The luck of the Irish was with us this St. Paddy’s Day when 13 Adventurers met on Church Street for a walking tour of our city's Irish landmarks. We began at the official location of Solas Nua, an Irish arts center; some of us found their table full of free Irish Literature at Dupont Circle later that afternoon. Our tour included stops at St. Matthew's Cathedral, the Civil War Nurses Memorial, the White House, the John Barry Memorial Statue in Franklin Park, and the original site of Swampoodle, the moniker for the old Irish community that was mostly destroyed when Union Station was built more than a century ago. Afterwards we managed to find room to stand at the Irish Times but lost two of our hikers when they found a seat at the bar. We finished our day with lunch at the food court in Union Station.
Rain, sleet, graupel, snow, sunshine: this hike had it all. The finicky month of March refused to obey the usual signal for the arrival of the hiker's spring—the switch to Daylight Saving Time—and summoned a diverse meteorological show to overawe us. Nevertheless, we five Adventurers persisted. Whiteoak Canyon, always a beauty of Shenandoah, was even more remarkable as the melting snow fattened the multiple waterfalls by the trail. Robertson Mountain, Shenandoah's eternal challenge, was a workout as always but this time, with the branches still bare, under the witness of Old Rag's watchful eye. Corbin Hollow trail, a plunge into a seldom-visited valley, still bore the remnants of the recent wind storm and offered an unexpected obstacle course. The hike concluded well before sundown and, with consensus, we rewarded ourselves with amazing Thai food in Warrenton, which has the winning attribute of being 15 minutes closer than the regular Northside 29.
23 Adventurers and/or Chrysalians showed up on an exceptionally windy morning for a walking tour of one of DC's most historic yet least-known neighborhoods. After plowing through adjacent LeDroit Park into Bloomingdale, we went up one short street notable both for being atop a major tributary of Tiber Creek and for being the childhood home of Chita Rivera. As we came to the southern boundary of McMillan Reservoir, we luckily stumbled into another walking tour filled with experts on both the history and the ongoing controversies surrounding the reservoir's redevelopment. Serendipity at its best! That encounter happened along Bryant Street, which was historically the most important block in the neighborhood, because it was the legal cases involving housing here that led to the overthrow of restrictive racial covenants. After strolling south on First Street, many of us lunched at the Boundary Stone pub before ending our tour with tales of Moms Mably and Senator Edward Brooke.
Mother Nature giveth – and then asks for penance. For our Hazel Mountain Loop hike, Mother Nature gave us an unusually balmy day for February – but then required us to hike in the rain and the fog. She provided the magnificence of the swollen cascades of the Hazel River – but then required us to cross these rushing waters five times. The eight Adventurers and one canine companion were more than up to the challenge (though the Trip Leader decided to give up trying to stay dry on the slippery rocks for Crossings 2-5 and had us just wade through the currents). The hiking directions warned us of some steep climbs (and they weren’t kidding), but we were rewarded at the summit with views of a beautiful waterfall (and a so-so cave). After an exhausting 11+-mile hike, the group happily retreated to Northside 29, an Adventuring favorite, where three of our number (who had ordered the day’s Special) got to exercise the virtue of patience as they watched everyone else chow down and finish their meal before ours was served.
Just as predicted, the weather in Gettysburg was a lot drier and clearer than it was in the DC area this late January afternoon, rewarding our eight Adventurous participants. We began, incongruously enough, at a Mickey D's for an early indoors lunch. Then we shuttled ourselves to the western edge of the battlefield to begin our history lesson/stroll. The soggy ground we encountered near the Railroad Cut was but a hint of quagmires yet to come. We walked around the newly-restored landscape surrounding Lee's HQS (a.k.a. The Widder Thompson's--by law, every CW battlefield has to have an Unfinished Railroad, a Widder Somebody's home, a Wheatfield, etc.). Then we spent a productive 45 minutes inside the Seminary Ridge Museum, focusing on (among other topics) the overwhelming impact the battle and its legions of wounded soldiers had on the local population. We finished by recreating Pickett's Charge as it might have been if the battlefield been a sloppy swamp that July day in 1863.
"Adventurers Run Amok!" might have been an apt summation of a delicious day at Great Falls Park for 16 Adventurers in the midst of the federal government's latest shutdown, as the Park was left both fully open and unstaffed. Chaos reigned supreme as the Park was left both fully open and unstaffed, allowing us to do whatever we wanted, rules or no rules. Women illegally liberated the Men's Room (oddly left open while the Ladies Room was shut tight)! Trip fees were illegally collected in front of the Park Visitors Center! Lunches were illegally consumed at the Falls Overlook, accompanied by illegal dogs! Children were observed illegally trampling off-trail! With all this exciting anarchy about, we still managed to complete the Gold Mine Loop Trail, even though the trail system now steers hikers away from the most impressive ruins of the long-abandoned gold mine itself. All these unique experiences almost made the postponement of what was supposed to be our traditional New Years Day hike worth the wait.
Beneath a clear blue sky, over a crunchy ground, and amidst an Arctic breeze, four Adventurers braved the depths of winter for a Sunday morning workout in Greenbelt Park. Within the woods, the winds were pleasantly subdued and the bare branches did not inhibit the sun. The trail was surprising dry despite the rain and freezing temperatures in the prior days. The hike was an enjoyable affair, with encounters of many streams with varying degrees of freezing and even a frozen waterfall (of some sort. With a respectable pace, the 8-mile trek was completed in less than 3 hours, for a wonderful dose of winter morning exercise.
The Great Falls of the Potomac is one of the most outstanding natural wonders of the DC area. So are the views of the Potomac River from the Billy Goat A trail on the Maryland side. That is why Adventuring goes back to visit these scenes again and again. Whether it’s summer, winter, spring, or fall, the unique splendor of the setting can always fill the visitor with awe. So to start 2018, seven Adventurers made the pilgrimage and were not disappointed. The wonderment this time centered on the icy majesty of the river, the rocks, and the falls after two weeks of freezing temperatures. We bundled up. We stepped carefully. And we climbed up and down the many icy rocks of the Billy Goat trail. Though our trek was only 4 miles long, we felt we got an excellent workout. More importantly, we got to enjoy a spectacular slice of nature in all its frozen glory.
The idea was to end 2017 with a bang by doing a difficult hike in a particularly beautiful setting: Whiteoak Canyon, the land of waterfalls, cascades, and breathtaking vistas in the heart of Shenandoah National Park. Mother Nature decided to provide an even more spectacular finish to the year by closing with days of freezing cold weather that resulted in a Whiteoak that was stunningly white with snow and ice. So instead of simply experiencing waterfalls, we experienced falling water breaking through the ice. Instead of simple rock formations, we saw them covered with massive icicles. Of course, the ice didn’t confine itself to the waterfalls and rocks. Most of the trails were also covered with ice, so the already steep ascent and descent became an even more strenuous undertaking; however, five veteran Adventurers were more than up for the challenge. Despite a few slips and falls, we ended the hike tired but also energized by all the magnificent natural wonders we had experienced. In the earlier days of Adventuring, this particular undertaking was called the “Ice Hike.” We were happy to add our fin-de-2017 endeavor to this slightly insane tradition.
Pooh-poohing predictions of a blustery and bitterly cold Boxing Day, eight Adventurers were rewarded with what turned out to be a sunny and seasonably pleasant day, with little if any wind to contend with. We didn't have too much company on the Capital Crescent Trail, with seemingly more joggers and cyclists than fellow hikers. Cookies and chocolates were more than abundant at our lunch stop near the DC/MD line, and were passed around once more after our restroom break at Fletcher's Boathouse by the Potomac. Once finished the Capital Crescent Trail, most of us wandered through some back alleys of Georgetown on our way to warm up with refreshments at the original Clyde's on M Street. Our stroll for the day was tracked at 8.5 miles, good exercise all around.
How do you celebrate the Winter Solstice? Some go naked and beat drums. Some set fires and chant. Some follow the star in the East. For Adventuring, the tradition has been to climb our local monadnock, Sugarloaf Mountain, and, when we reach the White Rocks promontory, to recite poetry to mark the passing of the seasons. Chris Craig founded this wonderful tradition and this time led ten other Adventurers for its 20th anniversary. We heard selections from Adrienne Rich, Robert Frost, Rainer Maria Rilke, and the ever-popular Anonymous. We were also treated to a selection written by the 17th century Indian poet Vemana and recited in the original language of Telugu. After all our work on the mountain, we can say for certain that the darkness will start receding and the sun will soon be shining longer. Happy Solstice!
Breaking a fortnight-long streak of miserably cold and wet weather, today evolved into a refreshingly warm and sunny day for ten Adventurers (plus one canine) exploring Prince William Forest Park. The trails were almost devoid of people despite being well maintained, complete with the luxury of bridges over every single stream crossing. Obviously designed to handle large summer crowds, we took advantage of the winter solitude to enjoy the remnants of the previous day's snowfall, the partially frozen streams, and mighty waterfalls. The 10-mile hike was completed with relative ease and, after battling horrendous traffic on I-95N, we wound up in Eden Center just around the corner from East Falls Church Metro Station for a winter-prefect, piping hot dinner.
Fourteen Adventurers descended onto a small National Park tucked away in the northeast corner of the greater DC area. As we tramped through the Perimeter Trail in Greenbelt Park, what had been a wet and cold morning quickly melted into one lovely spring-like day. While we were basking in the sun at the park's picnic area, lunch was an affair unexpectedly enjoyable for a winter day outdoors. With a completion time of a respectable four hours, Greenbelt Park is an excellent great candidate for short hikes: a healthy distance of 7.9 miles, and an elevation gain of negligible.
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