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

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!


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.

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!!

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…..

Close to home in Arlington is one of the best kept secrets I know.  Heavenly Bodies Clinic.


I saw Kathe Ana last night for acupuncture for my joints.  No real pain, just as a preventive measure considering the walking & the hiking.  Keeping the chi moving.  My treatment was relaxing as it put me into a near sleep for what felt like hours but in reality could not have been more than 15 minutes.  I left energized & happy – an easy mood to recognize after spending any amount of time with Kathe Ana!

She has taught me the wonderful practice of gua sha which has helped me tremendously.  I carry my own gua sha kit with me in my day pack whenever I hike.  I work on my knees when they feel inflamed; last night Kathe Ana helped me with an Achilles treatment to add to my repertoire.  Jason had a great “what in the hell?” look on his face when I did a little gua sha on a break during our last big hike, & continued munching on his granola.  Who knows?  Maybe he will become a fan.

Jason is away this week so today’s hike was a short & sweet one along the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls, Maryland.   A brief walk downstream along the towpath leads to the Billy Goat Trail “A” section.  This rocky trail commands your attention as you are hiking & climbing over roots & rocks.  The large rock with the diagonal crack is very fun to climb, especially with little lizards scampering all over the path.

Before climbing that big rock… (self portraits can be 0h-so-flattering!?)

Once off the trail, I enjoyed watching a blue heron come up from the canal, saunter across the towpath, & continue on into the woods after we stared at each other for a few minutes.  I lost count of the turtles & the fish in the canal.  It’s nice to see so much life.  The fish were big & as I watched them feed, I got the sense they were grateful that I did not have my fly rod with me.

Next time will be worth extending the length to hike more of the trail towards Angler’s Inn.  Today’s heat & humidity kept it brief.

I spent the week with my family in North Carolina, at our longtime favorite beach.  We caught up with family, built sand castles & steamed crabs daily.  This week’s training came in the form of beachcombing, biking, body surfing, crabbing, fishing, & walking around the island.    My Charlotte called one of our walks her very own paradise.  Imagine that.

This image is of me & the kids on our dock.  I am sneaking in a little fishing before heading out for dinner with my cousins.  My bluefish got away.

Mt. Marshall Trail to Appalachain Trail to Bluff Trail, back to Mt. Marshall trail to Route 622
18.6 miles, 6-1/2 hours
Today’s weather was sunny, hot , & quite humid.  The shady trails were awesome!
We began today’s adventure with Jason picking me up in Arlington at 5.30; by 7 this morning we were on the trail.  The first couple of miles were a steady uphill climb – a little unexpected but doable for sure.  We shared the feeling that we would see a bear today.  A bittersweet experience – fear, anticipation, excitement, & nerves all in one.  After seeing a few deer on the drive to Washington, we were ready!

We trekked onward & upward, appreciating the well shaded trail &  the green environs.  We’ve set a pattern to keep a swift pace & hydrate as we go.  This morning’s snack break came about 8 miles in.  Jason made some awesome bars & I made some granola that was quite tasty as well.  I’m happy to share the recipe!  Already sent it to Jason.
Back on the trail & our next nature experience was a large low-flying bird that we’ve seen on past hikes & are guessing is a pheasant?  A ruffed grouse?  It startled easily & seems to need a few attempts at flight to get going.  Anyone?  What was undoubtedly clear to us was the big 6′ black bear that rambled across the trail in front of us!  My heart stopped for a moment & I told Jason I had the urge to hold his hand but settled on his backpack for a moment.  After we cheered for ourselves & the bear sighting, we quickly recognized how humbling it is to see such a creature in his own environment.  WOW.  We saw our bear!

Not sure which was more of a challenge – walking up the Mt. Marshall trail first thing or walking down it at the end.  Thanks to my friend Tara for the hiking poles.  They were a big help.  The mutual feeling of accomplishment coupled with “Yes, I could do another 10 miles” was encouraging!
Today’s hike overall was great – up the mountain, down the mountain, rocks, streams, grasses, dirt, sand… loved it.  Ticks & all.  One each, not so bad, really.  We were back in Arlington to pick up Liam by 3:45 at Potomac Overlook, & then Sophie at 4 at Long Branch.  Nice.

(I got a new backpack – Osprey Talon 11 – & tested it today.  Awesome.  Loved it.  Thanks to the nice guy at REI, Andreas.  He was patient & helpful & offered much information.  I had a full 3 liter Platypus bladder packed in there – perfect amount of water – along with my trusty first aid kit, snacks & a couple other random smalls.  Jason wears the Osprey Talon 22 & is pretty keen on his as well.)

Looking forward to figuring out what’s next!


Hi. Welcome to our Crooked Trail 100 blog.  We will be using this forum to talk about all things related to our big hike the weekend of September 17-18-19, 2011.

So, here is a little background information as to why we are putting our rapidly aging bodies through this physical and mental test….As a general fan of the outdoors, I had spent time in the SNP at various points throughout my life. Be it an overnight backcountry trip with friends back in college, fly-fishing on one of the streams, or just a short hike with friends and family on one of the many trails. I always loved the fact that we had a prominent National Park so close to my home in Northern Virginia .  Up until about 18 months ago, the Shenandoah Nat’l Park was merely an acquaintance, a friend that I would visit a couple times a year at most.  However, in December 0f 2009 ( as I was quickly approaching my 40th birthday), I made the commitment to climb Mt Rainier (something I had wanted to try for a long time!) and needed a  training ground for my big climb.  I started using the park on a very regular basis, more or less hitting the various trails every Monday as I prepared my legs and lungs for the Rainier climb. Well, that acquaintance turned quickly into a close friend as I explored hundreds of miles of park trails, hollows, and mountaintops.

However, there was one training hike in particular that gave me the idea for the Crooked Trail 100. Last June, I decided to hike the entire length of the Northern section of the AT (27 miles) in one day. Starting in Chester Gap, I hiked to Thornton Gap in about 12 hours . After completing that hike, I felt pretty good and said that I would someday try and do the 101 miles (from Rockfish Gap to Chester Gap) in a short period of time.  I also knew I wanted to somehow give back to the park, as it is such a great resource and so close to the DC Metro area.  I contacted the great folks at the SNP Trust and it just so happened that they were starting the 100 Mile Club this year.  We thought this would make a great kick start to the program and give me chance to try the 100 mile hike and raise money for the park at the same time.

So….I mentioned the idea to my good friend Kelly and she was on board from the get-go. She is an avid walker and we had hiked together in the past a couple times.  She has also expressed interest in doing something challenging as this year she too becomes a member of the (gulp!) quadragenarian club.  We plan on doing training hikes together when we can, and of course on our own.  Hopefully, by the time September 17th rolls around, we will be  good to go.

Please check back on our blog as we post about our training hikes, logistics, gear, and more or less anything related to our challenging hike in September.  Feel free to leave comments and we will respond as best we can. And finally, please, please help us reach our fundraising goal by donating to the Crooked Trail 100!

Oh, one other thing–where did we we come up with the name Crooked Trail 100? Well, it comes from this quote I read by the author (and controversial environmentalist) Edward Abbey:

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds…”

Whether you agree or disagree with Mr. Abbey’s philosophy, you have to admit it is a great quote…..

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