March 19th 2020. First day of spring and while this should be a festive time celebrating new beginnings and the coming bounty is just all seems weird. Covid-19 is taking over and lots of people are fearful and panic. Nature doesn’t care. She moves to her own drum and right now its the first day of spring. The weather perfect. Mostly clear with the sun still out shining brightly later in the afternoon. It was even hot with temps in the low 60’s. Reminds me there are a lot of good things in this world.
Many of the stores around my neighborhood are closed. Others that can stay open are but you can tell they are hurting for business. We will get through this but we must do it together.
Spring is finally here and the weather is only slightly getting better but this weekend it was pretty good and I was going stir crazy. When you get a good weekend weather in March you take advantage of it while you can.
I wanted to get outside and do a hike some place I had never been before. I grabbed my trust hiking guild and found the Deschutes River State Recreation Area. The park follows the Deshutes Rivers for several miles and includes the area where it dumps into the Columbia River. It has your typical outdoor activities like fishing and camping.
I was interested in the hiking and found a decent length trail to Ferry Springs. What my book didn’t show me, nor the map at the park, was the elevation change. First hike of the season and I was not prepared for the hike up the hill. Near the mouth of the Columbia there are several trails that parallel each other. Two are hiking trails and another is an access road so you have options on how difficult a hike you want.
A fire burned through the area and is the dominate feature at the start of the high. It doesn’t matter what trail you take all you see is burnt vegetation and dry dirt. Life is slowly starting to come back with some brushes surviving and trying to grow back. Grass is starting to go in patch and should takeover rather quickly. Another good size was seeing animal tracks in the dirt.
When it comes to getting to Ferry Springs it is at the top of one of the hills. The climb up was more then I was expecting but worth it once you get to the top. Because of land ownership it appears the start of the actual spring is not in the park but just outside it. The better view is just sitting on the hillside looking out towards the value. All across the valley spring was starting to bloom. Just some low grass in places but no flowers yet. I am sure as the season progresses the valley will become abundant with life.
A nice little park that has a really long trail along the lower section of the Deschutes River. They also offer camping which would be nice. I can imagine that sunrise and sunset in the valley along the river is pretty nice.
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.