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.
We eight left East Falls Church on time at 9. We arrived at the Upper Whiteoak Canyon Trail Parking Lot on time at 11. We ate lunch at the Falls Overlook on time at 12:30. Then we had to switch from Plan A to Plan B to Plan C to... Plan Z, ending our hike at 5:15 at the Lower Whiteoak Canyon Trail Parking Lot. Many thanks to those who helped to improvise a Plan Z that was actually quite pleasant in some ways. Dinner was at the Roadside 29 instead of at Skyland, and nobody complained. We arrived back at East Falls Church at 8:30, precisely as predicted. Nothing to see here, folks; just move along.
Although a forecast of morning rains caused a 4-hour delay, a convivial group of ten Adventurers still turned out for the 6th annual July 4 Holiday Hike at Great Falls, MD. In sunny but sultry weather, the group traversed the cooler, shaded Berma Road to Old Anglers Inn Parking Lot, then turned and headed upstream along the scenic Widewater section of the C&O Canal, stopping along the way to observe and photograph several turtle-filled estuaries. However, just as the group approached the turnoff for Great Falls Overlook, thunder and heavy clouds rolled in. The group divided, with four members (including the event host) heading for shelter at the Visitor Center, while the remaining six bravely soldiered on to the Falls, even as heavy rain ensued. While the whole group never re-convened after that, one of the Overlook visitors (who had come prepared with a hooded poncho) later reported that the Falls were "well worth it" despite the rain.
Two Adventurers and five Outriders set out early Saturday morning from Columbia Island Marina for a 50-mile bike ride to Baltimore. We picked up an additional Adventurer on the Metropolitan Branch Trail just north of Union Station. After a brief stop at Glut food co-op in Mt. Rainier we hopped on the Northeast Branch Trail for a scenic and traffic-free ride through Maryland's inner suburbs. Once beyond the Beltway it was pretty much smooth sailing all the way to Baltimore. Well, one of us did have a blowout to contend with, but he replaced that rear tire's inner tube quickly. And then there was that long work train that blocked the road as it slowly moved rail cars to be loaded with trash from one track to another at the Jessup waste transfer station. Oh, and our ignoring that "Road Closed" sign paid off because the road was fine and we had no cars to contend with. We celebrated our arrival in Baltimore with a great meal at the City Café. Getting back to DC was a breeze thanks to MARC commuter rail's new bike car service. The bike car had racks for 23 bikes and ample seating. We were back in DC well before sunset. If you missed this ride you'll have another opportunity in the coming months because I plan to lead this great ride again. Watch the calendar.
Another fantastic day of what-is-so-rare-as-a-day-in-June weather, thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Bill, which left us nothing but fair skies and refreshing breezes after smiting the Wicked in TX & OK. Our climb from the Park's stables to the crest was not very taxing, thanks to lots of switchbacks and level sections. The unlimited views we savored during lunch at Cranny Crow Overlook were stunning, though we argued about just which way we were looking. We hiked a bit more along the ridgeline before our rapid descent towards our cars via a steep but wide forest road. Our swim in the Park's pool afterwards was perfect. Those of us who dined at Jalisco in Front Royal on the way home enjoyed the experience, as our novice server was not the least bit intimidated by our fussiness.
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