Mother Nature was up to her old tricks. When six Adventurers embarked on their hike to the White Rocks Overlook on Bull Run Mountain, the forecast was for intermittent showers. Those showers became much more than merely intermittent as we trudged our way up, but the steady rain didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for the 18th-century gravestones, the 19th-century ruins of a once-prosperous mill, and the spectacular rock outcroppings we encountered on the way. When we reached the summit, the clouds obscured the spectacular vistas, instead transporting us to the misty realms of Middle Earth (glorious in itself, but also providing an incentive to return to the mountain when weather conditions are more favorable). When we ended the hike and got back to our cars, that's when Mother Nature decided to reveal the sun, and it remained sunny the rest of the afternoon. As those of a certain age will remember from an old TV commercial: “It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature.”
A delightful company of 11 endured a brutally hot day of hiking mostly out in the open on what might have been the last truly summery day of the season. The strangest sight we witnessed as we hiked around the Cornfield was a man with an ungodly contraption towering above his back that looked like something from a sci-fi film. He told us he's filming Antietam's trails for Google Streetview, which is encouraging news on several fronts. After lunch in whatever shade we could conjure up behind Dunker Church, we drove to the Bloody Lane for a short stroll. Then we rode down to the picturesque Burnside Bridge, where an ill-timed shower discouraged any further serious hiking. We attempted to help one man who had locked himself out of his car and hoped we succeeded, little thanks to the Park Service, though. We ended with a long wait for ice cream at Nutters in Sharpsburg, but the yummy quality, generous scoops and incredibly low prices ($2.12 for two big scoops!) made it all worthwhile.
Nine bold Adventurers showed up for this strenuous hike, and we all finished strong in spite of the miles and 2200 feet of elevation gain. We set a good pace on our descent, and stopped about an hour or so in for lunch at one of the many small, enchanting waterfalls along Cedar Run. We then continued over to the big waterfalls near the base of Whiteoak Canyon. There, we switched into our swimming suits and jumped in for an hour-long soak in the pools, while we watched others rappel down the falls. The climb back out was steep and steady, and we made it back to the trailhead at approximately 6 p.m., tired but still going strong. Four Adventurers stopped off for a meal and blackberry ice cream at Big Meadows, while the others started the journey home. Thanks everyone for a great trip! Hope to see you all again soon on another hike.
With temperatures well into the 90s, this was probably the most summery weather we've had during these annual excursions across the Potomac. Perhaps not coincidentally, our turnout of 18 was somewhat below our usual Labor Day numbers. But our journey was unusual in several respects, starting with our visit to the very impressive and moving memorial at the Freedmen's Cemetery, where the dramatic fluidity of the central sculpture evoked Rodin. After a leisurely lunch at Jones Point Park and our stroll across the Wilson Bridge, we reached National Harbor and promptly adjourned to cool off inside Potbelly's. Most of our party begged off riding the 16-story-high Capital Wheel, citing the heat; yet the line was short, the cabs were comfortable and air-conditioned, and the views were fine (if sometimes disorienting) during the half-dozen revolutions we made over a 15-minute stretch. Try it next year, folks!
Even by Adventuring's lofty standards, this outing was a bear: 12 miles and 2600 feet of elevation gain spread over 7 hours on the trails. Yet somehow our select corps of eight managed to survive this Homeric odyssey more or less physically intact and perhaps even spiritually enhanced. Our one disappointment was our lunchtime view of Overall Run Falls, where the word "trickle" would be far too dignified a term to describe the few dewy drops that occasionally condescended to slouch down a very indifferent precipice. But at least the paucity of moisture made our various crossings of Overall Run blessedly less than interesting. Somehow there was still enough water in Paradise Pools to gratify those in our party who jumped in. We were all surprised by the number of others who joined us in enjoying the charms of Paradise Pools; if access from the bottom of the Blue Ridge is now technically illegal, it is a ban more honored in the breach than in the observance. We wisely decided not to retrace our steps back up the very steep trail next to Overall Run but instead chose to take the longer but more gradual circuit route via Beecher Ridge. Along the way back we spotted two bear, both adolescents, paying us no heed. Our final leg was conducted in the midst of a very kind mist that made the top of the Blue Ridge both cool and mysterious.
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 70’s. 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.
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