This was an unusual day in many respects for our seven Adventurers. When we started out from Skyline Drive just before noon, it was too chilly and cloudy; by the time we reached the base of Powell Mountain, it was if anything too warm and too sunny. Three of our number turned back uphill before we started our bushwhack, and thereby missed a rare Adventuring experience. We had intended to walk up what had been a public road running along the western side of Naked Creek to the Park boundary and start our bushwhack along a long-abandoned trail from there. But we quickly saw that the once-public road has now been privatized; No Trespassing, please, especially by you tree-hugging hikers! Undaunted, William suggested that we instead bushwhack up Naked Creek via the eastern side of the creek, all of which is Park property. We got far enough past the developments on private property on the other side of the creek to appreciate that reports of Naked Creek's fine beauty have not been exaggerated. Our ensuing hike back up Powell Mountain was a hard slog, as what seemed like such a gentle slope going down in the morning was anything but going uphill in the unexpected afternoon heat. Our toils were rewarded with a fantastic dinner afterwards at the Northside 29 Diner in New Baltimore, where the selection, quality, prices and service were outstanding.
18 Adventurers, full of good energy & great conversation, celebrated the arrival of spring with a hike along the Anacostia River. We saw clouds when we started, sun when we finished, and temperatures in the 40s & 50s that felt just a little brisk when we rested. At the Navy Yard we said goodbye to the USS Barry, which will be dismantled at the end of the summer. We also took a passing look at Congressional Cemetery and marinas. Heritage and Kingman Islands had a few muddy patches but were mostly dry. We enjoyed our lunch on Kingman before finishing our stroll. The gate where the Kingman Island trail meets Benning Road was locked; on my scouting trip a few weeks back it was open. Future trips may want to return over the bridge between the islands and the River Walk instead. We failed to connect with a couple folks at the starting point, unfortunately. I'll list my cell in the future to help us find each other. Thanks to all who came, and hope to see you soon on another hike!
Our Signal Knob expedition was quite surprising in several ways, starting with the virtual absence of Massanutten Mountain's famed March mud throughout our 6-hour march of nearly 11 miles. Winter had only departed a few days earlier and there had been a good rain the day before, but you would never have known it. This was truly a day of seasonal transition, as we saw both the Last Ice of Winter (one forlorn patch) at the top of Signal Knob and the First Bugs of Spring at the base. Another surprise was the paucity of others on the mountain on what turned into a crystal clear, mild day, with winds far less powerful than swept through most of the region, killing one unlucky hiker on the AT in MD. The only folks we encountered were a bunch of backpacking collegians (presumably on Spring Break), a party of photographers at the summit, several mountain bikers near the end of our trek, and a lone runner and his dog. This day was a great re-introduction to the joys of hiking mountains after a sometimes brutal winter that had kept us indoors much too often.
2015 got off to a great start as 52 Adventurers shattered our all-time record hike attendance of 41, set just last New Years Day on the MD side of Great Falls. Weather was sunny though brisk and breezy at first, but the winds calmed down as the day progressed, much to our relief. We reached the Falls in just 45 minutes and spent about the same amount of time lunching at the overlooks while admiring the skillful kayakers making their runs through the Falls. Our return leg was more adventurous than planned, as the closure of some old trails forced us to discover some new ones that were plenty interesting in their own right. One of these trails, for example, has been named the Madison Escape Trail in recognition of the ignominious flight of James & Dolley Madison through what is now Riverbend Park on their way to Conns Ferry. Here the Madisons re-crossed to the north side of the Potomac after they had fled to the Old Dominion when the Brits burned the White House during the War of 1812. Our whole expedition only took 3 hours, time exceptionally well spent.
Has it really been 17 years since we’ve started having these hikes marking the Winter Solstice? New and old faces keep this celebration of the onset of winter and a new year fresh and interesting and far from growing stale. This year the weather helped as a chilly grey morning evolved into a sunny and bright afternoon. And the trails of Sugarloaf always yield the same familiar appeal and the same great views. (Thank you, Stronghold Corporation, for sharing your land!) Sixteen Adventurers took part in this year’s walk, shortened a bit because the shortage of parking at the base of the mountain forced us to begin from the upper parking lot. At White Rocks, we overlooked the Potomac while we lunched and read poems. These varied from old chestnuts by Wordsworth and Whitman, to contemporary odes to winter, to an original arctic chant (ayaya?) by one of our company. At the cairn we once again deposited our rocks, representing the shedding of the “baggage” of 2014. At the summit we seemed a quiet group on a quiet day, pausing for pictures and great views before descending the old stone steps to our cars. Some things get better with age. Next year, join us on the adventure!
10 Adventurers enjoyed a long hike (10.5 miles) on a short winter's day through some very wooded areas of Fairfax County. The trails were mostly level or on gently rolling terrain; as expected, there were some muddy stretches, especially when we were near Colvin Run. But by far our biggest problem all day was lousy signage, starting with getting to and finding our way around the parking garage for the Wiehle Avenue Metro Station. The signage problem peaked inside Lake Fairfax Park, where we took several wrong turns because of missing, misleading or mislabeled signs. Once we were outside the Park on the final leg to Colvin Run Mill, we encountered no problems at all. We spent 45 minutes at the Mill for lunch and for snooping around the good stuff inside their historic General Store, a relic of the 1920s, prices included. (Where else can you get nickel candy anymore?) We made good time on our return to Metro, now that we knew which turns to take (or avoid). We noticed a lot more cyclists on the trails in the afternoon than in the morning, no doubt reflecting the milder temperatures.
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