The National Park Service seems to do its best to hide the very existence of the pretty waterfall in the heart of Shenandoah National Park that 15 Adventurers enjoyed today. It has no official name (it could be called the Hazel River Waterfall as easily as the name we use, the White Rocks Waterfall), and the trail leading down to it is equally nameless. The PATC guidebook goes along with the Park Service practice, as their guidebook to Shenandoah makes no reference to either the waterfall or the trail. But there's probably a good reason for such unusual reticence. That nameless trail leading from the Hazel River Trail down to the waterfall, while only a quarter-mile long, is remarkably steep and treacherous, and the authorities may not want a lot of people on it. But we gingerly made our way down to the Hazel River and then crept along some inconveniently-sloped rock ledges to the waterfall itself, well hidden behind several bends in the river. The scenery is greatly enhanced by an attractive pool at the base of the waterfall and an adjacent cave. We lunched and lollygagged dynamically (TM) no little time in this attractive glen before huffing and puffing back up the nameless trail to the kinder and gentler trails that returned us to our cars at the Meadow Spring lot.
Five Adventurers were well rewarded for braving the frosty Saturday morning to stomp around Sugarloaf Mountain. Not a cloud was in sight to hinder the sun, and the mountain draped in blazing gold shined gloriously in response, complemented by the crisp air and charming views. Starting off with a steep climb to the peak before weaving a route through the myriad of trails, we completed the 8.5 miles in admirable time. With the cold and the crowd, it is perhaps wise that we elected to forgo the winery visit; a hike as pleasant as such was in itself adequately intoxicating.
16 Adventurers rendezvoused on Veterans Day in Hancock, MD on a day that began rather bleak and blustery but improved big-time before the day was over. After hearing some stories about the town's colorful past (including the one about how Rebel hero Stonewall Jackson got stared down here by a now-forgotten Yankee general), we set out on the C&O Canal towpath. With the leaves mostly down, we were easily able to spot Lovers Leap, a dramatic cliff on the WV side of the Potomac. The highlight of our trek was undoubtedly "The Devil's Eyebrow," a striking anticline (or arch) in the rockface, complete with cave, directly above the Canal prism; a few of our party scaled the short but steep stretch to the mouth of the cave. Then we lunched next door amidst the impressive ruins of the Round Top Cement Plant. By this time the clouds had dissipated, the sun was out, and temperatures had climbed into the comfortable range, prompting a widespread delayering of clothing among our party. (Unfortunately,this exposed my own arm to the Last Tick of Summer, who hitchhiked a ride on me, as I only discovered two days later.) Most of us ended our outing by spending a delightful hour at Buddy Lou's, an upscale (by Hancock standards) restaurant right next to the Canal.
A sunny and comfortably cool November day made our hike in the gorgeous Whiteoak and Cedar Run Canyons all the more enjoyable. There was still plenty of color in the trees so it was no surprise that we were far from alone on these popular trails. Another surprise: as dry as it had been both Robinson River and Cedar Run were flowing briskly. With an elevation gain of about 2450 feet the nine of us (plus one dog) worked pretty hard on our ascent and descent. Prize for the most intrepid hiker goes to Ya-Ya, Lee's dog. Ya-Ya was literally running circles around us even at the end of this 8-mile (or was it 9-mile? sources don't agree) hike.
There were 7 of us on this joint VeloCity/Adventuring/OutRiders ride to Baltimore. Weather was perfect and street closures in downtown DC for a charity walk and run made it a breeze for us to get through downtown without worrying about cars and traffic lights. We paused to check out a bakery just off the Anacostia Northwest Branch Trail and then continued north, picking up our last rider near the Greenbelt Metro station. It was quite a busy Saturday in Baltimore with a marathon and air show taking place downtown, but the beauty of being on a bike is that you can slip right past obstacles that bring cars to a stop. We ended this 49-mile ride at Mt. Vernon Square and then celebrated with a late lunch at a place called Dooby's. We and our bikes caught a 3:20 train from Baltimore and were back in DC by 4:20. I do this ride to Baltimore periodically, so if you missed this one come on the next one.
Southern Rock Creek Park Hike (our Columbus Day tradition) trip report byPeter Redding: Great turnout. Great people. Great weather! We had a group of over 40 who wanted to take advantage of what Washington has in the heart of the city. The path provided a leisurely descent into a series of trails through the woods and along Rock Creek. Along the way, our resident historians were able to tell the story of some of the historical monuments and buildings. (And some of the stories had a humorous relevance to the LGBT community!) While many miles were covered, there was still time to relax with some lunch. We perched on Boulder Bridge where we could chat and provide commentaries on the other passersby, not to mention playing with the dogs that several of us brought. All-in-all, a fine day out!
Well-saturated ground greeted nine Adventurers on a charmingly moist Saturday, as we embarked on a search for Big Schloss. With misty raindrops splashing on our faces, we forged our path through a forest where the leaves were raring to explode into reds and golds. Buoyed by undampened spirits and with all unwavering deliberate speed, our swift company arrived at the Castle in seemingly no time. Draped in fog, Big Schloss presented a mystical sight worthy of its Germanic namesake. Our quest completed, we repaired to a cozy restaurant in Front Royal before wending our way home.
19 Adventurers, most of them Paw Paw Virgins, came out for Adventuring's first visit to the C&O Canal's iconic Paw Paw Tunnel for the first time in four years. We were hit with some heavy showers on our drive up, but they were long gone by the time we arrived. The overcast never went away, but at least we didn't get rained on (except when we were inside the tunnel). We were impressed if not awed by the remains of the huge landslide that had crashed down from the mountain into the Canal bed near the tunnel's downstream portal since our last trip. Our 8-mile round-trip hike took less time than usual, because (1) nobody wanted to swim in the murky and rain-swollen Potomac and (2) nobody wanted to hike up and over Tunnel Hill on the return leg. Many of us were disappointed to hear that the two women who had owned the marvelous Panorama Restaurant near Berkeley Springs had decided to retire and shut down their place in August. But we found a great new place to eat in Hancock, Buddy Lou's, a definite upgrade compared with most other town restaurants in terms of food quality and ambience, without a big jump in prices.
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.
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