It may have been a repeat, but it was no less successful than before. Despite the formidable difficulty, nine Adventurers completed the entire Whiteoak Canyon—Robertson Mountain hike. Even though challenged with stifling humidity, all of us topped Robertson Mountain the true (i.e., hard) way, earning for ourselves bragging rights of having conquered what is arguably the steepest trail in Shenandoah. We made it back to our cars under rapidly dusking skies, and headed for a much-deserved dinner at the faithful Northside 29, where Fish Reubens awaited.
Seven Adventurers found their way to the western terminus of the C&O Canal next to the historic railroad station and Canal Visitor Center. Our downstream hike began next to the re-watered Canal basin, where we admired a beautiful Irish Cross honoring the Irish workers who died while helping to construct the Canal. Our hike's highlight was a detour onto a new trail that crossed the Potomac into WV and immediately took us through a re-purposed railroad tunnel that was about a fifth of a mile long. This tunnel was quite intriguing: It was smoothly paved and even lit for much of its length, the exposed rock walls looked like a miniature Luray Caverns complete with incipient stalagmites, and water poured down in several spots both along the walls and upon our heads. It even sported some political slogans to pique the interest of future generations. We lunched at the shortest (and perhaps buggiest) aqueduct on the Canal before returning to our base and dining on seafood at Canal Place.
Eleven Adventurers set out for Big Schloss in the George Washington National Forest along the Virginia-West Virginia border on a perfect late summer / early fall day. Our group was remarkably well matched. We stayed together on the trail throughout the entire 13-mile trek, including 2300 feet of climbing. It has been a great summer for Adventuring, with weekend after weekend of Northern California weather -- cool and dry -- in our local mountains. Let's hope that fall will be just as good.
Two dozen Adventurers showed up on a pluperfect Labor Day for a thorough workout, a history lesson or two, and great scenic views. After zig-zagging through Old Town, we arrived for lunch at Jones Point Park precisely at noon. Our subsequent march across the Wilson Bridge was punctuated by a sighting of an eagle overhead on the MD end (not unexpected, since the area is an eagle sanctuary). We landed at National Harbor around 2:30. The water taxi back to Alexandria gave us a wonderful view of the handsome U.S. Coast Guard cutter "Eagle," which had just docked there. I was the only one who stuck around to check out the new MGM Hotel/Casino complex nearby. Much to my surprise, I was favorably impressed. But no Cher sightings, one of the day's few disappointments.
After delaying the hike by one day to avoid all-day rain, seven Adventurers set out on a perfect late summer day to hike one of the loveliest and most scenic trails in Shenandoah National Park. Departing from Browns Gap in the southern section of the Park, our group hiked a short distance on the Appalachian Trail before turning onto the Austin Mountain Trail and the long descent to Madison Run. The many intermittent views afforded by the broken rock slopes along the way did not disappoint. After an easy stream crossing and lunch, we began the long slog up to the viewpoints at Furnace Mountain and Blackrock Summit (among the nicest views in the Park) and then back along the AT to Browns Gap. We hiked a little more than thirteen miles and climbed a total of nearly 2800 feet. After eight hours of hiking, we stopped for dinner at Giovanna's in Madison. We arrived just under the wire, minutes before their kitchen was scheduled to stop taking orders. The food was good, satisfying and cheap. What more can one ask for?
A dozen Adventurers made good time down from our parking lot at the the Hughes River Gap via the Nicholson Hollow Trail to historic Corbin Cabin in ideal, almost autumnal weather. After lunch here, we proceeded further downhill until our advance scouting party discovered a gorgeous swimming hole on the Hughes River, where one of us actually went swimming despite the chilly water temperature. After practicing our Dynamic Lolllygagging (TM) skills here a while, we turned around and soon caught the Corbin Cabin Cutoff Trail to take us up to Skyline Drive, which turned out to be a bit of a slog. When we reached the Drive and the nearby Appalachian Trail, we thought the day's ups-and-downs were over. No such luck, as the AT rose and fell a lot more on its way back to our parking lot than we had expected from the maps. The hike took longer than anticipated, so there was no room for us when we arrived at Skyland at prime dinnertime. But at least we were able to get some blackberry ice cream to go. Most of us then had a delightful dinner at an Irish pub in Warrenton.
The one-week postponement of this hike because of inclement weather proved to be an excellent decision. For one thing, the weather was outstanding, a stark contrast to last week's: a cloudless day with low humidity and cool temperatures throughout the hike. For another, all four Adventurers demonstrated remarkable tenacity in this extremely strenuous hike, notwithstanding the underestimation in the hike description by 1.3 miles in distance and 900 feet in elevation gain. And it was a pleasant solitude, away from the throngs of Whiteoak Canyon and Old Rag, that we Adventurers savored atop Robertson Mountain while recounting the three separate encounters we had with the same juvenile bear on the way up. This bear, clearly not a responsible hiker, was witnessed skulking between the trees, trampling over the undergrowth, and defecating near the trail. Leaving this delinquent behind, we made it back to East Falls Church Metro with daylight to spare.
(This trip was postponed to August 5 because of predicted rains. Here is Jackson's trip report for what he substituted on July 29, an 11-mile hike on Catoctin Mountain.)
For a hike put together and posted in less than 24 hours, this last-minute replacement was quite a success by many measures. For one, we avoided the rains elsewhere in the area for a mostly dry day at Catoctin, with remaining precipitation wrung out of the departing stratiform clouds while we were well sheltered inside our car. For another, it was an uncharacteristically cool summer day, with temperatures low enough for us to comfortably prance through the palette of Catoctin overlooks but not so frosty that we had to snuggle inside our jackets. It was still in the afternoon that four Adventurers returned home, a mission well accomplished for an adventure on so short a notice.
Eight Adventurers set out for the central section of Shenandoah National Park on a sunny, dry (low humidity) and relatively cool day in mid-July. Our out-and-back hike followed first the Rapidan River (but that only briefly), and then tracked the Staunton River for a much longer time, before climbing steeply up the side of Jones Mountain to the Bear Church Rock overlook. After enjoying a long lunch break with a view looking into the heart of Shenandoah NP, the group retraced its 2200 foot climb back down the mountain, adding an extra jaunt to visit the Jone Mountain Cabin. All in all, it was a wonderful day in the park.
A sunny day with blue skies made this hike along the Billy Goat Trail a most pleasant one. 19 Adventurers hiked several sections along the main C&O Canal towpath, interspersed with some fun but challenging rock scrambles. We enjoyed a brief lunch break by the Potomac, set to the gentle sound of nearby rapids. The group included both seasoned Adventurers and new friends. All in all, it was a lovely Saturday.
Normally our 4th of July hikes are insufferably hot and/or accompanied by a tropical deluge. This year Mother Nature was kind and gave us a glorious day for our little stroll. The Great Falls park though was not as accommodating as it barred entry to view the Great Falls themselves – always a highlight of the trip. No matter. 34 friendly Adventurers enjoyed the abundant beauties of the park minus the falls. There were many first-time Adventurers in the mix who we hope will join us for future sojourns in nature.
We 14 Adventurers enjoyed a fantastic day of hiking in Shenandoah, with nearly wall-to-wall sunshine, comfortably warm temperatures, low humidity, great visibility, refreshing breezes, and hardly a raindrop in sight. Meanwhile, the DC area was getting pelted with massive thunderstorms! No idea how we managed to avoid such tribulations in the Blue Ridge. Anyway, the blackberry ice cream at Skyland afterwards was as scrumptious as ever. One odd note: We unexpectedly encountered quite a few Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, who seem to be several weeks behind schedule if they intend to reach Mount Katahdin in Maine before the snows fly. Peak season for AT thru-hikers in Shenandoah is late May-early June.
You couldn’t have asked for a better day: sunny, breezy, with temps in the 70’s. A friendly group of 15 Adventurers took full advantage of this perfect weather as we hiked a particularly beautiful stretch of Shenandoah National Park. We began with the rugged climb to the summit of Hawksbill, SNP’s highest peak, where we enjoyed the views and the inviting wind. Then, we followed the Appalachian Trail to Stony Man, Shenandoah’s second highest peak, where we again were met with spectacular views and cooling breezes. After a vigorous day, the group retired to Skyland Lodge where we indulged in a variety of SNP’s signature blackberry ice cream treats. This was Adventuring’s first hike after the Summer Solstice, hopefully representing a harbinger of many exciting adventures in the warmer months to come.
Four Adventurers braved dire forecasts of all-day rain to hike the steep and scenic Little Devil Stairs Trail in Shenandoah National Park. Although there was rain on the drive out, there was nary a drop on the trail. Our group enjoyed cool, cloudy weather (it never topped 70 degrees F) while hiking through the lush green temperate rain forest that grows in the side canyons and hollows of the Park. We finished the hike at 2:30 p.m., at which time the clouds cleared and we drove back to Washington in brilliant sunshine. It was a strenuous but satisfying way to spend a Saturday.
Seven Adventurers headed out to the southern section of Shenandoah National Park to hike one of the most scenic trials in the Park on what turned out to be one of the loveliest days of the year. Mother Nature favored us with bright blue skies, moderate temperatures (low 70s), no humidity and many unobstructed views. It was Northern California weather but with intense greenery. The mountain laurel, which graced nearly the entire length of the trail, were in full bloom. After a strenuous 13-mile hike with nearly 3000 feet of elevation gain, about half of the party stopped in for dinner at Giovanna’s Italian Eatery in Madison, an Adventuring tradition.
Strictly speaking, I was the only Adventurer on this bike ride. The other five riders came to me by way of OutRiders. We had a mix of veteran and first-time DC-to-Baltimore riders. Larry, Paul, James, and I departed from Columbia Island Marina and zipped through downtown thanks to all the road closures for Rolling Thunder. At 1st & M Sts. NE we picked up Kenneth, and later Tom caught up with us just as we were turning onto Edmonston Rd. in Greenbelt. At the halfway point I was able to practice my bike mechanic skills learned at VeloCity when James experienced a problem with his front derailleur. Luckily my provisional fix was able to get him to Baltimore. As for the weather, it was almost perfect except for that little downpour we encountered in downtown Baltimore. No matter. We watched the rain fall as we ate a great lunch at Joe Squared. The rain had just about stopped by the time we finished lunch, and in a few blocks we were at the train station. My riding companions were great company. If you haven't experienced this ride yet make a point to try it in the future. I like it and I lead it a lot!
Our six Adventurers had thrills and chills galore today, but mostly before we took our first step. We encountered a major downpour on the drive to the trailhead, so long-lasting and severe that we detoured at the last minute to Graves Mountain Lodge to see if these conditions were going to last. Fortunately, the office manager there checked the radar screens on her computer and saw that the finally-departing storm was a rogue, with nothing bad behind it. Then the last mile of mountain road was not just unpaved but deeply eroded, with gaping canyons everywhere. Somehow our two cars (non-4WD) negotiated this perilous stretch to our parking area. We maintained a very fast pace to Hoover Camp, with just a little occasional light rain to contend with. We got a delightful tour of the Brown House from the volunteer rangers (husband & wife) stationed there for the summer. We were back at our lot on schedule. We ended our day with a leisurely dinner at the Northside 29 in New Baltimore.
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