Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November Tales & Trails MD/VA

30 Nov.:  Packed up early and ready to roll by 2pm !  Thank goodness that the hotel staff allowed us a late check out.  Well, I did get up early at 5am and felt certain that we'd be ready to roll just after breakfast.  When beloved Smooch Smooch awoke early, about 7:30 am, we decided to breakfast before check out.  After breakfast final stage packing dragged on and on forever.  Regardless, we proceeded back to Rockfish Gap for a half hour hike, but Cynthia was very much under-rested and over-tired.  We took to the interstates, I-64 east to Richmond, beltway 288 around to I-95 south and the Hilton Garden Inn in Colonial Heights, VA.

29 Nov. 6.6 miles RT in four hours - Smith's Roach Gap NOBO to High Top Gap - 3587 foot elevation.  It was a gorgeous day; two deer in the AM and two in the PM - one at Dundo Campground was scurrying away.

28 Nov.: After our usual breakfast at Weasie's, we waited until 1pm to ferry our three hiker buddies to Rockfish Gap.  It was time well spent since two other interesting hikers joined the group after their night at the Days Inn.  Fun, fun, fun, most of these hikers had met Bluegrass and Achilles way back in Maine.  It was quite a delightful sight to see our eight southbounders hiking en mass from Rockfish Gap. Blueberry's pack was atrociously heavy, but he was exulting with anticipation of the feast planned for the evening meal. Smooch Smooch and I did not get to our trail head until three PM and barely exited Skyline Drive before 5pm, when the park rangers lock the gates for the night. Our short day was 3.2 miles round trip from Powell Gap.

Amazing Eight 

Blueberry, I need the names of all eight in the picture above, and we hope that you can send us a less-blurry picture.

27 Nov.:  A rainy day and a planned zero so that Cynthia can take the car in for servicing.  Ron gets to stay at the hotel missing his honey and spending several hours reorganizing.  Blueberry and his buddies had hiked all the way to the hotel last night, and he was in a world of hurt with four massive blisters from his new hiking boots.  His two buddies were merely a bit foot-sore from their thirty-mile day.  Cynthia and I took those three to the Mill Street Grill for dinner.  At some overlook in the Park, they saw a whole family of bear coming up the hill towards them.  After dinner, Blueberry and I to Walmart to find something to soothe his feet, and we ran into another three hikers, one of whom was Elvis.  They were also staying at the Comfort Inn, so I treated them to pizza and Ben & Jerrys.  Part of the beauty of trail magic is the surprise factor.

26 Nov.:  The plan for today calls for a 3.3 mile hike times 2, so we would like to get out of Weasie's by 9:30 to arrive at Simmons Gap by 10:30 in order to hike at 1.5 mph and still exit the park before the staff locks the gates at 5pm. Despite good intentions, we arrived at trail head at 12:07, the crack of noon.  Despite the late start, we finished early, another marvelous hike.  As we drove back along Skyline Drive, we slowed first for four deer and second for three scruffy hikers including our new friend Blueberry.  What fun !!  The hikers were delighted to hear that we had left a bag of trail magic near Jarman's Gap hanging from a tree beside the trail.  Unfortunately we misrepresented the distance to the magic as about a mile when it was actually somewhat more than two miles.  The deer were very curious and not particularly afraid, but the young 2-point buck that we saw this morning was even less afraid and merely walked nervously along the wide, grassy road shoulder as we idled alongside.  Cynthia took a couple of good pictures which will no doubt be posted soon.  Our hike was a gentle uphill followed by a gentle downhill.  It was surprisingly easy for us and quick: 6.6 miles in 3.5 hours averaging 1.9 miles per hour.  Whoopie, more new records, and a successfully earlycompletion.  Two more through hikers surprised us on the trail; I had no trail magic to share so handed them each a caramel and a couple of jelly beans.  Early this morning the missing checkbook came out of hiding.  It wasn't lost after all, and my memory of "going through everything" seems to date from August, especially since the checkbook was in plain sight in one of the boxes I usually check first.  All's well that ends well.

25 Nov., Sunday:  Good grief, is it Sunday already?  When did that happen?  Cynthia had to show me her cell phone before I would believe her.  We wanted to get in another 1.9 mile (times 2) hike and agreed that an earlier start would be good.  It was.  The day started nearly as cold as yesterday but with much less wind, and the temperature climbed nicely throughout the afternoon.  Since I delayed a bit too long doing trail maintenance, Cynthia followed suit, and our elapsed time was much slower than yesterday.  The highlight of the day was again meeting Blueberry and three of his buddies - twice, once just before we turned around at Simmons Gap and the second time at the top of the next hill.  Cynthia was delighted that she is feeling so healthy and strong.  Me too.  Our time today was a little slower at 2.25 hours.

24 Nov.: Where does the time go?  In exactly one week we check in to the condo at Atlantic Beach, NC.  I have the car ENTIRELY unloaded to better hunt for my missing checkbook.  I've been hunting for my checkbook for a couple of weeks now, and this morning, as I hauled another armload of things into the Comfort Inn from the car at 6am, another early bird chirped, "So are you a hiker?"  One look at his beard and attire led to to reply, "You look like a thru-hiker."  He is the nicest guy, Blueberry, on the longest warm-up hike ever: His Appalachian hike will ACTUALLY start when he gets to Key West.  His warm-up started at Katahdin several months ago. (He was distracted by the beauty of the Green Mountains to do a "few" extra miles on the Long Trail.)  His girl friend (?) hiked with him from Harper's Ferry and was getting off trail to return to classes in Kansas.  They had hitchhiked from the Trail at U.S. Highway 33, and getting back to continue his hike promised to be a huge obstacle, especially since he wanted to rejoin three or four "trail mates" also thru-hiking this late in the year !!  No problem; Cynthia and I have hiked to within 20 miles of that location, so I immediately offered him breakfast at Weasie's and a ride.  He was delighted to accept the ride.  (Imagine, a hiker who passed up a free breakfast; it must be love.)  His story is amazing, but you'll have to read it on his journal (opening soon at a TrailJournal near you.)  We dropped him near the shelter, and Cynthia and I started north from the Ivy Creek Overlook.  IT WAS COLD, Brrrh.  Poor little Cynthia immediately reiterated (unnecessarily) that she HATES to be cold.  "Yes Dear, do you want to go back to the hotel."  NO.  OK, have a couple of jelly beans.  The first .4 mile uphill in the wind was indeed rather brutal, but once the trail wound around to the other side of the hill and downhill, sheltered from the wind, the day became quite pleasant although still very, very chilly, close to freezing.  We traversed our chosen 1.9 miles in record time and returned promptly, apparently totaling 3.8 miles in 1.75 hours = 2.3 mph - Whoopie, a record.  Cynthia seems to have a better driving style than mine; close to the road we saw another three deer with huge, tall white flags for tails.
Ivy Creek Overlook

23 Nov.:After all, tomorrow is another day.  Hey, we are there already; today is the tomorrow you read about yesterday.  We look forward to Weasies omelets again this morning preceding another great hike.  The zero yesterday should help our sore knees and flagging energies.  Wish us luck.  Yipee, we parked the car at the crack of noon and commenced today's hike at 12:28.  Following our Thanksgiving indulgence, you'd think that our energies would be high, but today we started steeply uphill immediately and our energies were not THAT high.  We eventually crossed that PUD and hiked a long gentle downhill to a lovely little stream crossing.  As usual, that crossing was followed by another up, but not so bad.  We did enjoy the vistas from the rocks at a promontory and again from the Frazier Discovery Trail junctions 1 & 2.  We were delighted to find ourselves 3.1 miles in at 2:08 after one hour and 40 minutes.  Our return went equally quickly, and we finished at 4:00 on the nose.  6.2 miles in 3.5 hours, our longest hike of this series.  Nice to think that we are rapidly recovering our hiking legs after the 6-weeks layoff to attend an Iowa reunion.  As Cynthia rounded a turn on Skyline Drive, we were delighted that we missed the handsome 6-point buck by 40' as he scamper into the woods from the roadside.

The Balance Pose for Walter

You've seen the picture of the python that swallowed a whole pig?  After spending nearly two hours at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel Thanksgiving buffet, Cynthia and I could share his pain.  The meal was marvelous, and the chef himself told me which items I could eat.  My favorite combination was turkey with brandied sweet potatoes - or the succulent strawberries - or the flank steak.  There was probably less than my allotted 10 grams of fat in all I consumed ... until curiosity about the desserts overcame my scruples and I peaked ... then I helped myself to the tiniest taste of 6 desserts.  OhMyGod, were those smidgens super-saturated with flavor.  Afterward we waddled to the car & into bed to snooze, comatose, for an hour or two.  WOW !!  Life is good.  Thank God.

21 Nov, Wed: We arose late and ate another beautiful breakfast at Weasies before hitting the trail at the crack of noon (actually 12:26).  It had been foggy at the crack of dawn, but by noon was a wonderfully clear day in most directions.  And today was another magnificent day although I did have a moment of trepidation when we discovered that I had left my down jacket in the hotel room, always a bit unnerving in a cold wind in a mountain parking lot.  Brilliant sunshine promised to ameliorate my forgetfulness, and the day was another joy.  We hiked a mile up the campground road and winded ourselves on that steady up.  There were several clear vistas from rock outcroppings as we wound around the campground to within 150' of the campground store, which we had passed on the road an hour earlier.  The Ups and Downs are not the only Pointless things about the AT.  I ranted a few times as I remembered NightTrain and the predicaments we encountered there in 2008.  As we passed between walls of thorns, I marveled at the staggering effort expended there by PATC volunteer(s).  THANKS.  If anything, the PATC trail maintainer used EVEN MORE weed whacker cord on this section.  The trail is marvelously well maintained.  Of course, I still find briers to clip and sticks to throw.  Strange that I haven't done one iota of stream bed maintenance since leaving Vermont.  I lagged behind Cynthia and caught up to her as she wrestled with a wonderful tangle of vines that had succeeded in bringing a tree down across the trail.  My clippers got a workout, I cleared about a cubic yard of vines, but the tree stayed put across the trail, sans vines.  The main "trunk" of the vine was too big for my clippers (2"), and the tree had fallen with a big branch on each side of that vine.  So I had to content myself with improvement instead of completion.  Then it was a long uphill rush to catch Cynthia at the Frazier Discovery Trail junction.  .5 miles back to the Wayside, 3:45 pm, 45 minutes driving to the gate, and the Park Service promises to lock the gate at 5 pm.  We drove out at 4:52 and wondered how they fared, those other people who were still sightseeing as we drove past. We drove straight to Ruby Tuesday's for dinner.  Yummmm, lotsa salad, and now back to work on the computers.

20 Nov.: Another good day.  We started early (1:27), so we had to cut our day a bit short to get out of the park before the 5pm curfew (park service locks the gate).  The grade was gentle and the trail nicely maintained compared to the spring.  I bet that somebody used a mile of weed-whacker cord on the sticker bushes.  Water-bars were recently cleaned and thre was little tree debris on the trail.  Kudos again to the PATC trail maintainers.  The best scenery of the day was on Skyline Drive.  The western vistas were intensified by low riding clouds that covered and colored the valleys while the far mountain skyline rode above the clouds.  The sunset colors waxed to a marvelous intensity as we drove to the the Mill Street Grill for a wonderful walleye dinner.

19 Nov.: 43 degrees seemed unusually cold this morning with the breezy conditions, and after finishing another great egg white veggie omelet at Weasies, I suggested to Cynthia that we could take a zero hiking day if she'd like.  WOW!! She can reply in a hurry when the right question comes by!  So we've had a relaxing day snuggled up with our computers "getting things done."  We are still in Waynesboro, Virginia at the Comfort Inn where Charlotte keeps us entertained by being at the front desk morning, noon and night.  Cynthia is SO EXCITED that the new fanny pack arrived to replace my old one which is super-saturated with "gold-digger repellent."  This morning a woman in Weasie's amusedly announced that "You two are sure in love."  "Didn't you notice that I have been giving you dirty, disgusted looks?", but she was full of amusement as she laughed heartily.

Ron's pride & joy, covered with Gold-digger repellent and full of character.

Wee-fee attractant, brand-new, FOUR compartments, but
lacking obvious signs of wear and badly in need of "personalization."

18 Nov, Sun: The hike from Blackrock Mountain Parking to Skyline Drive mile marker 82.2 went by so much easier than expected for 5.6 miles, and it only took us 2 hours and 40 minutes.  The weather was fabulous - a perfectly lovely day with the temps reaching 51 degrees.  Wonderful trail maintenance on this section; many thanks to this PATC trail maintainer who has done yeoman work digging water bars and clearing copious brambles; surprising that the previous three miles maintenance was so lousy.  We finished the hike feeling energetic.  Cynthia thinks the "new" prescription blood pressure meds have been responsible for her sluggish-feeling mornings.  Fortunately a pick-me-up arrived in the form of New Merrill boots in size 7.5 medium; now THIS is my idea of "cute shoes" for my wife (pronounced WeeFee).

17 Nov, Sat: Lake Anna State Park. After dragging ourselves outta bed waaay too early for comfort into the frozen tundra of BRRRginia, scraping ice off of the windshield with an old credit card, bolting down breakfast in record time, we were off for a fun day hiking with brother Dean & family including grand-dogs.  Billy especially enjoyed rolling around in the best newest freshest wet horse droppings to take home pleasant reminders of the day's pleasures. Over lunch we discussed our respective views of the "fiscal cliff."  No surprise that the cliff discussion hit the papers the day after the election - as if it was suddenly a new problem.  Time to send the markets into a skid to create buying opportunities for the capitalists.

Ron, Dean, Janina, Sarah, Benjamin, Billy and Sandy (and the shadow of Cynthia's head)

Dean, Cynthia, Janina, Benjamin, Sarah and the Kids

16 Nov, Fri:  Another lovely cool day for hiking.  I hike with my Montbell down coat tied around my neck when the weather is this nice.  Cynthia felt like going back to bed, so we didn't strive for fast or far, but still covered the 2.6 miles out and back in under three hours.  This year it was VERY cold and windy atop Black Rock, so we didn't scramble up the rocks to the actual summit.  About half-way her energy kicked in again but, we returned via a shorter, better-maintained forest road that leads to the Black Rock Hut and avoided the bramble scramble, downed trees dodg'em that the AT maintainers are neglecting.  On Skyline Drive today, the trees seemed less colorful; winter cannot be far away.  Lunch at Ruby Tuesdays was followed by a shave, haircut and shower (Why me? I  been good!  Besides my family isn't accustomed to seeing me shaved and showered).

15 Nov. Thurs:  We had another good hike of about 5 miles, but poor little Smooch Smooch tried her hand at trail maintenance and wore herself out; we had to take the shorter return route via Skyline Drive (consistantly uphill for 2.2 miles).  Some of the stuff we've moved off the trail is so big that you would not imagine that one person could clear it.  The lever is a mighty tool.  We did see another deer while driving and another thru-hiker; he says there are four more thru-hikers close in front of him.  In 2008 it was already way too cold by this time when we visited Papa Bear & the Preacher Boys near Damascus.

Road walking isn't all bad: here is the view from milepost 88.3

14 Nov. Wed.  BRRR.  What???? 32 degrees outside???   We opted to drive into Staunton to enjoy morning brunch at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel while waiting for the temps to warm up to start today's hike.  The waitresses remembered us.  Imagine that!!!   We took our sweet time eating since it was so cold.  But, by 12:30 the temp in the mountains was still only 34 degrees.  Being inspired to MOVE FAST, we did just that, 2.9 miles to RipRap Trail parking and return (5.8 miles total) in three hours and twenty minutes including potty stops and trail maintenance. Nice to see that the Potomac AT Club has been working on the trail, yet there are a lot of fallen limbs across the trail.  A conspicuous sign warned of a problem bear, but we didn't see him, only two nice-sized deer.   When we finished the hike at four thirty, the temp was 34 degrees.  In celebration of another successful hike, we drove the extra 20 minutes to the Mill Street Grill in Staunton for a well-deserved, delicious dinner.  Good night at 10:30.

Deer Ahead (& GPS says "Appalachian Trail)

RipRap Trailhead

13 Nov. Tues:  Much cooler today.  We hiked Turk Gap to Wildcat Ridge Parking and return; 2.5 hours for 4.8 miles. Since we finished hiking late, we drove to dinner at the Mill Street Grill in Staunton.  We saw a young buck with antlers cross the road today.  After dinner, Ron installed MS Office on the MacBook Air, listed Dale's board games for sale on a new web page, listed TRS-80 computer stuffs free to a good home on another new page, updated the Bankston website with a new page w/ spreadsheet, and continued incremental progress on the index and footnotes for Volume 6 of the Colonial Records of the Swedish Churches.  At 8:45 Ron hustled over to Home Depot and found the perfect Christmas gift for Little Carol Ann to give Auntie Carol.  Sister Carol sent our little imaginary darling, who is now three years old, to visit us, but the little brat fussed so about her chickens so far away in Illinois that we slapped enough postage stamps on her little forehead to get her back to Illinois and her precious ChicKens.  She needs a brother.  We will have to work on that project.  Wild West Honda in Houston has BMW's - a 2013 1200 RT in stock.

12 Nov. Mon: Another day, another hike!  Gorgeous day with the temps hitting 64 degrees.  HIKE: Sawmill Run to Turk Gap about three miles.  Deer.

Turk Gap Overlook

11 Nov. Sun: Another early morning hiking start immediately after breakfast at Weasie's in Waynesboro where they serve mighty good omelets which is a good thing because the noise level is pretty gruesome.  HIKE: Jarman Gap Northbound past Sawmill Run Overlook about 2 tenths of a mile totaling about 4 miles today.  The weather is marvelous.

Ron, the Stream Bed Maintenance Man

10 Nov. Sat.  We parked at Jarman Gap and hiked southbound to yesterday's stopping point while trail maintenance continues.  The Potomac AT Club does a nice job of maintaining the trail in Virginia, but they can always use a couple of helping hands.  We met an interested board member of the club who was out hiking to see work recently completed.  A through hiker named Big Galoot Gave appreciated black licorice jelly beans.  He hiked the AT twenty years ago, started a successful organic farming business, sold it, and now works some and hikes sections on a monthly basis.  Nice to hear from Starfish and Sherpa that they were in Hiawassee with their sights set on Springer Mountain.  They sent a text message to Cynthia that the hurricane dumped so much snow on the Smokies hikers were being lifted out by helicopter; they were forced to hitch a ride around the Smokies with plans to return and conquer once the snow is gone.  Today's  temperature was warm and pleasant.  Cynthia had a lot of back pain through the night.  We wonder if it could be the incline or a computer set up.  She had steroid epidural lumbar injections mid-Sept. but they seem to have stopped working.  Hiking helps keep the joints limbered up.

9 Nov. Fri.  Weakened girlie hiking again from Beagle Gap northbound just past the summit of Little Calf Mountain or about half way to Jarman Gap.  Three hours.  Another girlie in a bikini top was sitting on the wall of an overlook having her picture taken.   Important to drive by ... v e r y V E R Y slowly,  And we've been talking about her probable goose bumps ever since.

8 Nov. Thurs. It is not a good thing to wish for time to get stuff done: Cynthia is still sick with chills abed while Ron works away; he has installed Boot Camp and MS Windows onto his new Mac.  Progress is slow but steady working on the index and footnotes for Vol. 6 of the Gloria Dei records project, The Wrangel Years.  

7 Nov. Wed.  Cynthia is sick:  she thinks America lost the election?  or... she has the flu or a sinus infection...?

6 Nov. Tues.:  We hiked McCormick's Gap over Bear mountain (with its multitude of communications towers) to Beagle Gap and back again in two hours.  Four miles??? A guesstimate.  We are FIT!  Great article with photos: http://virginiatrailguide.com/2011/03/20/appalachian-trail-–-beagle-gap-to-rockfish-gap/

5 Nov. Mon:  Soon after breakfast we approached White's Ferry near Poolesville.  We took time for a quick glance at history & photo of the house where Ron, Bill, Pat & Patty, Dave, Greg, George & Dana, Jerry & Marsha, and a few others lived in the 1970s while Ron was commuting weekly into a job with the Nature Conservancy in Arlington, VA.  Instead of crossing immediately, we took another opportunity to hike along the abandoned Chesapeake-Ohio Canal for about two hours, 4.5 miles total.  Then we crossed the placid Potomac wide water on the ferry, marveling at the contrast to the immense cataract of waters plunging over Great Falls.  The canal towpath extends 189 miles from Cumberland, MD to DC.

Peaceful Potomac on White's Ferry

This is where Ron lived with 10 other close friends in Pooleville, MD about 1973.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail near White's Ferry

4 Nov, Sun:  Breakfast at I-Hop, Hiking with Jim and Joni, Chesapeake-Ohio Canal Trails about three hours; rabid aggressive raccoon approached us about 50 yards from Lock 23.  Dinner at Ruby

Tuesday's.  Drove through Jim's Smoky Glen Farms; fabulous rolling hills with 10-16 white tailed deer cavorting hither and yon.
This side chute of the Potomac is usually dry.

Smooch & Smooch Smooch posing on the observation platform overlooking the Great Falls of the Potomac River.  Yes, Dean, we did hike part of the Billy goat Trail.

See Kayaks on Far Side?

Great Falls of the Potomac earned its name today.  Lotsa water.

Lock Keeper's Home.  Beware of neighboring rabid raccoon.  Hurricane Agnes high water mark is near window sill.

3 Nov., Sat:  Jim and Joni treated us to a tour of Annapolis, including dinner at a great seafood restaurant

No, we won't take two steps back for a better picture.

Ron, Joni and Jim

2 Nov. Fri: As we left Philadelphia on alternate routes, we passed immediately by the Morris Arboretum and decided to enjoy a pleasant hour-long hike there.  Ron called the ever-ephemeral Susan G. and THANKED her and Joel for the free admission tickets.

Smooch Smooch Nesting

Morris Arboretum

Morris Log Cabin Retreat House

Listening to the Sounds of the Forest????
It is amusing that we left the Lutheran Seminary in Mt. Airy, PA,  located on Germantown Avenue, and spent the night in Germantown, Maryland near Mount Airy where Jim lives.

1 Nov. Thurs, Worked in the seminary archives; great dinner with Jim Z., John P. and Kim-Eric at Avenida's Restaurant.

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