Tag Archives: winter

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.

Rapidan Camp and Hazeltop Loop

rapidan_camp_mnt_3_2015-13Technically a really late winter hike in the wood. I believe spring started in only a few days. While not all that cold the ground was still we from the early morning frost. The upper part of the trail was certainly wet and not until later down the hill did this trail dry out.

Starting from the main road you head down the mountain. The trail sloops down the mountain to Rapidan Camp which was originally occupied by President Hoover. The camp is right next to the intersection of two streams and offered Hoover exactly what he was looking for in trout fishing. Hoover wanted a summer retreat that he only had to step feet to a good trout stream.

Carefully on your way to the camp. Just past the small falls you have to cross the creek. The trail blaze is not well marked and I missed the cross over. I made my own trek through the woods and quickly realized I lost the trail as the terrain got more treacherous. Doubling back I found the trail and then the camp. Three historic building that have been full restored, the NPS offers rangers programs that talk in depth about the cabin. From the camp you get some really nice views of the surrounding mountains.

Looking up at one of the mountain tops from Rapidan Camp. No wonder Hoover made a mountain retreat here.
Looking up at one of the mountain tops from Rapidan Camp. No wonder Hoover made a mountain retreat here.

From the camp I followed the trail a little further down the mountain before catching back up with the Appalachian Trail. This portion of the trail takes you to the submit of Hazeltop Mountain. Finally the trail got difficult as I headed up the mountain. At the submit there are some pretty amazing views of either side of the mountain. The trail literally bisects the top of the mountain. When I got to the top the sun hung low in the horizon and offered some great views even with the slight cloud cover.

I think this loop was about 7 mile in length. The first part is all downhill as you head toward the camp. This offers a great picnic area for those looking to extend their hike. Continuing up the loop reaches the submit of Hazeltop Mountain and its great view. Moderate hike but totally worth it.

Hightop Mountain January 2015

hightop_mnt_1_2015-03It was MLK day and my company was off but Nancy had to work.  I took this opportunity to do a little hiking in the Shenandoah.  It has probably been a year since I hiked someplace in Virginia.  I have done hiked while on vacation but have not hiked any local trails for a long time.  Living in Loudoun county now, I am much closer to the Shenandoah National Park.  I took this opportunity to visit a trail in the southern section of the park.

hightop_mnt_1_2015-08The day was cold and windy which I hope would keep most people off the mountain and the trail empty. One nice thing about hiking in winter is you never get hot. In fact you have to be careful not to sweat because you could freeze.  Near the top of the mountain in the shade I actually could find patches of snow lingering around.

From the parking lot I headed down the trail. I went in the direction I thought I was supposed to but after about an hour of hiking down the trail, I heard a strange sound. After taking a second to listen I realized I went the wrong way from the parking lot. I in fact was headed away from the summit! My first clue should have been how easy the hike was, it was mostly downhill. I was pissed I wasted so much time going down the trail because I knew I would just have to hike back up it. I quickly turned around and headed back up the hill.

what ever you do, take care of your shoe
what ever you do, take care of your shoe

After what seemed like an eternity I made it back to my starting point and started the actual hike up the mountain. It was a peaceful hike up, I didn’t run into to many others who ventured out to the park that day. Eventually I made it to the first over look. The views were nice of the valley but the wind was really whipping around at the top. I spent only a few minutes here before heading to the second overlook and the summit of the mountain. Here the view was much better but the wind made it unbearable for any length of time to enjoy the view. Another couple I found at the summit was hungered down behind some rocks enjoying a picnic.  Only crazy people would expose themselves in this weather.

I decided to head back to the second overlook and relax here for a while.  The view wasn’t as good, the trees are a little overgrown obstructing the valley, but it was a little less windy.  Still froze my nuts off but the view was worth it.  It was great just to relax for a while and enjoy the scenery on a quite afternoon in the park.  When I was done I was surprised at how quickly I hiked down the mountain and back to my car.  What seemed to take forever going up, I descended in approximately 30 minutes.  I think what skewed my perception of time was hiking all the way up the trail from my earlier mistake.

A worthy hike with not a lot of traffic on the trail this fine winter afternoon.  The views at the top where great but the biting wind made it a little unbearable to stay for any extended period of time.  I can see coming back in spring or summer and really enjoying the views from the top.

Prince William Forest December 2012

a tombstone I found
a tombstone I found

Photo Gallery

I use to hike often, traveling the great state of Virginia to hike new trails and old favorites.  Recently, I have not been able to get outside as much as I once did.  Responsibilities have changed and I just haven’t made the time like I use to.  On Sunday Nancy had to take two finals so I hopped in my car and headed to Prince William Forest for a quick hike.  Its close and offers some great trails.

I managed to hike 6 miles starting from lot I.  Headed up Taylor Farm Road then cut down High Meadow Trail to follow the creek along the South Valley Trail back to my car.  I found an old home site and grave yard on High Meadow Trail that I didn’t know existed.  The only readable tombstone was of Robert A. Taylor so I am assume it was his land and old house site I found.  The spot is a pretty good one too, couple acres of cleared land on top of a hill that would be prefect for a small family.  The underbrush has grown over in the last few years but you can see where the house was and possible land for farming.  Later the long walk along Quantico creek was nice, I scoped out a couple fishing spots when spring comes.

My hike was only a couple hours but it was nice to get away to some peace and quite on Sunday.  Being cold and Christmas I ran into very few people which made the trip that much better.  All I heard were a birds singing and squirrels playing in the leaves.

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A Walk in the City

Washington Monument

Photo Gallery

This past weekend Nancy was in North Carolina for a baby shower, so I had Saturday to myself.  It is not often that I get a day by myself so I took the opportunity to walk around Arlington and DC.  The weather started off below freezing but the high was going to be near fifty and for the middle of winter around here, that is not bad.  I saw Nancy off around 8 and by 9 I was out the door and headed north.

My first stop was to Arlington National Cemetery, weird I know.  A good friend of mine died a few years back and I have always wanted to go back to his grave and smoke a cigar.  I sat there for 45 minutes or so, smoking my cigar and just enjoying the early morning.  I left one on his grave for him, I hoped he liked it.

From there I was in a walking mood and took the Mount Vernon Trail north to Roosevelt Island.  The trail was filled with runners and bikers also out enjoying the weather.  The island is a little slice of nature just outside the city.  It is an 88 acre island in the Potomac between DC and Virginia that years ago was last purchased by the Theodore Roosevelt Association and given to the American people.  On the island is a memorial to the 26th president with several hiking trails that cross the island.  I took the longest trail around the island and was pretty impressed with the amount of wildlife I saw for such a small island.  I managed to photograph cardinals, robins, a woodpecker and strangely, saw a couple of deer roaming around.  I ended at the memorial which is rather large.  In the center is a giant statue of Roosevelt depicting him giving a speech with several sayings of his on either side about manhood, democracy, etc…

smoked a cigar with a friend

By now I had worked up an appetite so I walked back across to Virginia and had lunch in Rossyln.  I wanted to head to the Mall and enjoy a cigar but decided to cheat and take Metro.  For a beautiful day, the Mall was packed with people taking full advantage of the nice weather.  Most of the lawn was occupied with Frisbee football games, regular football and even a couple of rugby games at the far end.  On each side runs and bikers zipped by the tourists and pedestrians who where out in droves.  I just sat on one of the benches and did some people watching while enjoying my second cigar.

To end my day, I headed to the National Gallery of Art that just reopened their French masters section for a little reading.  I was disappointed I had to check my bag at the door but I grabbed my book and found a nice comfy couch to relax in and catch up on some reading.  I was trying to close to place down but I needed to get to my dad’s house for dinner.  For an entire week me and Nancy were not eating meat, out of choice, but tonight I was going to break that fast and enjoy a nice steak.  To wash all this down we headed over to Rustico after dinner to sample some beers.  We lucked out and got a booth in the back as some people where leaving as we were arriving.  We took the opportunity to sample some different Belgium and Germany beers from their extensive list.

Pileated Woodpecker

After a long exciting day I was happy to get home around 11:30 that night.  According to my GPS logger I walked about 6 miles in total and I was feeling it.  I didn’t get much sleep the night before, then up early to see Nancy off and all the walking wiped me out.  On my adventures that day I did get a few ideas of things to do with Nancy.  I can’t wait for spring and the cherry blossoms, if they bloom, I would like to have a picnic on the Mall again.  This winter has been crazy and is causing the plants to get confused.  There were the tulips starting to bloom on the Mount Vernon trail and some cherry blossoms at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden starting to bloom as well.

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