With your help, Jason & Kelly will hike 100 miles in one weekend—and raise $5,000 for Shenandoah National Park!

Archive for August, 2011

Hawksbill Mountain, 8/15/11

Today was a good day for hiking a mountain!  We started off at the White Oak Canyon parking lot and climbed up Cedar Run.  The water was low, the morning was cool, the humidity had not quite hit us.  At the top of the Cedar Run trail just before we got to Skyline Drive, Kelly spotted a large black squirrel coming down a tree 5 yards in front of us.  It wasn’t a squirrel though.  It was a bear cub!  Then another!  By this time Jason spotted them too.  Momma bear came barrelling down after her cubs and the three sauntered away into the woods.  We continued onward, crossing Skyline Drive and heading to the trailhead for Hawksbill.

We had a new first today.  A search and rescue group.  Throughout the morning we saw six groups along the section of the Appalachian Trail between Hawksbill and Skyland.  Sadly, a hiker went missing Saturday afternoon.

The hike up to Hawksbill was now somber.  The terrain is rocky and steady, and the humidity set in.  Approaching the summit we waded through a very thick mist and had zero visibility once at the top.  We were soaked, and cold.  The cold feeling is so refreshing in contrast to the nasty humidity of the summer.  We settled in against the rock wall at the summit’s overlook to nosh on our Crooked Trail granola and fresh fruit.  We had absolutely no view of our gorgeous surroundings, so it was time to head to Skyland.

See Jason in the mist?  I love my Hipstamatic App!

A unanimous decision against cotton has been made.  It’s awful.  No new news, just another confirmation.  No cotton on the big hike.  Or again.  Blech.

Back down Hawksbill to the Appalachian Trail.  We decided to stop in at Skyland to make reservations for September 17.  This leg of the trail was once again, pleasant and easy and beautiful.  Happening upon the rescue groups kept us alert to the dangers of the park.  Dense vegetation, steep cliffs, big rocks.  Unbelievable.

Walking up to Skyland is like walking into a 1950’s time capsule.  It’s a great little resort with just enough amenities to keep you smiling.  Our smiles faded when we learned that the night we need to stay there is overbooked.  Boo.  Someone is likely to cancel their reservation and we will get our rooms, surely.  Our families plan to join us that evening during the big hike.  We will need their smiling faces and big hugs of support!

Back down the bridle path and down the White Oak Canyon trail to the car.  This time we paid more attention to the waterfalls.  Pretty cool.  There is a big water slide that looks like just the thing to do to celebrate the end of a long hike.  Next time.

The trail down remains rocky, a little steep, but always beautiful!  We passed many more hikers and saw groups enjoying the rocks at the base of one of the falls.  This is why we love this park.  Barely two hours from home and we are in a different world.  Dirt, mud, rocks, sand, trees, brush, all of it is excellent.  We are lucky to experience the Shenandoah National Park every Monday.  We highly recommend it!  Look how happy we are!  Today was my favorite training hike!  14.5 miles of bliss.

Post hike and back in the real world, we made it to Charlotte’s and Luke’s camp just in time to sneak into the carpool line.  We then got Liam just in time from his camp.  Jason dropped us off, picked up Sophie (just in time), dropped her off at my home, went to his home to shower, and returned to mine with venison and salmon and potatoes to roast.  I handed him a Racer 5 and a handful of fresh rosemary and dinner was in full prep.  Jane and Abigail showed up, soon followed by Chris.  I made the salad, the potatoes were roasting, the meat grilling… an awesome dinner.  Liam devoured the venison, as did Sophie and Charlotte.  Luke took the helm with the potatoes.  The meal was delicious.  The grande finale was the strawberry pretzel salad I made.  A recipe Jason thought I made up when I first mentioned it.  Growing up in Pittsburgh, it was a staple at all family gatherings, and was considered a side dish.  We are not really sure where “salad” comes into play, but why bother?  Once Jason tasted it, he was pleasantly surprised.  He liked it!  Jason liked it!

Robertson Mountain & Old Rag, 8/08/11

Jason is back! Thank goodness. I was ready for a hike this morning. We debated keeping it local and going for distance versus going to the park; the park won! I actually had the chills from the cool mountain air as we got out of the car this morning at the Weakley Hollow parking lot. Did you read that, Arlingtonians and other friends melting this summer away? It was a wonderful sensation! We headed up the fire road to the trailhead and saw a big bear within five minutes. He stared at us, we stared at him. He had his hiker sighting and we saw our bear. The vertical climb for Robertson is 1700 feet over 1.6 miles. The steepest trail in the central part of the park. The bottom two-thirds are way harder than the top. Jason cruised right up; I bonked halfway up. A raw bar and water did the trick and I met Jason at the top. The grassy area where he waited for me was nice and shaded. We refueled with Crooked Trail granola and berries and water.  Mmmm.

The way back down Robertson was just as wonderful as the way up.  We were feeling awesome and headed right up Old Rag.  Love that peak!!!  Those big round rocks are a sight to see and so fun to climb around.  The wind was whirling up there… check out this ‘do!

We have seen a turkey vulture or two in the park, but today when a flock of them came right up over the rocks where we were resting… yikes!  The image below was taken from my seated spot just before those turkey vultures came up.

Here is Robertson from Old Rag.  We watched that cloud move all around the mountain.

The trip back down was efficient and rounded out our great workout.  All things considered, the trip was fast and we logged some good miles.

We had a little time on our hands not needing to rush back to Arlington, and when Jason asked if I wanted to go antiquing, I answered that I always want to go antiquing!  Hiking and antiquing in the same day is as good as fly fishing and antiqing in the same day.  (Thanks, Rich, for an awesome day last August!)  We made a quick stop into Copper Fox Antiques, which Jason knows about because of the distillery next door.  A quick glance of the place and I knew I needed to come back.  I snapped a bunch of pictures, saw many great pieces, and found a coffee table formerly known as a shoe store bench for Lauren and Patrick!  I will visit again soon, and may purchase a few more pieces from this little visit.

After antiquing, it was early afternoon so we went to Warrenton to Renee’s for lunch.  I finally made it to Renee’s.  A year and a half ago my master craftsman friend Bill from Old Town Woodworking told me that Renee’s was superior to another well-known Warrenton destination.  Friendly service, comfortable atmosphere and great food.  Bill was right!


Potomac Overlook Park, 8/13/11

An hour into our drive home from sleep-away camp on Friday afternoon, my son Liam asked if we could go toad catching with Zach & Kevin.  He missed them.  He had only just spent a week with them away from home at camp.  He “needed” to see them.  Lucky for him, the feeling was mutual.

We coordinated picking up his buddies Saturday afternoon, just in time to get to Potomac Overlook when the skies opened for a true summer downpour.  They could have cared less!  We hiked a short trail under dense trees from the parking lot to the amphitheatre, hoping for some relief from the rain.  The effort was optimistic.  We made it to the frog pond and peeked around a little, until the naturalist advised us of a great toad catching spot.

Heading down Donaldson run, soaked to the bone, we realized that the rains had finally stopped, sun was peeking through trees, and we were going to catch a toad.  In hand we had the plastic clamshell container Zach’s mom had given to me.  Zach had the go-ahead to bring home a toad.

Instant success!  We found a big warty toad and a new member of Zach’s family!  Sandy was a hit and undoubtedly had the time of her life (his life?) with the boys.  Please note that after a sleep-over that evening, Zach made a good decision in relocating Sandy to Long Branch Nature Center, back into nature.

Climbing back up the trail to the Nature Center, we found a cool box turtle, more creepy crawly things, and hit the frog pond again.  There we played with the frogs a bit, and once Liam inadvertantly catapulted one of the little guys, we called it a day.

The boys had a blast, but I had an even better time.  I see in my future three great hiking partners, and I look forward to our next adventure.

Billy Goat Trail, 8/01/11

The Billy Goat Trail again!  I enjoyed it so much last week that I had to come back for more.  This time my good friend Tara came with me.  My dear babysitter Vanessa agreed to watch 5 kids – my 3 + Tara’s 2 – in order for me & Tara to have a little adventure.  We loved that in 4 short hours, we had a great workout & major catch up time.

We hiked the same route as my last visit, extending the hike a bit down river.  The heat by 10 in the morning was oppressive, so we took it carefully.  Climbing the rocks is just plain fun.  We are quite alert because they are dry but slippery, & some of the gaps are a stretch, but really, the trail is a great adventure.  Another good reason to stay aware is that some of the trail blazes are really faded, & others are tricky to find.  They are near your feet as opposed to eye level, & the funny angles of certain ones make sense once you are trying to figure out your next steps.

The nature sighting of the day proved to be fawns.  We saw 5.  So dear & sweet.  We also saw two five-lined skinks & several other little lizards.  That impressed my nature-loving Liam.  “Good eye, Momma!”  The skink’s blue tail is really cool.

Today’s hike was a teaser for me.  I am ready for the next big one.  We plan to be in the SNP on Monday.  Good times.  Thanks for today, Tara!  Thanks to Vanessa too!!

Panther Mountain (Adirondacks, NY) 7/24

Sorry for the lack of posts lately—Kelly was on vacation 2 weeks ago, and then I was on vacation last week. But we’re both back and ready to roll…..

We spent our family vacation this year up in the Adirondacks (near Saranac Lake) and really enjoyed the area quite a bit. A lot of time was spent fishing and boating, seeing the sights, a little cycling, and of course a bit of hiking.

The first hike we did was with all the kids, as we vacationed with another family this year. I had read about this “easy” hike for kids called Panther Mountain, which was only a short 20 minute drive from our rental house on Lake Clear. It was a relatively short hike (less than a mile each way), but kind of steep from the get-go.  I’ve been trying to get my 7 -year old, Sophie, more into hiking these days, but her interest isn’t quite there. I don’t want to push her, as I hated when my parents made me do things they I had no interest in doing.  Once we got her out the door and on the trail, she was fine for about the first half a mile.  The trail rose through a coniferous forest with some switchbacks, but was more or less a steady uphill pitch most of the way. The kids enjoyed hopping around on the rocks and looking for wildlife.  (they did catch a toad).

As we got closer to the top, the kids started getting a bit tired and Sophie (the 7-year old) had a mini-meltdown as she “JUST COULDN’T DO IT!!”. We coaxed her up the last quarter mile to the summit, which had nice views of the surrounding area, including one of the lakes in the Saranac Lake chain.  We ate a picnic lunch on the summit and enjoyed the sunny 75 degree day. It was a nice payoff for a steep but short climb.

One the way back down, we passed another family that was almost at the top.  The 2 small kids looked pretty beat and were resting (and complaining to mom) that they too were tired and wanted desperately to be at the top. As we passed , Sophie said to them, “You’re almost there, and you’ll be happy when you get to the top. It is worth it!” Ah, a minor success. That to me is the essence of climbing and hiking in the mountains.  Sometimes the way up is difficult, demanding, tiring, etc… There have often been times I have said to myself (while ascending), “why exactly am I doing this?”. However, once you reach the summit, the destination, whatever—that feeling dissolves  and you just relish the fact that you made it to your goal.  I think it is called Type 2 fun.  Hopefully, Sophie will start to realize this and try and push herself more, be it hiking or other aspects of life.

While not necessarily a ‘training’ hike, it was nice to get out in the woods with the kids (except for the complaining part, of course :)).  I did however, get a chance to get out for a  speedy solo climb of Algonquin Peak a few days later. I’ll post about that one tomorrow…..

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