22 Adventurers showed up on a typical winter's day for a quick if sloppy jaunt from Bethesda to Silver Spring. The Georgetown Branch Trail still had plenty of snow, ice and/or mud in Snowzilla's wake, so we had to watch our step. We were sorry that the benches have been removed from the trestle over Rock Creek, but we still enjoyed a leisurely lunch there, either standing or sitting on the wood planking. We paused to remember the 20th anniversary of the tragic train accident that killed 11 people near the point where we crossed the railroad on the edge of Silver Spring. At the end, most of our party headed directly to the Metro station or the Transit Center, but some of us whiled away a pleasant hour over hot drinks, soups and pastries at the nearby Panera.
13 Adventurers showed up at Manassas Battlefield Visitors Center, but three swiftly became casualties and dropped out as what was supposed to be "conversational snow" threatened to become something more serious. The rest of us soldiered on through the vigorous flurries that relented about halfway through our main 3-hour hike. But with relatively mild temperatures and light winds at worst, we really weren't uncomfortable. What was a bit uncomfortable was our footing on some of the muddiest and sloppiest trails I've ever encountered. We focused today on the experiences of Jeff's great-grandfather Charles Stark, who labored here under the command of one of the worst Union generals on the field, Robert Milroy. Stark had the added misfortune of having to battle against the indomitable Stonewall Jackson for much of his military career. Stark suffered from what we call PTSD after the war and died an early death. Freedom Is Not Free; our hats are off to him and his comrades.
Ten Adventurers ventured forth on a drizzly but seasonally mild January morning to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. We were looking forward to seeing the spectacular vistas from Annapolis Rock and Black Rock Cliff atop South Mountain. Well, it’s something we can still look forward to, since both vistas were gripped in a London-style pea-soup fog, limiting visibility beyond a few feet. The National Weather Service had predicted that the fog would lift by the time we got there; however, when there is a conflict between the Weather Service and Mother Nature, we know who always wins. Keep checking this space for the (hopefully sunny) day when Adventuring will return to Annapolis Rock and Black Rock Cliff.
A record-tying 51 Adventurers showed up to participate in Adventuring's traditional New Years Day Hike at Great Falls. 2016 being an even year, we went to the MD side this time. (Remember: Virginia Is Odd, So Maryland Gets Even.) It felt a little chilly if not raw after our balmy November and December and the overcast only began to relent towards the end of the day, but overall we couldn't really complain about the weather. We began with lunch at the Park's picnic area near the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center before moving down to the Falls Overlook on Olmstead Island, where we admired the rain-swollen Potomac as it roared past us. Then we swiftly proceeded up the C&O Canal towpath to Swain's Lock and rested briefly before returning to our cars near the Tavern. For the record, the exact length of our hike was 5.6 miles, based on published trail measurements. Afterwards some of our party made their way to a nearby watering hole for refreshments after finding Old Anglers Inn foolishly closed for the holiday. A nice way to kick off 2016; hope everyone will be able to join us for many more Adventures throughout the year.
On what promised to be a balmy day in December, twenty enthusiastic Adventurers departed from the Bethesda Metro Station. We began our hike with a historical narration from veteran Adventurer Craig Howell on the Madonna of the Trail statute. We then made our way to the Capital Crescent Trail, where we encountered numerous other hikers, bikers, and walkers also enjoying the seventy-degree temperatures. After about five miles, we stopped for lunch at Fletcher’s Cove, where cookies and other delectable treats were plentiful and passed around for all to enjoy. Once our lunch was consumed, we resumed our hike on the same trail until it ended at Key Bridge. We then crossed over to the muddy C&O Canal towpath until it terminated at Rock Creek. Lastly, we moved to the Rock Creek Park Trails in order to to get to P street, which took us to our final destination at Dupont Circle. Thank you to all who came out for what was a very enjoyable hike and wonderful day!
Although the actual solstice wouldn’t arrive for another day and a half, 16 Adventurers took advantage of a bright December Sunday to mark the end of autumn and tramp around Maryland’s magical monadnock, Sugarloaf Mountain. We’ve advertised 18 of these hikes through the years, though a few were cancelled by ice or snow. Not so this year, as highs in the 40s felt even warmer on the inclines. The hike has become a bit shorter these past two years, since Sugarloaf’s popularity as a winter hiking destination has clogged the parking at the base of the mountain and made us drive to the West View Lot near the top instead of hiking from the bottom as we’d always done before. But there was still enough climbing and marching on our 5-mile Northern Peaks Loop Trail to fill much of this day of little daylight. White Rocks with its lovely westward vista was, as always, our lunch stop and the site of our poetry readings. The readings ranged from Biblical passages to modern poems; several centered on the solstice theme or the dark, bleak winter. But it was hard to feel bleak with such cheery companions on such a bright, beautiful day. At one of Sugarloaf's smaller summits, several of us added rocks to the Cairn of Care to ceremonially shed the baggage of 2015. At the highest summit we could see more distant mountains than we've been able to see on most previous solstice hikes. We shared John’s remaining chocolates before descending the old stone steps to our waiting cars at West View.
Was it really December 12? With temperatures pushing 70, you could be excused for thinking we had hiked through a time warp and skipped winter to emerge into spring. However, despite the spring-like warmth, it really was mid-December, so the hours of sunlight were fleeting. Undaunted, seven swift-footed Adventurers climbed up and down the many peaks and valleys of Catoctin Mountain and Cunningham Falls and completed the 11-mile circuit in record time.
Eight Adventurers got an unusually mild December day to tramp around the Manassas battlefield. We got off to a great start by not getting lost on our way to Portici plantation, on a ridge overlooking vast fields and I-66. In an abundance of caution & cars, we drove to the battlefield's official picnic grounds for lunch. The real hike, just like the First Battle of Manassas, got underway at the Old Stone Bridge. We stumbled onto the correct path at a tricky junction to find Farm Ford, where William Tecumseh Sherman found his way across Bull Run to emerge at the right time and the right place with hundreds of his best friends into the middle of the battle. We ourselves emerged from the woods at Matthews Hill and followed in the footsteps of the surging Yankee troops up to Henry Hill, where we and they ran into a Stonewall. Both the battle and our hike ended at nearby Chinn Ridge, though we fell back to Henry Hill with more dignity and order than the routed Yankees could manage.
On a cold and dreary November day, nine tenacious Adventurers set off from the Rosslyn Metro Station toward Roosevelt Island. Once on the island, we browsed the memorial dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt. Upon leaving Roosevelt Island, we took the Mount Vernon Trail to the turnoff for Arlington Cemetery. At the cemetery’s Visitor Center we took a moment to enjoy the displays and to warm up. We then embarked upon a journey to the Netherlands Carillon via the Custis Walk, where we enjoyed some history and a cold lunch. Close by was the Marine Corps War Memorial, so we stopped by for some more history and a few photographs. We then returned to Arlington Cemetery to visit the graves of President Taft, the Kennedys, and the Tomb of the Unknowns, where we were pleasantly surprised to find a female sentry posted. Lastly, we returned to the Visitor Center where we exchanged goodbyes and hopes for warmer weather the next time. Thanks to everyone who came out today!
Another unusually mild day brought a November to Remember to a delightful close for 12 Adventurers. Although it was overcast and sprinkled lightly in the latter half of the day, temperatures were quite pleasant, winds were non-existent, and we had some fine views of the Luray Valley from the higher elevations through the newly-bared trees. We lunched at a scenic waterfall that was quite full, even though it hadn't rained much lately. Our only stream crossing took place over Smith Run on the way up to Jenkins Gap; this occasion was more interesting than usual, since we had three ribbons of water to negotiate back-to-back-to-back. The climb to Jenkins Gap was a bit strenuous so we took our time, but we still managed to end the hike precisely on schedule. We ended our day at the Front Royal IHOP for sentimental reasons, as our yummy meals distracted us from tales of Darkness at Fridley Gap.
Twelve Adventurers decided to #OptOutside in Northern Rock Creek Park on Black Friday 2015. Though parking hassles and potty breaks in Silver Spring delayed our start a bit, we eventually succeeded in taking in the early points of interest on our loop – the DC North Boundary Stone, Boundary Bridge, and the treacherous Pinehurst Branch crossing (sadly, just a trickle today). Our Civil War expert showed us an area near the Park Police Stables in which recent archeological work has re-written a few paragraphs of Civil War history. We charged Fort DeRussy and admired its formidable earthworks, then enjoyed lunch near the Visitors Center. Points of interest after lunch included the Horse Center, the Ross Drive Bridge, and Miller Cabin, the last of our man-made attractions. Now free to simply hike the Valley Trail and chat, a favorite topic of conversation quickly became whether or not this hike truly was 7 miles as advertised; the consensus was that it was significantly longer. The trip leader, having now used technology which was not available to him back in 2005, agrees. Depending on the software used, this hike measures somewhere between 9.5 and 10 miles; who knew? In the words of Mae West, too much of a good think can be wonderful!
Things went very smoothly for our nine Adventurers on a seasonally chilly November day. There were lots of leaves covering the rocks, so we had to pick our way carefully, especially at Lambs Knoll, but at least the last mile was on a paved road, away from the tricky AT. As we were finishing up lunch at the White Rocks Overlook, two of our party suddenly recognized each other from their college days after a lapse of nearly two decades; it's a small world after all! We were surprised we never encountered anybody from the Mid-Atlantic Hiking Club, which was hiking south on the AT from I-70 while we were headed north; if they expected to reach their goal of Crampton Gap (our starting point) before dark, they might well have been behind schedule. After finishing our review of the September 1862 Battle of South Mountain at Fox's Gap, we drove just a mile downhill to the South Mountain Creamery, where we all enjoyed scrumptious fresh ice cream before returning home.
The site “Hiking Upward” rates Old Rag a “6” (on a scale from 1-5) for its vistas and a “0” for its sense of solitude. The 18 Adventurers who scaled its peak today would have to agree. The views were spectacular on this sunny, brisk autumn day. As we climbed, squeezed, and in some cases scraped our bloody way through the boulder jungle gym, there were expressions of wonderment, whether it was the hiker’s first time on Old Rag or their 20th. However, we had to share our sense of excitement with a couple thousand of our best (or at least our closest) friends. Even though we set forth from East Falls Church at the ungodly hour of 7:30 a.m, the Park Service parking lot was already full by the time many of us arrived. In the past that would have meant we would have had to drive home. Fortunately, an enterprising farmer has now stepped in, and latecomers are allowed to park on her land, but only after forking over 10 bucks per car. After contributing to her retirement fund, the stragglers joined the rest of the group, and together we began our trek to the windy, awe-inspiring summit of Old Rag.
The forecasters had promised that Veterans Day would be the "jewel of the week" weather-wise, and they sure got that right as 13 Adventurers enjoyed a splendid autumnal day sandwiched between two dismal, rainy washouts. Our round-trip was about a mile longer than planned as our resident jackrabbits got too far ahead of the group and overshot the intended turnaround spot. Still we found a nice place to lunch on the Potomac right next to the piers of an old railroad bridge washed out in the 1936 flood and never rebuilt. The scenic highlight of the day was undoubtedly the stretch of spectacular sheer cliffs on the WV side of the river at Miller's Bend, now topped by an impressive set of mansions.
Post-Halloween hangovers and a heavy morning dew combined to dwindle our numbers down to a magnificent seven, but our faith in the forecasters was more than justified as we were rewarded with a fantastic fall afternoon. We took Duke Street from the King Street Metro to see several sites associated with Alexandria's African American history. The most outstanding of these sites was a well-sculpted statue honoring the Edmonson Sisters, whose freedom was purchased by abolitionists after their failed attempt to escape slavery in 1848 aboard the good ship "Pearl." We inspected the new park at the site of the Freedman's Cemetery before our picnic next to the Jones Point Lighthouse. As we strolled across the Wilson Bridge in our T-shirts, we were amazed that we practically had the pathway to ourselves on such a gorgeous day. We arrived at National Harbor in plenty of time to grab the 2:50 water taxi back to Old Town, a voyage (again) with only a handful of other passengers. Those lying abed today have ample cause to regret not joining our happy few.
On a beautiful, crisp Halloween day, 28 Adventurers embarked on a colorful and delightful journey. We started our hike at approximately 12:15 pm from McCoy’s Ferry Campground. We enjoyed spectacular views of the Potomac, vibrant fall leaves, and plenty of history. We stopped at Dam #5 for a somewhat chilly lunch as the clouds rolled in. Shortly thereafter, we returned to the Canal towpath and then back to McCoy’s Ferry, where we exchanged goodbyes. It was a most pleasant day with wonderful company. Thanks to all that came out to make it an enjoyable day!
7 hikers and two dogs (Tilly and Ollie) arrived at Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, VA at the base of the Blue Ridge just in time for their Apple Harvest Festival. We first grabbed some lunch: Burgers, dogs, barbecue, funnel cakes and apple pie, with a side of bluegrass music. As Daniel, our Adventurer from Hungary exclaimed, "This is real America!" Then we shuttled down Route 670 a few miles until it dead-ended at the trailhead to the Rose River Fire Road, nee the Gordonsville-New Market Turnpike, completed in 1853 by the Blue Ridge Turnpike Company. This remote back entrance into Shenandoah National Park follows the Rose River and its picturesque sections of cascades and rapids. Today this historic road was lined with golden foliage. There were some pockets of peak color, but many areas had a few more days until peak.
What an enjoyable hike this was, along the banks of the rushing river on a beautifully brisk and sunny autumn day! We turned around just past the confluence of the lower Dark Hollow stream with the Rose River. Following the hike, we visited the Graves Mountain orchard bins back in Syria with purchases of many freshly-picked apples and jarred preserves. Four of us plus Tilly and Ollie remained at the Graves Mountain Lodge to enjoy drinks on the rocking porch and a second round in front of the fireplaces inside. Then we repaired to the communal restaurant upstairs for their traditional Sunday dinner of fried chicken and country ham with all the fix'ins, just like Grandma used to make.
Maryland Heights beckoned and 19 Adventurers (many first-timers) responded to the challenge. While Mother Nature was chary in providing color for our Fall Color Hike, she gave us an otherwise perfect autumnal day. Besides, the spectacular vistas of Maryland Heights don’t need any special colors to elicit oohs and ahhs from its admirers. We also had the benefit of starting and ending in Harpers Ferry on the very day the town was celebrating the 156th anniversary of the John Brown Raid, so there were lots of people wandering around in period costume. (Adventuring’s very own Civil War veteran was unfortunately Necessarily Absent in New York.) We look forward to seeing each and every one of this friendly group of hikers at Adventuring events in the near future.
26 hikers and three dogs turned out to renew our annual Columbus Day traditional hike in Rock Creek Park, and the weather was sunny and glorious. There were a number of first-time Adventurers, including two who learned about our club at the Northern Virginia Pride Festival earlier this month. Randy, our very own National Park Service employee, led the group north from the Cleveland Park Metro and descended into Rock Creek Park along the Melvin C. Hazel trail. The group climbed the hill leading up to the Klingle Mansion, an 1823 home for the land's original namesakes (the Peirce and Klingle families). Then we headed south on the Western Ridge Trail, where we saw the tunnel and a few majestic bridges. Because of heavy car traffic, we decided to forgo walking through the tunnel and did not visit the Edgewater Stables as planned. We took an alternative route through the woods that led to the Woodley Park neighborhood and the National Zoo entrance, and then we walked a few blocks up Connecticut Avenue to Cleveland Park. Thanks to Bill and Randy for continuing the tradition, and a warm welcome to all the new hikers!
P.O. Box 23655, Washington DC 20026 USA (202)
Web designed by www.victorrook.com.