Tag Archives: national park

One of the many national parks scattered around the country, run by one of the many governmental agencies (Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, etc…)

A Naturalists Play Ground

After a quick stop at Rushmore and getting my car in working order I started making my way to Yellowstone.  Things didn’t work out to well in terms of lodging the first night but the second night I was able to camp at Mommoth Hot Springs. Very impressive place. I could spend weeks here and not see the same thing twice. Did a rather flat hike to Cascade Lake in the north and climbed Purple Mountain near the south and yes, I caught Old Faithful. 

The Badlands Not So Bad

The Badlands might not be bad but they are certainly hot in the mid 80’s with no shade for miles.  This place has a strange beauty to its ugliness. This park is really more about the geological structures which are pretty neat. Some good overlooks.  Got clouded out for sunset one night but I am sure it looks amazing here.  Camping at Sage Creek is a nice remote place.  Actually caught a meteor shower on Saturday night which was cool.  So peaceful that night.  The Castle Trail is no joke so be prepared if you are going in the summer time with high heat.  Bring lots of water with you!

Summit of Hawksbill

I had to travel to Atlanta on Sunday to get an office setup so later that same week I took Thursday off.  For a June day the weather wasn’t that bad so I headed to the Shenandoah for a hike.  I figured middle of the week the trails would be less traveled and I could get in one of the more popular hikes without much hassle.

Not the best view from Birds Nest shelter.

A while back I hiked up Hawksbill and it didn’t go so well.  The park was smashed with people that beautiful spring weekend.  When I finally found a place to park it was on the backside of the mountain.  Quickly I made it to the summit and it was smashed with people so I just skipped it.

This time I was able to park in the main lot at the start of the loop.  I choose to take the slow and steady approach to climbing the mountain.  One thing to always remember when hiking is the weather.  When I checked it was going to be a no rain kinda day.  As often happens I check the weather for where I am, not where I am going and it bit me in the butt again.  This time the one tiny rain cloud in the entire state of Virginia was centered on my location as I hiked up Hawksbill.  The one good thing about the rain was it was never to heavy.  The trees helped blocked a lot of the rain as well and that allowed something really cool to happen.  The entire hike up the mountain I was in a real life relaxation sound  track like you would find in the App Store.  With so few people on the trail all I could hear was the rain falling through the leaves and it was amazing.  It was raining but the misery of being soaked faded as I focused on the sounds of nature.

Once I made it to the top the mountain was pretty fogged in.  Thankfully with so few people at the summit I was able to hang out for a while in peace.  Over time the summit kinda cleared for brief periods you could see the valley below.  More importantly it had stopped raining so it was nice sitting on the edge of the mountain.

This is also the highest point in the park so a very popular hike.  Hence my frustration the first time I tried to tackle this mountain. Hawksbill is rather an impressive hike in the sense that it is the highest point in the park.  I wouldn’t say it has the best view but they are pretty decent.  If you can hike this when there are less people definitely take advantage of the empty trail.  You can find longer, more elevation change, and better views with other trails in the park that are generally less traveled.  Still a solid hike and a great day out.

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.

 

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.