The Weather Gods were up to their old tricks again, as on so many other similar Big Meadows weekends in earlier years. Saturday's weather was incredibly foggy and gloomy, but the few rain showers we endured gave way to halfway decent conditions as the afternoon wore on. The loop hike on Turk Branch and Moormans River was never too steep or rocky, and a few stream crossings were interesting enough to hold our attention; hiking poles proved themselves invaluable once again here. Saturday night's dinner at Big Meadows Lodge was lavish, and we all had a tres-fabulous time afterwards downstairs in the New Market Taproom with Debbie and her homies. A very generous breakfast buffet Sunday morning fortified all of us for the day's hike, only half as long and strenuous as what we had done the day before. The weather started as badly as Saturday's but improved steadily as we marched down to South River Falls, a sensational Shenandoah Shangri-La bathed in glorious sunlight by the time we arrived. We even had a rare daytime sighting of an owl perched on a tree branch as we neared the falls. 11 Adventurers participated to one extent or another in this year's Big Meadows Weekend expedition, including old friends Arthur & Joe, who drove all the way from MI just to be with us. It is worth noting that, unlike most previous such weekends, everybody who was booked into the Lodge enjoyed the festivities in the Taproom Saturday night (i.e., nobody crashed in exhaustion right after dinner), and everybody joined in Sunday's hike (i.e., nobody had to rush home early for some pressing engagement); much appreciated, my friends.
Temperature in the 70ís. No humidity. Can this really be August in Virginia? A lucky 13 Adventurers got to enjoy this rare summer phenomenon as we savored the sight of two waterfalls and one spectacular vista on August 16. Early in our hike, we beheld the 81-foot Lewis Falls, the fourth highest in Shenandoah. While most of our group were content to enjoy the falls from an observation deck above, four of us tiptoed down a rocky and steep path to see the falls up close and personal. Once these four climbed back up to rejoin the rest of our group, we all undertook a rocky climb to the Blackrock vista, where we had lunch with a grand view of the Luray Valley below. Most of the group then proceeded to Waterfall No. 2, Dark Hollow Falls. Here we first made our way downhill to the base of the falls and (after looking in vain for the Up escalator) begrudgingly trudged our way back up. But at least this final wave of exertion guaranteed one group of hungry and thirsty Adventurers as we proceeded to Big Meadows Lodge for food, drinks, and most especially blackberry ice cream desserts. A fitting end to a lovely day.
Once again the Weather Gods smiled benevolently on Adventuring, rewarding our band of five with a better-than-average summer day even though the pros had been predicting storms all week. We headed directly from Skyline Drive down to the historic Corbin Cabin and continued down Nicholson Hollow to our lunch spot where the trail crosses the Hughes River. Certainly a pretty spot to linger at, but our plans to splash around in its inviting pool were dashed when the water proved to be too chilly for wading, much less sitting and/or splashing. We encountered a charming and quite docile rattlesnake near Corbin Cabin as we hiked back uphill. Our return to our cars went more slowly than normal, but we were in no rush. Our deliberate speed provided more time to build up appetites for dinner at Skyland's Mountain Taproom afterwards. Here we ate so much that we barely left room to fit in the blackberry ice cream that was the supposed "raison d'etre" for the day's whole escapade.
Ho, hum. Just another typical Mid-Atlantic summer day of sensational weather from wire to wire for our 13 Adventurers. Promises of an unusually scenic itinerary were fully met, as we were just slightly above the lovely Potomac most of the way. Throughout the day we saw more people on the water in a wide variety of rivercraft (paddleboats, tubes, canoes, kayacks, etc.) than on the dry land of the towpath. Near an abandoned railroad bridge across the river (eventually to be incorporated into a hiker/biker trail, we hope), we were able to get down to the Potomac itself for a group photo and general frolicking. After lunch at Lock 58, we continued upstream to our turnaround point near the top of one of the numerous loops the river makes as it cuts through the Appalachian ridges. On our return leg we lollygagged dynamically (TM) at one of the Canal's hiker/biker camps with direct access to the river. Here we found some abandoned Ruby Slippers (or Ruby Sandals) that we repurposed to aid a couple of our party wade through the warm Potomac waters. Upon finishing our 9-mile round trip, we adjourned for an hour or so to Bill's Place in Little Orleans (greatly beloved by some of us, not so much by others) before finishing our fantastic day with a very filling meal at Weaver's in Hancock.
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.
Mother Nature was overly generous in providing lots of heat and humidity during our 11-mile hike over all three Billy Goat trails in Great Falls, MD. Hopefully, next time she'll be a little more stingy.
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.
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