A well-matched group of four hikers ascended to Jenkins Gap on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park via the Mt. Marshall Trail, a former carriage road that is now a lovely hiking trail. There were trees down everywhere, including many across the trail. Despite the obstacles, the group stayed together and kept up a good pace. Despite the lack of scenic viewpoints along the way, the Appalachian Mountain views seen through the leafless forest were very atmospheric. The total trip length was 12 miles, with 1,700 feet of elevation gain. It’s a trail I’d like to revisit in the spring.
Eight Adventurers set off from the Gravel Springs Gap parking area on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park on bright and cold February day for an 8.3-mile hike with almost 1800 feet of elevation gain. We descended into the scenic Big Devil Stairs canyon, hiked back up to an outcropping that overlooks the canyon for lunch, and then hiked back up and over Skyline Drive to another overlook atop South Marshall. It was an excellent group. Everyone was fast and kept together throughout the hike.
Three Adventurers set on a surprisingly warm and spring-like Super Bowl Sunday to hike an easy and well groomed section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) in the Northern Section of Shenandoah National Park. From Chester Gap, we hiked up to Compton Peak, down a side spur to an interesting formation of hexagonal basalt columns and then back down the AT (and off on another side spur) to the Possum’s Rest overlook. The 8-mile round trip, with 1,200 feet of elevation gain, took 4 hours.
The weather could not have been better for the five Adventurers on the Little Devils Stairs hike. After a bitter cold snap in previous days, we had sunny skies and temperatures well into the 40s. There was still plenty of snow cover in Shenandoah, to the point that the Park Service kept Skyline Drive closed, and we needed to start at the trailhead outside the Park at the bottom of the mountain. We had what seemed like a dozen stream crossings, including ones where we were stepping on snowy and icy rocks and logs, and in one instance on solid frozen ice over the stream. Several of us had minor slips but our feet stayed dry. Overall the trail was snowy and quite beautiful in the bright sunshine. For lunch, we perched ourselves on some rocks right next to Skyline Drive and enjoyed the total absence of vehicles. The trail also featured an almost total absence of other hikers. From Skyline Drive, we had an almost continuous descent along a fire road—a welcome break from the stream crossings on the first half of our hike, and a nice workout for those less used downhill-hiking leg muscles. Here's to winter hikes!
Five fast and sure-footed Adventurers traversed an 11.5-mile loop encompassing both Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain National Park. The trails were alternately icy or wet (flowing water), depending on whether they were on north- or south-facing slopes. We ascended the Old Misery Trail up the ridge to Cat Rock and came down the Cat Rock Trail to do the Chimney, Wolf and Hog Rock circuit in the counterclockwise direction. The entrance to Catoctin Mountain Park was closed in the morning when we arrived (we parked across the street) but had opened by the end of the hike, reflecting the agreement to fund U.S. government operations for another three weeks. Lets hope it’s open when next we return.
Weather-wise, the timing of our winter hike for 17 Adventurers at the very pleasant Seneca Creek State Park was ideal. The winds that had made the previous day so bitter had died down, and the earliest flurries of our first big snowfall of the season held off until we had wrapped up the hike. We had a nice variety of scenery for a relatively short hike, including stretches along Seneca Creek and Clopper Lake and through a bog where our trail was a boardwalk. There was no real elevation gain, but the terrain was hilly enough to give our legs a good workout. We stopped for lunch at the boat center, where one of our hikers seriously contemplated a polar plunge. If only someone had brought a towel!
A dozen Adventurers dragged themselves out of bed early enough on New Years Day (even before the crack of noon!) to join our Shutdown Substitute Hike to the Zoo. We somehow managed to encounter another Adventurer as he was headed down CT Avenue while we were headed up. We had plenty of company at the Zoo on an unusually mild day while we each explored it on our own. Afterwards some of us re-enacted a Keystone Kops routine as we tried to find a trail next to Rock Creek that wasn't closed by flooding. Eventually we succeeded and made our way down to Dupont Circle.
A dozen Adventurers were on hand for the last hike of 2018 on a delightfully mild day. The Capital Crescent Trail was about as crowded as it gets in the winter, with walkers & joggers far outnumbering cyclists, only one of whom was going recklessly fast. Cookies were more than abundant at our traditional lunch spot, and some may actually have gone unclaimed. About the only sour note of the day was encountered at Fletcher's Boathouse, where the public restrooms were locked by the ongoing federal shutdown. We finished our 7-mile stroll precisely at 3 p.m. and then headed for the friendly confines of Mr. Smith's (nee Chadwick's) @ Wisconsin & K Street for refreshments.
When we decided to inaugurate Adventuring's first-ever evening hike through Georgetown on Boxing Day, we had no idea what a fortuitous location we had chosen. Turns out our stroll coincided with the 5th annual Georgetown Glow, a holiday festival when several beautifully-lit modern art installations are scattered through the neighborhood, mostly between M Street and the Waterfront. Even before we 13 Adventurers got to the first of these installations, we heard several fascinating tales of area lore from Patrick, our own resident Georgetowner. We got to the last artworks near the Key Bridge at 7 p.m. and then tried to find a place where we could dine, but had little luck. Eventually, once our numbers had dwindled to half a dozen, we were referred by the maitre d' at Martin's to a brand-new restaurant at Wisconsin & N, the High Street Cafe. They had more than enough room for us, and we enjoyed good meals there, though they still have a few lessons to learn about running a restaurant.
The solstice had hit the evening before, so it was actually the first full day of winter—and a chilly, breezy one at that—when ten Adventurers plus one gung-ho Labrador Retriever gathered at Sugarloaf Mountain for the 21st annual Winter Solstice Poetry Hike. As usual, White Rocks overlook provided a beautiful site for a picnic lunch and a place to share verses. Poems varied from an ancient Chinese reflection to an original sent by fellow Adventurer Ed, who was unable to join us. Lord Tennyson and Emily Dickinson made their appearances, along with that Sage of the Comic Pages, Brewster Rockit. Nearly all offerings reflected themes relating to the season or new beginnings. As is our custom, at the great cairn we ceremonially shed our baggage and burdens from 2018 by adding rocks to the pile. When one Adventurer had difficulty finishing, we had to split up in pace and direction, so only four made it to the summit to enjoy a dazzling late afternoon view. But everyone was able to enjoy that magical mountain (Thank you, Stronghold Corporation, for keeping it open to the public!), the great company, and a healthy and happy way to bring in the winter and look forward to longer days ahead.
This early winter hike could not have turned out better. Our group of six hikers had a fair amount of sun, which was at its strongest during our lunch break at the impressive Raven Rocks overlook, warming us up nicely. Winds were usually calm, a real blessing on a day that felt plenty cold as it was. We completed the hike as a circuit, as had been hoped. After following the Appalachian Trail to the overlook, we continued a bit further until we came to a side trail that took us past a communications tower and then on to Route 601, which mostly sits on the crest of the Blue Ridge. Although the road itself had a bit of car traffic, for the most part this made for a pleasant walk. Along this road we happened upon the irresistible Twin Oaks Tavern Winery shortly before the end of our hike, where we stopped to warm up a bit and try the offerings while enjoying majestic vistas. The most popular, by far, was the White Nights blend of Chardonnay and Riesling. We made it back to the metro area by about 3 p.m.
15 Adventurers and/or Chrysalians showed up on an unseasonably chilly but tolerable morning for this historic walking tour. We nearly got off on the wrong foot as we approached the trail taking us into Fort Totten, because an unexpected icy patch on the road proved tricky to negotiate. Once on top of the fort, the absence of vegetation allowed us to appreciate its size and strategic location during the Late Unpleasantness. The day's hardest climb came after we had to get down inside the fort and then ascend steeply up its other side to get to the clearing that's now used as a picnic ground for the neighborhood. After a brief stop at the Soldiers Home National Cemetery, we crossed Rock Creek Church Road to enter the eponymous cemetery, with abundant stories of both tragedy and humor about its permanent residents. Our last interpretive stop was at President Lincoln's Cottage inside what used to be called (and still is popularly known as) the Old Soldiers Home. Our troops gradually dissipated to the winds as we strolled over to Georgia Avenue, dwindling to the point where just four of us were left to lunch at the Homestead. This proved to be a very popular and pleasant eating spot, as we enjoyed yummy dishes and delightful service.
November 17 having been declared National Take-a-Hike Day, of course Adventuring needed to join in the celebration. We did – despite the many obstacles that Mother Nature placed in our way. Our plan was to hike the Hazel Mountain Loop in Shenandoah National Park, which would have included a dramatic waterfall and cave. However, an unusual November snowfall closed Skyline Drive and with it, our path to the planned trailhead. Not to be undone, we came up with Plan B, a hike into the park up the Buck Hollow trail where we would still get to behold the Hazel Mountain waterfall and cave. However, to start the hike we had to cross the usually tranquil stream at the foot of the Buck Hollow trail. Thanks to melting snow and rains earlier in the week, the stream was more like a raging river; we weren’t the only group that day that abandoned hope of crossing it without falling in (and probably developing pneumonia as a result). Plan C was to hike the AT to the spectacular Marys Rock, but our access to the AT was likewise thwarted. Finally we found a trailhead that WAS open, Robertson Mountain, and Plan D was born. Robertson Mountain is arguably the steepest trail in SNP and difficult to climb in the best of circumstances. Add in a lot of ice and snow and scaling it became a true challenge. But our six Adventurers who more than met the challenge were rewarded with spectacular winter sights to accompany our exhaustion. Now that we’ve burned up the calories, we’re ready for this week’s Thanksgiving feast.
A group of seven hikers completed the 9-mile Kennedy Peak circuit on Massanutten Mountain under sunny and cloudless blue skies in just 4 hours. The winds were at times sharp, particularly atop the Kennedy Peak fire tower, where we stopped for a quick lunch. But temperatures were comfortable, and we were protected from the wind for much of the hike. There were spectacular views along the entire trail, although we had to keep an eye on the trail at almost all times because fresh-fallen leaves covered many rocks and other trip hazards. Coincidentally, one of our hikers ran into his former/now retired dentist. Other than that, we had the trail mostly to ourselves, making for a very relaxing hike.
Enjoying the fall colors and partly sunny skies on Sugarloaf Mountain was a popular choice today among Adventurers and the public at large. Our own group of 21 hikers and six dogs encountered many other hikers and dogs along the trails. We started with a climb to the peak and stopped at the White Rocks overlook for lunch, where we found an able volunteer to snap our group photo. Sugarloaf has many intersecting trails and options for piecing together a longer or shorter hike. Our group opted for a slightly shorter version of what had been originally planned as a 7.5-mile hike, ultimately completing about 6 miles and wrapping up the hike by about 2 p.m.
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