We started the hike with a bang! Cedar Run was very challenging, but the group proved their mettle and with short breaks we were able to go all the way to Hawksbill summit. After a short break for lunch, we took the Salamander Trail which connected to the Appalachian Trail. We were rewarded with some of the most amazing views that Shenandoah National Park has to offer us. Once we reached the horse stable, we started our way to Whiteoak Canyon. As always, the Whiteoak Canyon Trail was challenging, but the views made the trail quite endearing. We even saw a bear, this time from a safe distance. We were able to complete the hike thirty minutes before sunset. Fourteen miles of amazing views and a great team of nine hikers, sharing stories, laughter and good energies. It was awesome!
“It was an adventure.” Only he who said it knows whether the statement was praise for our weekend of cycling in western Maryland and West Virginia or an effort to avoid it. It's undeniable, though, that our 42-mile ride on a Friday of perfect weather offered impressive vistas of forested mountains and farmland as we pedaled our way through the northern reaches of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. We “paid” for our long, almost effortless descent on a practically car-free road into the Cheat River Valley with a 4.5-mile climb up Lead Mine Mountain Road later in the ride. As we neared the top we could see a row of massive wind turbines, their blades slowly turning in the wind, an auspicious sight in a state formerly dominated by coal. After that long, slow climb we had one more nice descent before completing our ride with a series of shorter ups and downs. On Saturday, with rain threatening, the trip leaders devised a short bike ride to Swallow Falls State Park where we hiked through a stand of virgin hemlock to Maryland's highest waterfall, Muddy Creek Falls. It started to rain as we completed our hike so we retreated to the Park store where we attempted to wait out the rain. At the store we met a bride dressed in her wedding gown who had come to the Park for her wedding. She was a cyclist and was thrilled to meet other cyclists on her wedding day so she asked us to pose for photos with her and the groom and our bicycles. Special thanks to Bob Taylor for hosting us at his comfy condo on Deep Creek Lake. There's lots of good cycling in the Deep Creek Lake area so with any luck we'll get to do more of it in the future.
Our eight Adventurers have so many highlights to talk about. We could start with Friday's drive on the new Route 48, the Robert Byrd Memorial Road to Nowhere through the Potomac Highlands and up the Allegheny Front, a super-highway as beautiful as it is useless. Saturday's circuit hike through the confusing web of trails in Blackwater Falls State Park was even more circuitous than expected, with unplanned loops within loops. But the weather was ideal, and a lot more comfortable than what DC had to suffer through. On Sunday we successfully bagged the highest peak in MD on Backbone Mountain via a WV trail that included a ginormous mudhole. We lunched at the historic Fairfax Stone, where the "furthest fountain" of the Potomac was totally dried up. Some of us stayed on to stroll for an hour through nearby Canaan Valley State Park before heading home. Special thanks to Patrick and Joe for fixing us such fantastic meals and saving everybody a heap of money in the process.
There was not a rainbow in sight, but that did not stop us from having fabulous luck on this hike as many things turned out better than expected. The weather was not as hot as forecast, the trail was not as bare as anticipated, and the relatively clear skies left the beauty of southern Shenandoah exposed in all her glory. The only downside was the harmless but annoying harassment we had to endure from swarms of gnats during the second half of the hike. Regardless—or perhaps because of that—the compact group of 7 Adventurers traversed the 10.1 miles in exceptional time.
On our way out of Shenandoah, some of us were guided by our curiosity and stopped by a pyramid-shaped monument just across the road from the Swift Run Gap entrance. In what is a surreal moment of serendipity, we found that it was exactly 300 years ago on this day that Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood and his Knights of the Golden Horseshoe returned from an expedition across the Blue Ridge Mountains. This remarkable discovery was shared around the dinner table when we converged onto Giovanna's, which proved to be an excellent alternative to the usual Northside 29.
21 Adventurers took part in this year's Labor Day hike on a very warm but not too oppressive late summer day. We took a new route through Old Town via Duke Street, with many opportunities to talk about Alexandria's inspiring Black History. We then walked on Union Street next to the Potomac to Jones Point Park, where we lunched and heard about Benjamin Banneker's indispensable role in surveying the original boundary of the District of Columbia. There seemed to be fewer cyclists and others sharing the Wilson Bridge with us this year as we ambled across. We debated the source of the vegetation which is now choking a large chunk of the Potomac near the Maryland end of the bridge; if it's not hydrilla, it's probably something very close to it. Many of us could not linger as long as we might have wished at National Harbor at the end of our hike, because one of the normally scheduled water taxi trips back to Old Town had been pre-empted by a charter voyage to Nats Park for a late afternoon ballgame.
This hike could really be split into two distinct pieces. One part consisted of an easy leisurely stroll up and down the beautiful Nicholson Hollow Trail to the point where it crosses the Hughes River. The other part was a much more challenging climb up the seldom-seen Hot-Short Mountain Trail into the edge of Hazel Country. This part gave us more than we had bargained for, as the vanguard of our 13 Adventurers had a much-too-close encounter with a nest of wasps at the base of a tree along the trail, resulting in multiple stings. The victims thankfully warned the laggards in our party about the wasps' clear and present danger, so we were able to bushwhack our way around the trouble spot. At lunch we debated taking other trails back to Nicholson Hollow, but we nixed that Plan B once we realized such a detour would add 4 miles and 2 hours to our route. So instead we bravely retraced our steps down the Hot-Short Mountain Trail; this time all of us were able to avoid the wasps. We soaked our feet in the chilly but relaxing waters of the Hughes River before ending our 10-mile trek. The day ended with another outstanding dinner at the Northside 29 near Warrenton, where we taxed the wait staff's patience but not the quality of their service.
This was a long, long day for our 10 Adventurers; it was a 3-hour+ ride each way, and we didn't get home until close to midnight. Many thanks to our long-suffering drivers! But it was a rewarding day as well. We enjoyed a great view from Humpback Rocks, and then possibly an even better view of Wintergreen Ski Resort halfway through our trek. We took the long way back to our cars from this vista, and wound up with some interesting experiences as a result. First was the PO'd rattler next to our trail, all coiled and ready to strike and not about to go anywhere. Right after that, the heavens opened up and we got a good soaking. But we dried off in time to enjoy a fine dinner at Wintergreen, looking back at the mountain where we had just been. I sense a Wintergreen Weekend in 2017.
Fortune favors the bold: Seven Adventurers ignored forecasts for heavy rain and set out for a strenuous 9.7-mile circuit hike in the southern section of Shenandoah National Park. We were rewarded with fine weather - no rain at all - and lovely views along the trail. We enjoyed rock outcroppings at Chimney Rock and Calvary Rocks, had lunch beside a waterfall and enjoyed one of the better swimming holes in the Park. After a long, steady uphill climb along Wildcat Ridge, we returned to our cars and drove to Northside 29 north of Warrenton for dinner.
There's no denying it, the weather was hot, and traffic on the way to Harpers Ferry was nightmarish, but those problems faded from mind as our congenial group of 16 men and women made its way along the heights of Harpers Ferry, across the Shenandoah River, and up the Appalachian Trail to Loudoun Heights. The shade of the forest helped to make the heat tolerable. We ate our lunch at Split Rock, an overlook offering stunning views of Harpers Ferry and the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. Occasional rumbles of thunder made us a little nervous as we retraced our steps to Harpers Ferry, but we made it back before the downpour and the group decided to celebrate by visiting a nearby ice cream shop. It rained cats and dogs shortly thereafter. Special thanks to Roy for serving as our sweep.
For better or worse, this will be a hike we'll all remember. Spectacular views, a great workout, and a friendly group - but I don’t think any of us would have complained if Mother Nature had lowered the thermostat a bit.
A perfectly planned outing, as a large (yet still manageable) crowd showed up under unusually cool conditions for Independence Day. We had plenty of company as we savored the view of the Falls from the Overlook before continuing down the Canal towpath towards Old Anglers Inn. Luckily the rains held off until we got there, so we hiked the return leg on the tree-protected Berma Road in a light rain. Then somehow the Weather Gods relented at the end just long enough so we could have our picnic without getting soaked. By the time we left, the rains were back and the Park was all but deserted. Great timing all around, Jeff; much appreciated! (Trip Report filed by Craig Howell.)
Fortune Favored The Brave once more today, as 18 Adventurers discovered on a cool, overcast but virtually rain-free day in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It took us just over an hour to get from Skyline Drive down to our lunch spot overlooking the Upper Whiteoak Canyon Falls. We understandably set a slower pace as we headed back uphill on a horse trail but resumed more normal speeds once the steep sections were behind us. As we neared the Drive, we paused to remember the two lesbians who were murdered while camping in that very area 20 years ago. The final leg of our circuit along the Appalachian Trail was the most eventful, as we encountered in just a one-mile stretch: (1) a party of equestrians illegally defiling the Sacred Soil of the hiker-only AT; (2) three folks who were nearing the end of their quest to hike half the AT this year; and (3) an AT thru-hiker who had started from GA in late March and who still hopes to reach ME before the snows begin to fly. Before we returned to our cars, we recalled the critical role of the late Elie Wiesel in assuring that the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum would remember the gay victims of Nazi persecution. Once the hike was done, we descended en masse upon nearby Skyland Resort, which opened a section of their Dining Room just for us before their normal business hours so we could indulge our cravings for their luscious blackberry ice cream and Prohibition-themed beverage concoctions.
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.
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