Beneath a clear blue sky, over a crunchy ground, and amidst an Arctic breeze, four Adventurers braved the depths of winter for a Sunday morning workout in Greenbelt Park. Within the woods, the winds were pleasantly subdued and the bare branches did not inhibit the sun. The trail was surprising dry despite the rain and freezing temperatures in the prior days. The hike was an enjoyable affair, with encounters of many streams with varying degrees of freezing and even a frozen waterfall (of some sort. With a respectable pace, the 8-mile trek was completed in less than 3 hours, for a wonderful dose of winter morning exercise.
The Great Falls of the Potomac is one of the most outstanding natural wonders of the DC area. So are the views of the Potomac River from the Billy Goat A trail on the Maryland side. That is why Adventuring goes back to visit these scenes again and again. Whether it’s summer, winter, spring, or fall, the unique splendor of the setting can always fill the visitor with awe. So to start 2018, seven Adventurers made the pilgrimage and were not disappointed. The wonderment this time centered on the icy majesty of the river, the rocks, and the falls after two weeks of freezing temperatures. We bundled up. We stepped carefully. And we climbed up and down the many icy rocks of the Billy Goat trail. Though our trek was only 4 miles long, we felt we got an excellent workout. More importantly, we got to enjoy a spectacular slice of nature in all its frozen glory.
The idea was to end 2017 with a bang by doing a difficult hike in a particularly beautiful setting: Whiteoak Canyon, the land of waterfalls, cascades, and breathtaking vistas in the heart of Shenandoah National Park. Mother Nature decided to provide an even more spectacular finish to the year by closing with days of freezing cold weather that resulted in a Whiteoak that was stunningly white with snow and ice. So instead of simply experiencing waterfalls, we experienced falling water breaking through the ice. Instead of simple rock formations, we saw them covered with massive icicles. Of course, the ice didn’t confine itself to the waterfalls and rocks. Most of the trails were also covered with ice, so the already steep ascent and descent became an even more strenuous undertaking; however, five veteran Adventurers were more than up for the challenge. Despite a few slips and falls, we ended the hike tired but also energized by all the magnificent natural wonders we had experienced. In the earlier days of Adventuring, this particular undertaking was called the “Ice Hike.” We were happy to add our fin-de-2017 endeavor to this slightly insane tradition.
Pooh-poohing predictions of a blustery and bitterly cold Boxing Day, eight Adventurers were rewarded with what turned out to be a sunny and seasonably pleasant day, with little if any wind to contend with. We didn't have too much company on the Capital Crescent Trail, with seemingly more joggers and cyclists than fellow hikers. Cookies and chocolates were more than abundant at our lunch stop near the DC/MD line, and were passed around once more after our restroom break at Fletcher's Boathouse by the Potomac. Once finished the Capital Crescent Trail, most of us wandered through some back alleys of Georgetown on our way to warm up with refreshments at the original Clyde's on M Street. Our stroll for the day was tracked at 8.5 miles, good exercise all around.
How do you celebrate the Winter Solstice? Some go naked and beat drums. Some set fires and chant. Some follow the star in the East. For Adventuring, the tradition has been to climb our local monadnock, Sugarloaf Mountain, and, when we reach the White Rocks promontory, to recite poetry to mark the passing of the seasons. Chris Craig founded this wonderful tradition and this time led ten other Adventurers for its 20th anniversary. We heard selections from Adrienne Rich, Robert Frost, Rainer Maria Rilke, and the ever-popular Anonymous. We were also treated to a selection written by the 17th century Indian poet Vemana and recited in the original language of Telugu. After all our work on the mountain, we can say for certain that the darkness will start receding and the sun will soon be shining longer. Happy Solstice!
Breaking a fortnight-long streak of miserably cold and wet weather, today evolved into a refreshingly warm and sunny day for ten Adventurers (plus one canine) exploring Prince William Forest Park. The trails were almost devoid of people despite being well maintained, complete with the luxury of bridges over every single stream crossing. Obviously designed to handle large summer crowds, we took advantage of the winter solitude to enjoy the remnants of the previous day's snowfall, the partially frozen streams, and mighty waterfalls. The 10-mile hike was completed with relative ease and, after battling horrendous traffic on I-95N, we wound up in Eden Center just around the corner from East Falls Church Metro Station for a winter-prefect, piping hot dinner.
Fourteen Adventurers descended onto a small National Park tucked away in the northeast corner of the greater DC area. As we tramped through the Perimeter Trail in Greenbelt Park, what had been a wet and cold morning quickly melted into one lovely spring-like day. While we were basking in the sun at the park's picnic area, lunch was an affair unexpectedly enjoyable for a winter day outdoors. With a completion time of a respectable four hours, Greenbelt Park is an excellent great candidate for short hikes: a healthy distance of 7.9 miles, and an elevation gain of negligible.
(Report by co-leader Elaine.) Nine enthusiastic Adventurers met at Eastern Market Metro, most of us arriving behind schedule because of Metrobus and Metrorial delays even worse than their usual deplorable weekend standards. We enjoyed a brisk walk on a sunny albeit chilly day with beautiful fall foliage on the Hill. Co-leader Craig Howell was both entertaining and impressively knowledgeable about sites along the way: The Hill Center, various historic homes and locations, Congressional Cemetery and of course, the Marine Barracks. All of these areas have a rich LGBT history, and I learned more than a few things I did not know before. We finished with a lunch/brunch at Banana Café on Barracks Row, and everyone got on to finish the rest of their day's errands and naps by 1:30 pm.
Nine Adventurers braved the elements of a cold, windy, and rainy day and cheerfully hiked from the Lower Town in Harpers Ferry across the Shenandoah River to the overlook at Loudoun Heights. After falling back to the Ferry, we next crossed the Potomac and climbed to the overlook and summit of Maryland Heights. All in all, it was a strenuous but invigorating 13 miles. The hike was followed by an equally invigorating dinner at a Thai restaurant in the trendy section of Frederick. Looking around, we now have a list of other Frederick restaurants we want to try out. Let the Maryland hikes (and the excuses for eating heartily) continue.
Five well-bundled Adventurers defied the sudden onset of wintry cold by strolling several hours along a six-mile stretch of the C&O Canal about halfway between the Paw Paw Tunnel and Cumberland. Since there was little if any wind to aggravate the effect of temperatures in the 30s, we were comfortable enough most of the time. After a lecture on the rich history of the Oldtown area (e.g., George Washington slept here many times and decided to become a surveyor here at 16), we started downstream along the towpath. Much of the Canal prism alongside us has been kept watered for many years to serve as fishing holes for the locals. Probably the most interesting sight along our way was the confluence of the North and South Branches of the Potomac, a union heavily dominated by the former. We finished our journey at the Town Creek Aqueduct early enough to drive back to Hancock in daylight. Dinner at Buddy Lou's was marked by yummy food, fast service, generous portions and fair prices--a winning combination.
It would seem foolish to be out in the mountains on what was the first freezing day of the season, but no mere chill can stand against the tenacity of two Adventurers. A 15-mile hike through Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park melted away the cold in our bodies, while the visual smörgåsbord of the Maryland countryside vistas under a soulful blend of the retreat of fall and onset of winter nourished our spirits. If it is indeed foolish to be out on a day like this, then we are not alone: the Catoctin Visitor Center was full of revelers of Nature seeking a slice of the beautiful day and the remnants of fall colors. The hike was one fitting for the closing of this season, for we completed the hike just as dusk invaded the skies, and we hastened to the warm comforts of dinner with a hearty course of mouthwatering dumplings.
Eight Adventurers (plus one canine) set out on a cool autumn morning to ascend the steep and rocky Buck Hollow trail in Shenandoah National Park. After considerable huffing and puffing, we made our way to Skyline Drive. After a short rest, we climbed further to behold the spectacular panoramic view of the Page Valley and much of the Park from Marys Rock. The autumn leaves were out in their full glory but also, alas, were the rain clouds. After a short stay on top of the mountain, the rains started and we began our hastier-than-normal retreat downhill. Fortunately, the rains pretty much stopped by the time we reached Skyline Drive, so our steep descent downhill on the Buck Ridge trail was largely uneventful. However, because of the threat of further showers, we finished the 9+-mile hike in record time.
Five Adventurers set out on a perfect fall day in the George Washington National Forest. The rocky trail made for a more strenuous hike than the official distance and elevation gain -- 10.2 miles and 2,100 feet -- would indicate. The views, however, were among the best in the region and more than made up for the extra work it took to get to the two major rock outcroppings. Duncan Knob is the more scenic of the two but the route to Strickler Knob features a very fun half-mile rock scramble. It was one of the best hikes of the year and we will definitely be back.
Eight Adventurers began our day by taking in some of Gathland State Park's history, including the War Correspondents Memorial Arch, a monument dedicated to journalists who lost their lives in the line of duty. We proceeded through the rocky, wooded trails towards Weverton Cliffs, enjoying the changing foliage and jovial conversations along the way. The group stopped for a lovely picnic on the cliffs overlooking the Potomac before heading back to Gathland.
On a welcomely cool late-September day following two unseasonably warm weeks, four Adventurers found their feet wandering in northern Shenandoah, romping through the famous Jeremys Run trail where countless stream crossings await the adventurous soul. Last year's trek along Jeremys Run reported a tepid flow; this year, Jeremys Run was positively constipated due to the recent dry spell. Nevertheless, emergent fall colors and an unexpected but wondrous view of the valley midway through the hike provided much delight. All four Adventurers blazed through the hike with alacrity, completing the full 14.4 miles (including lunch and breaks) in an exemplary 6 hours.
On this uncommonly warm September Saturday, five Adventurers set forth to explore Signal Knob, which is ranked fourth on Hiking Upward's top hikes in Virginia. A completely cloudless day—not even a milky sheen of cirrostratus was visible—greeted the Adventurers in the northern end of the Massanutten Range. Despite its fame, Signal Knob was surprisingly devoid of hikers; but truth be told, all regular hikers can perhaps concur that there are many peaks in Virginia that offer better views than Signal Knob. Regardless, it was a nice day well spent.
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