MIA on our recent excursion to the New Market Taproom at Big Meadows Lodge. I'm happy to report that this time our reconnaissance was successful, and we expect to return to Skyland several more times before the year is out.
The hike more than lived up to its name as the blossoms of the mountain laurel were at their peak and blooming everywhere. An alternate name was the Rainbow Hike (just in time for Pride Month) since in addition to the pink and white blossoms, we traversed the Yellow Poplar, the Green Ash, the (Blue) Catoctin, the Red Maple, and the Black Locust trails (each with a blaze of the appropriate color). Despite warnings of severe thundershowers, we didn’t experience a drop (though we did experience high heat and humidity). After the hike, half of our group of 12 made our way to the nearby (and picturesque) Middletown where we beat the heat by indulging ourselves in copious quantities of the delicious local ice cream on the patio of an old home complete with American Flag bunting.
Tropical Storm Bonnie or no Bonnie, eight Adventurers gathered at Milam Gap on Skyline Drive determined to complete the 9.6-mile Hoover Camp loop hike as advertised. We reached Hoover Camp in about an hour, negotiating the trickier-than-usual crossing of Mill Prong without too much drama. We lunched by the Brown House before getting a superb tour of its interior by the resident Park Ranger, who emphasized Herbert Hoover's inspiring contributions throughout his life as a humanitarian who refused to accept any compensation, even as President, for his services once he had become wealthy. Our crossing of Laurel Prong at the foot of the Fork Mountain Trail was relatively hazardous in the wake of May's unrelenting rains, but the only damage suffered was a few waterlogged boots. Our real adventures began once we reached the crest at The Sag. After initially missing the Jones Mountain Trail we wanted, we wound up traversing the same section of it three times as we floundered around in search of the elusive Cat Knob Trail, which we feared might have been eliminated. We were only saved from having to retrace our steps back to Hoover Camp by the timely appearance of another hiker, whom I dubbed "Clarence," who had just come off the Cat Knob Trail and assured us it does still indeed exist. Once we discovered the (Cheshire) Cat Knob Trail, we immediately had to work our way carefully down a very steep and treacherous slope to Laurel Gap. The rest of our loop was relatively uneventful, except that Bonnie finally made her presence known, albeit with just light showers. The total length of our circuit proved to be 11.5 miles, 2 miles longer than planned. Afterwards we dined at the New Market Taproom in Big Meadows Lodge, where for reasons that escape us they've cut down the menu drastically: Worst of all, no more blackberry ice cream! But at least they make great pizzas.
You couldn’t have asked for a better day (no rain for the first time in a week!) or a friendlier group of hikers to explore the many wonders of Catoctin Mountain and Cunningham Falls Parks. 21 hikers trekked 8 up-and-down miles to explore the varied spectacles of Cunningham Falls, Hog Rock, Wolf Rock and Chimney Rock. For some, the jagged geological formations of Wolf Rock and Chimney Rock became their natural jungle gyms. One hiker in particular climbed to new heights that a couple of us tried to imitate but no one else could equal. He will henceforth be known as Adventuring’s true Adventurer, the Monkey Man. After descending from Chimney Rock, 10 of our number decided they had enjoyed enough nature for the day and returned to the awaiting cars. However, the rest of us had not yet had enough and made an additional trek up the steep ascent to Cat Rock, where we savored the views in the late afternoon sun. After an exhausting 11.5 miles, those 11 Adventurers also returned to the awaiting cars. A great day was had by all 21 of us, though it was likely followed by a stiff and sore morning after.
Eight Adventurers braved a surreal spring day, peppered not only with record-breaking lows due to the last gasp of the polar vortex, but also with early blooming wildflowers, snow showers, sunshine and wind chill. But it was all worth it. Bundled up with hats and gloves, we were warmed by the intermittent sun and protected most of the time from wind by ridges.
Our 10.5-mile hike covered areas in both Shenandoah National Park and the Rapidan Wildlife Management Area near Stanardsville, Virginia. We began at the South River Picnic Area just north of Swift Run Gap. After a steep descent and a couple of rain drainage crossings, we arrived at the South River Falls overlook (83'-high falls, 3rd largest in the Shenandoah National Park) for an impressive view of the falls. Then we proceeded down to the base of the falls and its gorgeous pool and ate our lunches there. We were surprised to see the beautiful trillium wildflowers in bloom at the base. Next we followed the Pocosin Horse Trail, passing the South River Cemetery, the Upper Pocosin Mission ruins and PATC's Pocosin Cabin. After some breath-catching switchbacks, we reached the summit of Bald Face Mountain with a vista view of the west. A group of migrating scarlet tanagers had just arrived a few weeks early for breeding season and were foraging for insects on the forest floor under some oak trees. We finished the hike via the Appalachian Trail for two miles back to the South River Picnic Area. Half our party stopped for dinner at our favorite Warrenton-area restaurant, the Northside 29 Diner, for cocktails and good eats before returning to the East Falls Church Metro.
The weather was close to perfect. The high winds that had started the night before had diminished by the time we began the hike. Views of the Shenandoah Valley and Fort Valley were great since the trees hadn't leafed out yet. The trip leader (yours truly) hiked at a decidedly leisurely pace (especially after the trip leader's elbow had an unfortunate encounter with his walking stick), while the three others patiently waited for their "leader" at every trail junction. This 10.7 mile hike is both scenic and a very respectable workout.
Ten Adventurers gathered at Balls Bluff Battlefield Regional Park near Leesburg, VA on a very pleasant spring day with a nice gentle breeze, which made for an ideal day to hike. The forest still had the look of winter, and the leaves and flowers were in the early stages of blooming. We did see some a few barely-emerging bluebells and what appeared to be white violets.
Craig gave us a very fascinating and informative history of the Civil War battle which took place here in October 1861, a study in how not to fight a battle. Despite having nearly 10 times the troops of the Confederacy in the surrounding area, the small Union force actually here was decisively beaten because of poor planning and leadership. Craig’s detailed description of the positions and strategies of the two opposing forces really brought the battle back to life as we visualized the movements and struggles that took place.
There is a very interesting military cemetery on the site, with the remains of some Union troops killed in action here. It is one of the smallest national cemeteries in the country and is meticulously maintained.
The main drama of the hike was our fording of a deceptively small stream that appeared to be about 5 feet wide and very shallow. Unfortunately, as we started to cross, one of our members mis-stepped and sunk into mud that seemed to be bottomless. Once we finally got through this obstacle, the hike proceeded with a pleasant stroll back to the parking lot. Total length of our stroll was probably around 3 miles, with some steep sections along the way, and took us about 3 hours.
The waterfalls along Whiteoak Canyon and Cedar Run were flowing nicely, and while it doesn't quite look like spring in Shenandoah yet, the weather and conditions were with us: Cloudy skies and warm temperatures, and no treacherous ice along the trail. As a group, we all traveled at about the same pace and kept together well. We had a great lunch break along the Whiteoak Canyon Trail and stopped at all of the prettiest cascades and waterfalls to catch our breath, snap some photos and enjoy the scenery. After the hike, eight of us made our way to Northside 29 for a hearty meal and good conversation.
P.O. Box 23655, Washington DC 20026 USA (202)
Web designed by www.victorrook.com.