Tag Archives: Virginia

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.

The Battle of New Market 153 Years Later

When my brother and I were young my dad would take us on these weekend excursions to Civil War battlefields.  Never really sure if this was a hobby of his or just something he thought would be cool to do with his two sons.  For whatever reason we went to many battle fields over the years and it stuck with me.  Not so much the love of the Civil War but the love of traveling and getting the most out of a vacation.  A vacation should be relaxing but it can also be educational as well.  These trips I think help sparked my curiosity and love of learning.

When I was traveling down to Asheville for The New Mastersounds and beer I found a few spots on the side of the road that looked interesting.  One of them was the Virginia Museum of the Civil War in New Market.  When I finally got around to checking out their website I noticed they had their annual reenactment later in May.  I asked my brother initially on Mother’s Day if he wanted to go.  I thought it would be something cool to do with him and the kids.  He initially said no but by late in the week he was on board but keeping the kids at home.

The park had activities all day but we only cared about the reenactment which was happening at 1 in the open field.  Almost on the dot we hear the loud boom of the cannons signaling the start of the battle.  It was really cool how they played it all out.  They stated way off to the left of the field and battled initially with little forces right in the middle of the tall grass.  The battle progressed just like they would have in the real battle, just on a smaller scale.

Different phases of the battle raged around the structures, the orchard, open field and tree line.  Eventually the Confederates charge the Union line breaking it and winning the battle.  This is certainly over simplified but the end result is the same. It was really cool seeing all the people firing the guns and acting in real life what could have happened all those years ago.

All in all it was a solid hour of reenacting which was great.  With the black powder guns and the humidity in the air the smoke would just hang covering the field of battle. I can’t imagine a humid summer day wearing a heavy wool uniform with thousands of guns firing. In the end the VMI cadets make a valiant charge to capture a Union artillery battlement.

It was a long drive out the museum so after the battle we didn’t stay long.  We went up to the museum for a few minutes to walk around.  Saw part of a documentary about the battle while we cooled off.  We were so tired from standing outside and me double so because of the previous late night before.

As an adult I have never been in to reenactments.  Seeing one now not much has changed from when I was a kid.  Now the crowds are smaller and I think the participants are becoming older and fewer.  If you haven’t been, I recommend going at least once before they themselves fade away into history.


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.



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.

Vanish Farmwoods Brewery

Vanish Cranberry Gose
Vanish Cranberry Gose

Nothing like a visit to a brewery on a crisp fall day. Nancy had been here once shortly after they opened but I had never been. Being just a few miles north of Leesburg it is in rural Virginia with some peaceful views of the surrounding mountains.

Vanish Farmwoods Brewery is a working farm so as you drive up to the place you pass by their hop fields. Not sure exactly how many acres or what types they grow but I know they use it in their own beers. I have noticed a growing trend of farmers turning into brewers or vice versa. To me it seems like a logical choice as getting the right type and amount of hops has been becoming more difficult of late. You also get to control all aspects of the process when you grow it yourself. Another trend I have see which Vanish takes advantage of is using wet hops in various recipe.

Outside there is a large area with benches and on a nicer days it would b perfect sitting outside with friends drinking beer. Inside there are a ton more benches sorta like a traditional beer hall. When they designed this place they certainly made it big enough to accommodate large crowds. The bar itself is huge with ample space for people to buy beer without a line. There is even a section just for walk up service to make things quick and easy. In the back corner there is a BBQ joint which is nice. It is technical a “food truck” but is a permanent installation. One of the bar tenders mentioned that as soon as something is nailed down, the law governing it change.

A rather large beer hall.
A rather large beer hall.

So the beer. The menu was huge with a good variety of flavors. There lineup is certainly IPA heavy but I think they do it rather well. There is a large variety of IPA sub-styles which Vanish certainly had enough to choose from. There had dark ones, salty ones, high alcohol, and not surprisingly a regular old india pale ale as well. Certainly high marks for their creativity and flavor. I would like to know more about the farm to beer process they employee and sample some of the more limited seasonal varieties around harvest time.

Another great beer find around Leesburg . The setting is great with a large venue and a huge selection of beer. They have regular live music and with the onsite BBQ joint there is no reason you can’t spend hours drinking beers with friends. While the day was not quite over we hit up Barnhouse Brewery on the way home for one last flight to cap the day.