Well, we knew rain was in the forecast, but we were hoping it would pass us by. No such luck. That said, it wasn't a total washout, and our group of nine had come prepared with raingear. On the plus side, there were plenty of trilliums to see, though they looked a little bedraggled because of the rain. There was also an abundance of mayapple and wild geranium. Check out our photo album on Meetup or Facebook. We ate our lunch in the dry comfort of an AT trail shelter. The last part of our 8+ mile hike was undoutedly the most difficult. We had a rather long descent on a slick, muddy trail, and then had to wade across a rushing, knee-high stream. At least that washed all the mud from our boots. We stopped at a bakery in Marshall on the way home, and then one of our two cars decided that a stop at Spa World in Centreville would warm us and soothe our weary bodies. Thanks to Sherry for that great idea and to Thang for finding us a Groupon discount for Spa World!
Sometimes one has to travel afar to find beautiful places; sometimes it is just outside our doorstep. Patapsco Valley State Park, located just this side of Baltimore, is a remarkable gem that rarely figures in Adventuring trips. But on this Sunday morning, six Adventurers found themselves beneath a sunny sky, defiant against the forecast of rain, and hiked the lush green valley and swollen streams as the trees awaken from their winter slumber. One particular trail, flanked by bursting vernal leaves, a stream glimmering under the sunlight, almost devoid of people, was an unexpected but heavenly treat. It was with buoyed spirits that the Adventurers departed the magnificent valley, while there was still plenty of sunlight in the sky.
26 Adventurers met at the Arboretum's Visitors Center not far from the R Street NE entrance. Our first "ramble," as the hike's name implies, lasted about an hour as we explored the collection of azaleas. Our general consensus was that the flowers were pretty close to their peak bloom period. Many pictures supporting this conclusion were captured and posted to social media. Our group's next excursion was across the Arboretum in the Asian Collection. We traversed rolling hills as the sun continued with warming influences, which created perfect conditions to highlight the Camillia collections within this section. By noontime we settled down to a relaxing lunch enjoying the peaceful banks of the Anacostia River. After lunch we made a short visit to the restored original National Capitol Columns that punctuate the meadow's grandeur. We gathered here for a parting group photo, and then bid our farewells. Following this smaller groups ventured through other Arboretum areas such as the Bonsai pavilions or the National Grove of State Trees.
Maybe unique in Adventuring’s 38-year history, this hike turned out to be an a la carte Chinese menu “Pick Your Own Hike” type of adventure. We had 13 participants with 5 variations of what they did that day. Adding to the fun was the fact that a number of us were having such a good time at dinner in Harpers Ferry that we missed the final shuttle bus to the Visitors Center; as a result, we had an unscheduled hike (mostly uphill) in the early evening to get back to our cars. So without further ado, here is how 13 Adventurers explored the peaks around Harpers Ferry on the 8th of April, 2017:
2 of us hiked to Jefferson Rock (A) and Loudoun Heights (B), as well as the unplanned “bonus" hike in the evening to the Visitors Center (let’s label that one, Z);
4 of us did A and B, as well as the Maryland Heights Overview (C);
4 of us did A, B, C, and Z;
1 of us did his own hike to the Murphy-Chambers farm, followed by C and the Maryland Heights Stone Fort (D);
AND 2 of us (including your trusty scribe) actually did the entire hike as scheduled (A, B, C, D) as well as bonus Z, resulting 14.5 total miles hiked that day.
Fortunately, we had glorious spring weather for this escapade and even those of us who missed the last shuttle eventually got home.
Let it be recorded in Adventuring's history that, on the first day of the month of April in the year 2017, in Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin National Park, two Adventurers hiked 18.5 miles with an elevation gain of 4,350 feet in 6 hours and 45 minutes. The end, out.
Eight Adventurers turned out on a raw but bearable early spring day for our latest Civil War battlefield hike. The Park Rangers warned us not to try to walk across busy Route 3 at the end of our one-way hike, and they thoughtfully suggested where we could park a car near what became the end of our stroll. Most of our walk was along paved Park roads instead of on woodsy trails, so the day's mud quotient was less than usual.The logistics of our car shuttle worked out exceptionally well, so we had time to drive to several key points of the sprawling battlefield after our hike was completed. Our next battlefield walking tours (trying to keep these things in correct chronological order) should be Brandy Station and/or Gettysburg, but they may have to wait until the fall. Such tours in the dead of summer have often been plagued by searing heat or torrential downpours.
It took tremendous strength of character to be out on the cold and windy morning, but this was precisely what nine Adventurers did for a Sunday Cherry Blossom hike around the Tidal Basin in mid-March. However, the Cherry Blossoms have had better years, for the Dark Forces That Hate All Things Beautiful colluded to wreak havoc on DC's beloved flowers. Nevertheless, our Adventurers boldly stared down the wintry morning and enjoyed a brisk exercise free of hustling crowds. One thing for sure, next year's hike will be better!
What was meant to be a typical hike in George Washington National Forest turned into a Trial of True Adventurers for our seven hardy souls. The first sign of deviation from our plan was the closure of the forest road to the trailhead. Thankfully, with the ingenuity of many minds, we identified an alternative path to our destination. However, the reason for the road closure soon became apparent: Great North Mountain was thickly layered with the remnants of the winter storm from the past week. But mere snow was no deterrent to our band of Adventurers. We plowed onwards to Big Schloss, at times blazing a path through feet of virgin snow, slipping and tumbling but never faltering. The perseverance of the Adventurers was handsomely rewarded with unrivaled views of the naked beauty of Nature snuggled in the snow. Despite covering only half the planned distance, the effort was a challenge more strenuous than the original 13 miles, proving that these Magnificent Seven embodied the true spirit of Adventuring.
The coldest weather since early January held down our attendance to just nine, but the day was actually pretty comfortable, thanks to endless sunshine and light winds. More people were out on the battlefield than you might have expected, but we always had plenty of elbow room. We had a very interesting chat with some volunteer "Battlefield Ambassadors" hanging around the Cornfield to answer visitor questions. Someone calculated we walked about 6.5 miles in several segments, mostly within shouting distance of the Visitors Center and the rest around Burnside Bridge. We ended just after 4 p.m., giving us plenty of time for a relaxing stop at Nutter's in beautiful downtown Sharpsburg to fill up on ice cream.
Ten Adventurers embarked on what is probably the longest Adventuring hike in many months. Bravely bearing witness to what we hoped would be the last gasp of winter, we wove our way through a myriad of trails in Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin National Park under a sunny sky. The 15 miles and the many steep and continuous uphills were a challenge, but it is a reflection of the strength and endurance of the Adventurers that we completed our hike before sundown in a season when Nature was still thrifty with her daylight.
Five of us spent a long day taking advantage of the early appearance of warm Spring weather and sunshine with views from Loudoun Heights and Maryland Heights. The only surprise was the chill wind blowing from the west on the Loudoun Heights overlook, reminding us that, yes, this was still February. But at least we had the outcropping all to ourselves for our entire visit. Maryland Heights, drenched in sunshine and protected from the wind, was more like a crowded beach with beautiful views and sunbathing with a large number of your "best friends." A sighting of a circling Bald Eagle more than balanced out any hard feelings.
Fourteen Adventurers hiked 14 miles on a beautiful “spring” day, where the temperatures reached the low 70’s even though it was only February 18. Hiking mostly along the Appalachian Trail in Maryland, we started at the Washington Monument State Park and trekked 7 miles to the spectacular rock outcroppings of Black Rock Cliff, where we had our lunch. Then on our return trek, we stopped to take in the panoramic view offered by Annapolis Rocks. We ended the hike on this President’s Day weekend at the first monument to our first President, George Washington. Erected by the good citizens of Boonsboro in 1827 (supposedly after a copious consumption of spirits), this Washington Monument preceded the completion of that upstart in the District of Columbia by more than six decades. After the hike, six of us decided to follow the example of the good citizens of Boonsboro by descending on Dan’s Restaurant and Tap House in Boonsboro, where after consuming a large quantity of great brews and comfort foods, we made our way home. Maybe next year, we’ll repeat the experience and this time erect our own monument.
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