We eight left East Falls Church on time at 9. We arrived at the Upper Whiteoak Canyon Trail Parking Lot on time at 11. We ate lunch at the Falls Overlook on time at 12:30. Then we had to switch from Plan A to Plan B to Plan C to... Plan Z, ending our hike at 5:15 at the Lower Whiteoak Canyon Trail Parking Lot. Many thanks to those who helped to improvise a Plan Z that was actually quite pleasant in some ways. Dinner was at the Roadside 29 instead of at Skyland, and nobody complained. We arrived back at East Falls Church at 8:30, precisely as predicted. Nothing to see here, folks; just move along.
Although a forecast of morning rains caused a 4-hour delay, a convivial group of ten Adventurers still turned out for the 6th annual July 4 Holiday Hike at Great Falls, MD. In sunny but sultry weather, the group traversed the cooler, shaded Berma Road to Old Anglers Inn Parking Lot, then turned and headed upstream along the scenic Widewater section of the C&O Canal, stopping along the way to observe and photograph several turtle-filled estuaries. However, just as the group approached the turnoff for Great Falls Overlook, thunder and heavy clouds rolled in. The group divided, with four members (including the event host) heading for shelter at the Visitor Center, while the remaining six bravely soldiered on to the Falls, even as heavy rain ensued. While the whole group never re-convened after that, one of the Overlook visitors (who had come prepared with a hooded poncho) later reported that the Falls were "well worth it" despite the rain.
Two Adventurers and five Outriders set out early Saturday morning from Columbia Island Marina for a 50-mile bike ride to Baltimore. We picked up an additional Adventurer on the Metropolitan Branch Trail just north of Union Station. After a brief stop at Glut food co-op in Mt. Rainier we hopped on the Northeast Branch Trail for a scenic and traffic-free ride through Maryland's inner suburbs. Once beyond the Beltway it was pretty much smooth sailing all the way to Baltimore. Well, one of us did have a blowout to contend with, but he replaced that rear tire's inner tube quickly. And then there was that long work train that blocked the road as it slowly moved rail cars to be loaded with trash from one track to another at the Jessup waste transfer station. Oh, and our ignoring that "Road Closed" sign paid off because the road was fine and we had no cars to contend with. We celebrated our arrival in Baltimore with a great meal at the City Café. Getting back to DC was a breeze thanks to MARC commuter rail's new bike car service. The bike car had racks for 23 bikes and ample seating. We were back in DC well before sunset. If you missed this ride you'll have another opportunity in the coming months because I plan to lead this great ride again. Watch the calendar.
Another fantastic day of what-is-so-rare-as-a-day-in-June weather, thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Bill, which left us nothing but fair skies and refreshing breezes after smiting the Wicked in TX & OK. Our climb from the Park's stables to the crest was not very taxing, thanks to lots of switchbacks and level sections. The unlimited views we savored during lunch at Cranny Crow Overlook were stunning, though we argued about just which way we were looking. We hiked a bit more along the ridgeline before our rapid descent towards our cars via a steep but wide forest road. Our swim in the Park's pool afterwards was perfect. Those of us who dined at Jalisco in Front Royal on the way home enjoyed the experience, as our novice server was not the least bit intimidated by our fussiness.
Nineteen Adventurers celebrated the end of May in Gambrill State Park, starting at High Knob where there are many overlooks and buildings constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. After a threat of thunderstorms all week, today's weather turned out to be perfectly hike-able as we trekked the 8.5 mile Yellow Trail, including the Yellow Trail Extension. Because of the cooler than usual spring, the mountain laurel blooms were mostly pre-peak. However, where patches of laurel were in full sun, we discovered wonderful white and blush pink passageways and archways. Reflecting the amount of rain this area has had, the foliage was quite full, providing us with breathtaking stands of ferns and various other flowers along the green moss-lined trails. We hiked along both the west and east sides of the ridgeline of the Catoctin Mountains and were rewarded with wonderful views of Frederick and Middletown, as well as South Mountain.
I'm pleased to report that the trilliums put on a wonderful display for our band of 20 hikers. Mayapples and wild geraniums were also in abundance. We encountered a few birders, wildflower enthusiasts and AT thru-hikers but, surprisingly, mostly had the trails to ourselves. Craig, our esteemed woods coordinator, showed us the very spot where his head had an unfortunate encounter with a rock on a prior hike. Happily, he recovered fully from that trauma. At our lunch stop at the shelter John of Berkeley delighted us when he offered us an assortment of chocolate bars. We gave the leftovers to two guys, AT thru-hikers calling themselves "Roadside" and "Heat Pack," who appeared as we were finishing up our lunch. I asked Heat Pack how he got that trail name after Roadside encouraged me to do just that. I think they expected we would be embarrassed by the answer, but far from it! Interestingly, neither knew what LGBT stands for.
Spectacular weather and a gorgeous flower display greeted 32 Adventurers at our annual "ramble" around the National Arboretum. After a few glitches due to parking issues (a perennial problem), we got underway a little after 10 and headed directly for the azaleas, which helpfully produced their peak bloom on this very weekend. As an unexpected bonus, we were able to view one of DC's 3 bald eagle's nests, through a telescope helpfully set up by the inner-city Earth Conservation Corps, which provides observers daily. One eagle was clearly seen defending the nest, as if sitting for a portrait, after another flew off, presumably for forage. We then trekked to the eastern edge of the park to view dogwood, camellias, and Asian flora. We returned by way of the famous Capitol Columns, which once held up the east front of the Capitol during the Lincoln Inauguration and many others until their removal in the 1950s. A picnic lunch on the Visitor Center patio capped a perfect day.
Eleven enthusiastic Adventurers enjoyed a colorful hike along the Bull Run-Occoquan Trail starting from Bull Run Regional Park. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect: unny and warm after a most brutal winter. The bluebells were very abundant and in full bloom along with several other wildflowers. About halfway through our excursion, we ate a peaceful lunch on the top of a large hill. Shortly thereafter, we resumed the hike reversing our direction on the Bull Run-Occoquan Trail. For the last section of our trip, we crossed over to the Bluebell Trail where once again, Mother Nature did not disappoint. Approximately eight miles and three and a half hours later, we returned to the Bluebell parking lot where we began our journey. Thanks to everyone for coming and for making it into an enjoyable day!
Following a string of damp and cloudy weather days, today’s weather came as a delight to 17 Adventurers as they sauntered through the streets of Rockville. While most of the area’s citizens and visitors were Tidal-Basin-bound to photograph the blooming cherry blossoms, we made our way for a more distant location to witness spring’s arrival. We visited F. Scott Fitzgerald’s gravesite, where his twisting story of fame and obscurity led to his second burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery. We then made our way to the Nature Center, passing homes where residents were busy preparing for spring. The sun was at its full intensity, the sky cerulean, the grass deep green, and the trees and flowers were ready to burst with springtime elation. Even the pollen was ramping up its vernal appearance, as several Adventurers could ruefully attest. Ah, springtime! Working up an appetite for good food, a few Adventurers diverted to Rockville Town Center afterwards to feast upon delicious Thai food at Tara Asia.
Nine Adventurers climbed their way along an unusually muddy trail next to Little Stoney Creek, forged across the high ridgeline of Great North Mountain, and stormed the "castle" of Big Schloss. The actual length of the trip was debated, with multiple guidebooks and GPS devices suggesting we had walked different amounts of miles, but it appears that we did exceed the ~11 miles listed in the trip description. It was one of the first sunny days of this spring, and as we climbed out of the valley we got to enjoy some great rays of sunshine, as well as some nice spring breezes. Our hardy group rarely stopped for a break during our initial climb from the parking area up to Signal Knob Cabin. Here we stopped for lunch before briefly following the Tuscarora Trail to the Mill Mountain Trail along the Great North Mountain crest. The views from Big Schloss were tremendous, under a nice, clear blue sky. The steep descent of the final leg of our trek was a bit hard on some ankles and/or knees. Most of us stopped off at Jalisco's in Front Royal for a Mexican bite on the way home.
It started out as an overcast day, with sprinkles that arrived prior to the group meeting at the Metro station for carpooling. Prepared for all types of weather, the threat of sprinkles was not enough to intimidate eighteen ambitious Adventurers and two canines from an early spring outing. The brisk winds quickly whisked away the clouds and the day transformed into a brilliantly sunny and warm spring day. The previous night’s rain quickly evaporated, which kept the usually muddy trails to a minimum. The dry trails were much appreciated because our trip that was planned in March was completely washed out by a deluge of rain. Yet another sign of a slow and late to appear spring this year, the Park only revealed a few small glimmers of spring greenery. Near the end of the hike, one very minor outburst of spring runoff was no match for the Adventurers who leaped the aqueous flow in one bound. Copious amounts of chat cascaded as we made our figure-8 loop around the park. An impromptu lunch and post-hike chat bloomed atop the park’s picnic tables in the bright sun.
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