Another outstanding excursion that went even better than expected for our 10 Adventurers. We headed down from Browns Gap via the historic road (couldn't find the grave of that Confederate veteran, though) to the Upper Doyles River Falls, where we lunched in tight quarters. We continued downriver to the confluence with Jones Run, where we encountered two lively young men who cheerfully reported that crossing Jones Run would not be any great deal for us. So we were able to get across Jones Run without any trouble and complete the fabled loop as we had originally hoped after all, though we had feared the crossing would be impassable. Oddly, water levels in Jones Run seemed to be far below those of Doyles River. Eventually we reached the day's scenic masterpiece, the Jones Run Falls, where we lollygagged dynamically (TM) no little time. Despite the day's relatively mild temperatures and humidity, we still glistened profusely all the way up to the Appalachian Trail. After catching our breath we strolled the AT to Browns Gap, discovering en route that the old Dundo Group Campground, closed several years ago, has been born again as the Dundo Picnic Grounds. A delicious, ridiculously affordable dinner at Giovannas ended our great day.
Today's weather would have been sensational any time of year, but having such a day of comfortable temperatures, low humidity and clear skies in July was a rare treat indeed. Our pace both going up and coming down Halfmoon Mountain was slower than usual for the ten of us, however, reflecting an abundance of very steep and rocky sections, poor trail maintenance, and the eight interesting stream crossings of Pond Run we negotiated on the return leg of our loop. Our travails were justified by the stunning views we enjoyed, first looking south over the incredible Trout Run Valley at our lunch spot by the Halfmoon Lookout firetower site and shortly thereafter looking west into the Appalachian ridges. After our five-hour trek was done, we adjourned to the nearby Trout Pond Recreation Area for an exhilarating swim in Rockcliff Lake, where we jostled to find the elusive warm convective currents. Our day ended with another scrumptious Mexican banquet at Jalisco. An unusually long day for all of us, but totally worth it.
Gorgeous weather rewarded 18 Adventurers who turned out for this annual expedition along the trails of the C & O National Historical Park at Great Falls, MD. The muggy heat of previous days was swept away by a refreshing breeze and ideal low-80s temperatures, bringing out plenty of crowds. Several great blue herons vied for our camera-toting entertainment. The only glitch in the morning was when we reached the turnaround point at Old Angler's Inn, and found that the port-a-potties which had been there for years had suddenly disappeared from their usual clearing! While most of us winced and headed back toward the starting point, a scouting party went forward in the opposite direction and discovered a brand new indoor facility at the opposite end of the parking lot, unfortunately becoming separated from the main group in the process. But we all reconvened at the Falls overlook to watch several world-class kayakers put on their usual amazing show. We concluded our traditional Independence Day outing with a convivial picnic lunch. A good day was had by all.
Sixteen Adventurers braved the heights to scale the two highest peaks in Shenandoah National Park, with a trek along the Appalachian Trail in between. As we were huffing and puffing our way to the Hawksbill summit, nobody complained that the temperature was about 10 degrees cooler than usual for this time of the year or that the humidity was way less than oppressive. Our main challenges were due to rains that had blanketed the area before we came. One downward stretch of the AT looked more like a waterfall than a hiking trail. And many rocks we encountered were very wet, resulting in a number of slips and falls (including two by the Trip Leader). After our invigorating 9.5-mile trek, we retired to Skyland Lodge to indulge in food, spirits and scoops upon scoops of the trip’s eponymous blackberry ice cream.
Eighteen Adventurers and one trail-ready canine converged on the C&O Canal at Snyders Landing in Washington County on one of those fleeting early summer days when pleasant temperatures and low humidity make for perfect hiking conditions. This part of the Canal was well shaded from the strong sun and ventilated with a cool breeze ideal for hiking. Despite recent heavy rains in the area, the towpath was not a total mud march, as we had feared. However, we did encounter our fair share of mud puddles to jump and slog through. ‘What a glorious day!’ seemed to be the catch phrase of the day.
Swarms of attack mosquitoes circled as we explored the Killiansburg Cave with several other park visitors. We did not linger long but instead hastily took off down the towpath, leaving the noxious mosquitoes behind. We lunched at Lock 39, where little remains other than the lock walls. It provided a sui generis picnic lunch experience.
After lunch, we strolled another couple of miles down the Canal to Lock 38 and the relatively new Shepherdstown highway bridge, which we later found out was located at the base of Ferry Hill. (A different type of fairy, apparently.) At the water's edge we had an expansive view of the Potomac, which was very muddy and swollen from all the rain. We had the Canal to ourselves while we hiked back to Synders Landing, where equestrians were just mounting up as we arrived.
Once we were done with hiking for the day, we motored over the top of Ferry Hill to Shepherdstown, WV and walked to Murphy’s Snack Shop, where we were greeted with first-rate customer service and a rainbow of ice cream flavors. As the sun sunk lower in the sky and the ice cream filled our bellies, we departed Shepherdstown. One carload of Adventurers decided to stay behind to soak up some more of the local flavor by browsing the local art scene and antique shops before returning home.
Eleven Adventurers celebrated National Trails Day in Gambrill State Park, starting at High Knob where there are many overlooks and buildings constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. The weather was splendid and we enjoyed refreshing breezes as we trekked the 7-mile loop hike and its 3-mile extension. Because of the cool and fairly wet spring, the mountain laurel was in full bloom, which made for wonderful white and blush pink passageways and archways. Because of the amount of rain this area has had recently, the foliage was quite full and provided us with breathtaking stands of ferns and various other flowers next to the green moss-lined trails. Our route took us along both the west and the east sides of the ridgeline of the Catoctin Mountains and provided wonderful views of Frederick and Middletown, as well as Sugarloaf and South Mountain.
(Trip Report by Jeff Hughes.) Storm clouds were threatening all morning but by the time our five Adventurers were about to start our journey down the Youghiogheny River, the clouds had parted and we had sun to light our way. (For the record, we were unable to do our originally planned trip on the Cheat River, so we switched to the Yough.) Drama prevailed from the start when, as we hit our first major rapid, two of our company went briefly overboard but were rapidly retrieved. When we hit calm water, our very patient river guide provided remedial instruction on how to maneuver through a rapid. We proved to be excellent students since at the end of the trip, we were the only raft to maneuver through what the river guide claimed was a Class 5 rapid rather than follow the wimp course around it. In between the first and last rapid, we encountered about a dozen other hydraulic obstacles, as well as long stretches where the water was calm and we could relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Special thanks to Bob Taylor for organizing this trip and allowing us to stay in his lovely condo at Deep Creek Lake.
An outstanding day in so many respects for our ten Adventurers, with pluperfect weather, a not-overly taxing itinerary, a stunning 270-degree vista atop Kennedy Peak with crystal-clear viewing conditions, and a wonderful dinner at Jalisco in Front Royal afterwards. Plus, we had the trails practically to ourselves all day; hard to understand why more people weren't out there enjoying it all with us. The biggest downside was the area's lack of signage. We lost half an hour searching for the parking lot for our shuttle next to the Shenandoah River because there was no sign at the entrance. Then we nearly missed a critical trail junction because it too was unmarked. But with all that, we still managed to get back home ahead of schedule. And oh, yes; the ticks had a field day with our party. There are snakes in every garden.
The more I do this ride the more I realize how under-appreciated it is. Cycling along the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River and past Lake Artemesia was pretty and peaceful. A profusion of showy flowers along the clean, wide shoulder of Rt. 201 made me stop for a photo, and cycling through Patapsco State Park on Race Road was a pleasure for us and no doubt for the many other cyclists we saw on that stretch of our route. The three of us had a bit of a headwind at times but the weather was otherwise glorious. We completed our 49 miles and reached Baltimore's Washington Monument (covered, of all things, in scaffolding) around 3:30. After a late lunch/early dinner at Tavern on the Hill I made my way home via MARC rail, Steve took the light rail and Metrobus back to Greenbelt Metro, and Keith, who had driven his car up the night before, opted to spend the night in Baltimore with friends.
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