A few weeks ago I decided to go hike and lets just say that didn’t happen. Since my last hike turned into a beer adventure, I decided to try again for a hike. I knew it was going to rain in the morning but by the afternoon it was going to be clear and 71 as a high. The fatal flaw in this plan was that was the weather for my house. I figured that since Shenandoah National Park is to the west of my house, it would stop raining sooner out there and shouldn’t be a problem. Next time I need to check the weather in the park not just my house.
I got a late start, like always, and drove the couple hours to get to the park entrance at Thorton Gap. Looking through my hiking book I wanted to hike Hazel Falls and Cave, it sounded like a pretty good hike, little over 5 miles out and back nothing terrible. I should have known when the park ranger at the entrance said it was free admission to celebrate the park service 100th anniversary things would be packed. The lot for Hazel Falls was jammed with no available parking even along the road. This just meant a quick change of plans and onto the next parking lot. Because my first choice was taken, I was going to settle for any open lot I could park at.
I had to travel another 10 miles into the park before I found a place to park and start my hike. When I got out of my car, I didn’t even know what trail I was near and had to rely on the map at the trial head to tell me where I was and what my options where. It ended up being a trail to the top of Stony Man mountain which was good with me, I love hiking up mountains for the views from the top.
The trail itself was rather busy for such a crappy day. I can only imagine it was because of the free admission, it certainly wasn’t the weather that was bringing everyone out that day. The first section was pretty strenuous with a lot of switch backs to make it up the mountain. I would say about a third of the way up the trail there is a large cliff section, with all the fog you couldn’t see much of anything but it was still amazing. I was sitting on the edge and while I couldn’t see much, I could see the wind pushing the fog and as it hit the side of the mountain, it was getting pushed up the cliff. It was really cool to see the power of the wind with the fog. It was almost like tracks racing up the mountain, you really had to be there. When I was finished I ran into another couple that thought I had a wing suit and was going to jump off. I might be crazy but I’m not stupid.
The rest of the trail was pretty moderate. Near the top of the mountain the trail starts to split off with no signage which sucks. I honestly thought I was going to get lost but eventually I did find the summit of the mountain. Just like the cliff I found lower on the mountain, fog obscured the entire view of the valley. Regardless, I found a nice seat along the edge of the mountain and just hanged out for a while. Here it was still windy but I couldn’t see the fog rolling through like further down on the cliff. I believe there is path that wraps around the base of the mount and connects to the trail lower down but they had this section closed off for a bird sanctuary.
Having spent my time on the mountain it was time to head home. With all the crappy weather it finally decided to rain when I was about half way down the trail. The week before I left my rain jacket at the beach and have been cursing that ever since. I certainly could have used my rain jacket that day but it was fine. A nice hike with lots of people the day I went. I really would like to go back on a clear day and really get a view from the top, hopefully it will also be not as busy but its nice to see so many people outside enjoy the national park system.
We got a late start to the Nova BrewFest summer edition in Manassas. For a while this festival alternated between Leesburg and Manassas but recently they have given up on Leesburg. All week we watched as the weather forecast turned for the worst and the likelihood of a summer thunderstorm growing with each passing day. When we finally got out there on Saturday we hoped for the rain in fact. It was so freaking hot it was unbelievable. It was the last day of spring so hopefully this was not a prelude to what summer would be in the area.
We didn’t arrive till just after noon and meet up with a few friends already at the festival. This time I remembered to bring cigars to immediately lite one up before getting to the beer. The lines this early were short so we walked right up for our first beer. In fact all afternoon the lines were non-existent. I think the high heat and humidity along with the almost certain chance of a summer afternoon thunderstorm kept most people at home.
Bad for everyone else but good for us. Occasionally the breeze would blow and later in the afternoon the clouds started to role in providing some much needed relief from the heat. The 89 degree temp wasn’t that bad in the shade but with the sun beating down and the 60% humidity it made it tough. Thankfully I brought my CamelBak and between Nancy and I we emptied it with a few hours left to go in the festival. Without that water I don’t know how I would have made it.
We spent the next few hours sampling some decent beers. Many of the brewers at the Brambleton beer festival a few weeks before were at the NovaBrew festival. Unfortunately this meant many of the same beers. I found and stopped by Crooked Run and they had the same beers as before. Not to be disappointed I did get a sample of the Summer Nights to enjoy.
This festival winner was the Tin Cannon Double IPA which I gave a 4 stars. A great double IPA that had a good amount of hops and bitterness but not really a dry flavor to it. With almost 8% alcohol it didn’t have that typical alcohol taste to it either. More of a citrus taste from the hops, skipping the floral notes.
We have attended this festival a few times in the past. The bowl where the stage sits in is great with all the beer and food vendors at the top. Being on a large hill you get some spectacular views of the mountains in the distance. You can also tell when the storms are rolling in. This years festival had a much better choice of local brews with roughly 60% being from Virginia or Washington DC. The weather could have been better and by better I mean cooler. So far this year, two beer festivals. Wonder if I can make it three in a single year?
I wanted to get out of the house for a while and decided to hike up Old Rag. I think the last time I did this was a few years ago with my brother and Matt. I know it is rather fare up the mountain but once you get to the top the views totally make it worth the effort getting there. Even though it was still technically spring, the day was going to be hot and I should have left earlier but I didn’t. I think I got to the parking lot around 9:30 and I could tell it was already to late.
The trail for the most part is tree covered and provides excellent shade. Not until you get to the rock scramble and the summit are you exposed to the sun. The short walk from the parking lot to the trail head was a precursor to what was to come. It was hot and the humidity was almost unbearable. Getting up the mountain taking the rock scramble I had to stop about a dozen times for breaks. I am not as young or in shape as I once was and the mountain kicked my ass.
The air was sweet with strawberries and other fruits near the base of the mountain. It changed as I head up the mountain. Already hot in the sun however the shade is nice and cool. Humidity not yet that bad in the shade, excellent breeze through the trees in these lower elevations. Sound of stream or river to the right. Birds chirping to the early morning sun rise. I had forgotten what it was like to be out in the woods, surrounded by nature. The tranquility out here is great. Even though this is a well travel hike I still managed to find myself alone most of the time.
At least when I took breaks further up the mountain I got some great views. Once you get above the tree line the views are amazing. I would take breaks on rock out cropping and soak up the view, trying to stay in the shade as much as possible. One thing that is tricky this far up the mountain is following the trail. There are markers but at one point I found myself lost. I squeezed through a narrow passageway to a rock ledge and realized I was on the wrong path. Across a ravine I could see the trail markers. Here I decided to take another break and watch the other hikers as they made their way up the mountain.
Finally getting to the summit it was a bit crowded. I found a nice spot to relax overlooking the valley and ate my lunch. I wish I could have stayed longer but if I wanted to make it home at a reasonable hour I needed to get going. It must have taken me 4 hours to get to the top. On the way down I decided to complete the loop and took the fire road. It is a longer trip but I was exhausted and didn’t want to do the rock scramble back down.
A little over halfway down the mountain I ran out of water. The two litters I had went quickly and I wish I had brought a bottle with me. I managed to trudge along down the winding fire road back to the parking lot. I had a bottle of water stashed in my car, it was hot as crap but I almost finished the 1-litter of water I was so thirsty. I also made it back just in time as I could see storm clouds rolling in from the south east.
I drove home for the most part in the rain. My legs where tired and I was still thirsty but it was a good hike up Old Rag. Finally sitting in my car it made me realize how out of shape I really am. I would like to think I will work out more to be better prepared but that wont happen. I am still make it up the mountain and glad I can. The views from the top are great and worth all the blood and sweet.
Nancy had an afternoon party to attend so I went hiking in the Shenandoah Nation Park. The weather lately has been something awful, can’t make up its mind to be spring or hold onto winter for one more week. This morning it was below freezing when I left the house, 25 degrees in fact. The top of the mountain wasn’t much warmer than that even in the late afternoon sun.
For such a cold day the trail is busier than I would have thought. Nothing has bloomed and it is just above freezing at the moment, yet there are lots of people out hiking. Several have dogs and most are hiking with their families. The third largest falls must be worth it if this many people are out on a day like this. So far the hike has been all downhill. Not great for my knees but I figure I can at least save my energy for the walk back up the mountain to my car. This particular trail is an out and back, down to the falls and then back up the mountain.
At least being this cold there are lots of frozen streams and portions of the waterfalls. I have been to the park a couple of times already this year and never once have I seen frozen water like this. Just an odd presence to see it this early in spring. The days are getting longer and warming, the trees know this and have already started to bud.
The first overlook is about 1.6 miles from the lot. Not a clear view but a nice one looking down the valley to farm pastures. You can sorta see where the falls are down in the valley. Here I started a cigar while I took a few moments to enjoy the view, and solitude off the trail as well. The downhill decent isn’t to bad on my lungs so I can enjoy a cigar till I get to the base of the waterfall.
About another mile and you start heading up the rocks to the base of the falls. Took another opportunity to relax and finish my cigar, listen to the roar of the water over the rocks. I must say, very peaceful down here. Temps have warmed up a bit as well. Clear blue sky all over the place. I was the second person to arrive at the falls and by the time I left, the place was filling up fast. I took a spot right at the base of the falls which offered some great views.
My fun for the day was over so I headed back up the mountain and back to my car. The weather was cold but it didn’t feel that bad. Even though the trail was busy I managed to find several spots to sit and enjoy the views. Now if spring would finally get here so forest can bloom and then become really amazing.
First real beautiful weekend of the year. At home it was going to be in the low 70’s with no rain and a good breeze. Nancy suggested I take a hike and I jumped at the chance to get outside for the first hike of the year. I stopped by REI to pickup some new gear and got a book on hikes in the Shenandoah National Park. A nice drive through the the Virginia countryside with the windows down and music blasting, I was in the park.
I got to the parking lot for Little Devils Stairs around 10am and it was cold on top of the mountain. At home it was going to be in the 70’s on the mountain it was 50. I started to think I should have brought a hat or a jacket. For this hike I was going to hike down Little Devils Stairs and then come up the fire road. Going downhill is always tough on my knees and wanted get that over first.
It was a busy day on the trails as I kept passing a ton of people coming up the stairs as I was going down. It was a challenge climbing down the trails as it was steep and narrow. With the recent rain the stream was fast flowing and covered many of the rocks making it dangerous to hike. At the top there where literally 100′ rock cliffs on each side. It was crazy seeing these huge cliff faces. At the bottom there was also a rock wall from an old farmstead long before the land became a park.
At the bottom I took the opportunity to eat my lunch and take a break. While I had hiked at least four miles, the long hike up the fire road was still to come. Not far up the fire road there is an old family cemetery. Most of the tombstones where destroyed and worn. Those that I could make out were mostly from the 1920’s, again, before the land was made into a park.
The only thing that I didn’t take into account was how far along spring was in the park. At home the tulips have bloomed and the trees have sprung their buds. I was hoping for a similar scene but forgot the mount is much cooler than home and therefore a few weeks behind. I will just have to come back later to see the forest in full spring bloom.
Four hours and 9 miles later I was back at my car. I took the opportunity for a long break and more food before heading home. The weather was still beautiful so it was windows down and the music up for the two hour drive home.