Loudoun Heights Trail April 2017

The week before I was in Harpers Ferry with my brother and his kids.  One thing I saw was there are a couple of moderate hikes within a close distance of the town.  The town is the focal point and some of the trails loop around the surrounding mountains.  The town is located along the Appalachian Trail which is pretty cool.  Bringing a diverse crowd of hikes throughout the summer months.  This week the weather was perfect so I wanted to get in a good hike to a place I had never hiked before.

From my house to Harpers Ferry isn’t very far but parking did prove to be a challenge.  Before I even started my hike I had to take a bus down to the city center and hike to the trail head.  The Loudoun Heights Trail starts at a small parking lot off Rt 340.  From there you cross over the Shenandoah River and start making your way up the mountain.  Next the hike has two directions you can take to Split Rock which is the end of the trail.  I would say this is an out and back but you can loop around between Split Rock and the Appalachian Trail.  I am not for certain but I think the loop covers both sides of the mountain if you take it.

The Loudoun Heights Trail splits off the Appalachian Trail and turned into a pretty serious hike up the mountain.  Something I wasn’t prepared for to be honest.  It was probably 400 to 600′ elevation change but once you get near the top of the mountain things smoothed out.  Part of the trail follows some power lines which offer several overlook opportunities.  Unfortunately many of these are partially blocked by trees.  The final overlook along the power lines is right where the power lines make a hard left and go down the mountain towards the river and across to Maryland.  At this final spot there is a small rock outcropping which offers a great view looking down the mountain.  It was crazy sitting there looking down the mountain.  I will say one thing about this spot, it is used by vultures to perch and shit all over the place.  You have been warned.

The Shenandoah River just before it merges with the Potomac River.

Not long after following the power lines you come to the end of the line at Split Rock.  Here there is a great view of Harpers Ferry, the river, and Maryland.  I found a nice rock and sat and just enjoyed the view for a while.  I love hiking, I do it as often as I can.  What I really love about hiking is the destination.  The journey is great but I love getting to the final spot and just sitting.  Taking in the natural beauty around me and if possible, just listen to the sounds of nature.  The soundtrack of my life is pretty chaotic.  Getting out in nature and hearing what the “real world” sounds like is amazing to me.  I am always awed by the natural beauty surrounding me when I hike.

After spending way to much time at Split Rock it was time to start heading back.  The trail is actually a loop so I finished the loop on the other side of the mountain.  Going down this was was pretty easy which was nice.  Most of the trail follows the ridge line and then it is literally all down hill after that.  By the time I reached the bus stop I was pooped and so happy I didn’t have to walk back to my car.  I could sit in comfort for the couple minutes it took to reach the visitor center.

A very good hike that starts right in Harpers Ferry up to a great overlook of the town.  Most picture you have ever seen of the town are taken from this spot so while you might know what it looks like.  There is nothing like actually being there and seeing it for yourself.


Winter Brewery Tour

Black Walnut Brewery

Not exactly the worst winter we have had.  In all it only snowed once all season which really sucked.  Just because it didn’t snow doesn’t mean it wasn’t cold.  Saturday was a perfect day to do a brewery tour.  We started by fueling our body with some kick ass tacos from Bartaco before heading to Lake Anne Brew House.  Not the easiest place to find but it was the closest to lunch and we had never been there before.  Nothing real special about the beer but an interesting location with some potential.  The Cold-Brew Coffee and Simon’s Stout was the perfect thing to get my going first thing in the afternoon.

Next up we headed out to Leesburg.  I knew there were several we had not tried and I remember seeing two new ones being built.  We got a recommendation for Black Walnut Brewing and it was a winner.  The brewery is a small house in the back of the lot.  When we walked in the place was packed and noisy as crap.  The rooms are tiny and with a few people talking everyone just tries to talk over each other.  We eventually went to the bar and spent a long time here.  The bartender was cool as shit and a regular had us cracking up.  The beer here was much better then Lake Anne with a good strange variety offered.

Crooked Run Shadow of Truth

Late in the afternoon we stopped at one last spot, Crooked Run Brewing.  This is a personal favorite of mine since I first found this place.  Their beers are very eclectic and challenge my palate which I really love.  It was late and a long afternoon of drinking so we didn’t stay here very long.  It was a Saturday night and the place was absolutely smashed with people.  We did however find out they opened a new location in Sterling which was much bigger.  The Sterling location would become their main brewery with the Leesburg being I think for small batch or maybe it was sours, I don’t remember.

I can’t think of to many better ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.  One thing I really like about this area is the number of brewers and the quality of much of their work.



Harpers Ferry with the Family

It’s not often that I get a call my brother.  Even less frequent is him asking to get together and do something.  This Sunday he just needed out of the house so he grabbed the kids, picked me up and we headed to Harpers Ferry for the afternoon.  I haven’t been there since I was a kid for a school field trip.  I honestly don’t remember much about that trip other then driving down a small section of Rt 304 on the way there.  I remember the tree lined road and I believe it was fall because of the color.

This was the first good weekend in spring and everyone and the mother was out enjoying the weather.  After the kerfuffle of finding a place to park we took the park bus to down town and started walking around.  Olivia didn’t much care where we went but Erwin was all about finding some skeletons.  Thankfully on the top of the hill there was a church and what we hoped would be a grave yard.  Unfortunately hiking up there we didn’t find any graves but all day we walked around looking for skeletons.  Thought we found some in the root cellars and then the old house but no luck.

Harpers Ferry was absolutely packed with people so it made visiting some of the shops and finding some food a bit tricky.  The first place we couldn’t get any service, the second was just to crowded and the wait to long.  Finally we found Potomac Grille and sat on the deck.  When we walked in there was no one so I immediately got worried thinking we struck out again but it turned out everyone was just outside.  We also stopped in a small gift shop because I saw a sign for beer.  I ended up walking out with a cold size pack of fresh West Virginia craft beer from two different breweries.  After lunch we found a candy shop that sold items from the 1700, 1800, and 1900’s which was cool.  I just had to find out what sweet treats were like back when.  Much blander back then and a lot more simple.  We got some candied orange and lemon rind which were interesting, some chocolate which tastes just like it does today but coated in cinnamon and a few other odds and ends.

With the two little ones we really couldn’t get out and explore to much.  It was still a great afternoon out with the family.  Seeing them run around with a curiosity in their eye for the world around them was pretty amazing.  On the drive home both kids were passed out from the long day of activities.  This allowed Stephen and I to catch up some while we hunted for a house he was looking to buy.  A great afternoon out.  I only wish we could do it more often.

The Bad Plus April 1st 2017 The Barns at Wolf Trap

On the weekend I love having a cup of coffee and reading The Post.  This is especially true here in spring.  The sun is up and the morning air has a crispness to it that you don’t get any other time of year.  That morning chill in the air is great after coming off the miserable weather of winter.  Today there just happened to be an advertisement for The Barns at Wolf Trap and it was The Bad Plus playing on April Fools day.

I have not seen a jazz show in such a long time so I was excited they where playing.  Its funny how things can sometimes just work out.  The last time I saw them was at the 2010 Rosslyn Jazz Festival and before that at the 2009 Newport Jazz Festival.  Both of course large festivals with multiple acts so being able to catch them in such a small venue for a full set was a real treat.

I got to the venue not long before the show started and the place was pretty packed.  I got my seat the day of the show and it was almost sold out when I got mine.  There where only 8 or so seats left in the entire place which was cool.  This time around I was in the balcony and I don’t know if that had anything to do with the acoustics or not but I could hear a pin drop from up there.  This really made the music stand out.  In fact I don’t think the drums needed much of a mic rig as they were plenty loud just by themselves.

The entire night was a good mix of the bands musical styles.  Between songs Reid would do the banter and usually named the song and who composed it.  Once thing I quickly found was I enjoyed more the compositions by drummer Dave King.  His stuff is just much more funky and avant-garde then his band mates.  Another thing I noticed was Reid did all banter and it just seemed like he was trying to hard.  He had some good one liners now and then but he often struggled to connect with the audience.  In these situations I am a fan of letting the music do the talking.

Great last minute concert from the Weekend section in The Post.  All afternoon I was doing training so the concert was a welcome mental break and a good reason to get out of the house.  I don’t see jazz bands very often so this was also a special treat.  Unfortunately this also breaks my streak of seeing concerts outside my local area.  Widespread Panic on Sept. 7th 2016 was my last local show.  Six bands in six states since then.  That has to be some sort of record for myself.  I don’t much like my job right now but I will say this, it allow me to do what I really love which is concerts and traveling so its not all bad.

Marys Rock March 2017

I knew the trail would be bad. I had no idea it would be this bad.

I needed to get out of the house for a few hours for reason that are not important.  There are a couple of ways I like to kill time, beer and hiking.  Today I choose a hike since it has been late fall since my last hike.  In the winter months around here it can be quite nasty and not worth getting outside to hike.  The forecast mentioned a possibility of afternoon rain and a high in the mid-50’s.  Not great, but also not to horrible.  On the mountain its colder but as long as you are prepared the cold doesn’t have to be a problem.

As I arrived at the 211 entrance I could see thick storm clouds enveloping the mountain to my left.  Despite the very real potential for rain I decided to just keep going.  All over the mountain there was still a thick layer of snow on the ground.  I was hoping it would have melted a little more but it was fine.  As I started up the mountain I quickly realize how much my boots are not water proof.  They are very old and have hundreds of miles and yet for reasons unknown I still haven’t replaced them.  It just made hiking the mountain a little more interesting.  The best I could I tried to hike on the exposed rocks.  This at least kept me out of the puddles of ice cold water that had started to collect.

The weather was the biggest thing to deal with while on the mountain.  Not long after I got going it started to rain but thankfully nothing serious.  Later when I finally had cell service I checked the weather radar.  The storm I originally saw when coming in split the mountain I hiked.  By the time I made it near the top of the mountain I could see the weather was changing again for the worse.  I did manage to find a clear spot near the top that allowed me to get a pretty good shot of the valley.  Not far from here is where I planted myself for a while to relax on the rocks.  I spent a little longer then I should have sitting around.  Eventually I noticed the clouds coming from behind me around the mountain.  The top of the mountain was splitting the clouds in half so they were coming from both my left and my right.  After a few minutes it dawned on me that the weather was coming from my back and when I turned around a storm was quickly approaching.

I gathered my crap and headed down the mountain as quickly as I could.  Coming up was pretty difficult but I knew that going down would be harder.  I would have to follow the same path but the snow made the trail slippery.  I was constantly worried about losing my footing and slipping on the rocks.  Just as I made it to my car it started to rain.  I had enough time to get my boots off and then the heavens opened up.  It was actually pretty incredible as it rained all the way home.  While I was sitting in my car I noticed a group of hikers to my left.  At first I thought they just an overnight and where packing to leave the park.  By the time I left I realized they where actually getting read to head into the forest.  I love camping but hiking or camping in the rain sucks.  Good love them for doing it however.

I knew the weather wouldn’t cooperate with me and that the trail would be a mess but I didn’t let it discourage me.  That day I actually ran into a lot more people then I expected for such a crappy day.  One couple in fact was out hiking with their 6-month old baby which was pretty cool.  This hike was only a couple hours but the view near the top was pretty kick ass.  Makes me eager for nicer weather and the opportunity to get out for more hiking.