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.
This was an unusual day in many respects for our seven Adventurers. When we started out from Skyline Drive just before noon, it was too chilly and cloudy; by the time we reached the base of Powell Mountain, it was if anything too warm and too sunny. Three of our number turned back uphill before we started our bushwhack, and thereby missed a rare Adventuring experience. We had intended to walk up what had been a public road running along the western side of Naked Creek to the Park boundary and start our bushwhack along a long-abandoned trail from there. But we quickly saw that the once-public road has now been privatized; No Trespassing, please, especially by you tree-hugging hikers! Undaunted, William suggested that we instead bushwhack up Naked Creek via the eastern side of the creek, all of which is Park property. We got far enough past the developments on private property on the other side of the creek to appreciate that reports of Naked Creek's fine beauty have not been exaggerated. Our ensuing hike back up Powell Mountain was a hard slog, as what seemed like such a gentle slope going down in the morning was anything but going uphill in the unexpected afternoon heat. Our toils were rewarded with a fantastic dinner afterwards at the Northside 29 Diner in New Baltimore, where the selection, quality, prices and service were outstanding.
18 Adventurers, full of good energy & great conversation, celebrated the arrival of spring with a hike along the Anacostia River. We saw clouds when we started, sun when we finished, and temperatures in the 40s & 50s that felt just a little brisk when we rested. At the Navy Yard we said goodbye to the USS Barry, which will be dismantled at the end of the summer. We also took a passing look at Congressional Cemetery and marinas. Heritage and Kingman Islands had a few muddy patches but were mostly dry. We enjoyed our lunch on Kingman before finishing our stroll. The gate where the Kingman Island trail meets Benning Road was locked; on my scouting trip a few weeks back it was open. Future trips may want to return over the bridge between the islands and the River Walk instead. We failed to connect with a couple folks at the starting point, unfortunately. I'll list my cell in the future to help us find each other. Thanks to all who came, and hope to see you soon on another hike!
Our Signal Knob expedition was quite surprising in several ways, starting with the virtual absence of Massanutten Mountain's famed March mud throughout our 6-hour march of nearly 11 miles. Winter had only departed a few days earlier and there had been a good rain the day before, but you would never have known it. This was truly a day of seasonal transition, as we saw both the Last Ice of Winter (one forlorn patch) at the top of Signal Knob and the First Bugs of Spring at the base. Another surprise was the paucity of others on the mountain on what turned into a crystal clear, mild day, with winds far less powerful than swept through most of the region, killing one unlucky hiker on the AT in MD. The only folks we encountered were a bunch of backpacking collegians (presumably on Spring Break), a party of photographers at the summit, several mountain bikers near the end of our trek, and a lone runner and his dog. This day was a great re-introduction to the joys of hiking mountains after a sometimes brutal winter that had kept us indoors much too often.
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