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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Another Week Lacking a Hike

I was all set and prepared to head out on a hike this week, but a foot injury has me out until next week at the earliest.

This bums me out, because the weather was beautiful.

Fear not though, for I shall return!


No Hike This Week…

Due to the lack of Orange Blaze clothing (hunting season started this week,) and Thanksgiving, I didn’t get a chance to go hiking. Hopefully I’ll have that resolved next week!

Maryland Heights – Harpers Ferry NP

Hike Summary

I am convinced that Harpers Ferry, WV has only one type of weather: overcast. Every time I’ve been here, it’s always been grey and gloomy. This day, it was particularly chilly, and I kicked myself for not bringing gloves.

One of the problems with hikes with a lot of hills is that one gets overheated going up, and then freezing at the top/on the way down. Luckily, my jacket still keeps me warm, even when soggy.

Navigating to/around this park is kind of a pain — there’s a big visitor’s center over near Bolivar, with a nice spacious parking lot and a shuttle down to the town. A shuttle that of course doesn’t allow dogs, so if you want to visit the downtown area, you need to drive in and hope there’s parking. Same for the various parking areas around the trailheads — the first parking area was actually full, but luckily there was an additional one, which put me on the C&O Canal towpath for a short distance.

It’s also a pretty busy trail, even in the middle of the week in a chilly autumn, I saw several groups of hikers coming back from the cliff vista area when I was on my way up. I would eventually head there myself, but I wanted to get up to the summit of Maryland Heights first.

There are a lot of informative placards on the trail, and the trail itself is pretty wide on the way up. It is steep though — a real “ball buster” of an incline. It was a 1400 ft incline in the space of a couple of miles. I had a good chuckle when I read a sign that mentioned that even Lincoln, when he was there to inspect the Union fortifications, decided that he didn’t want to go up to the summit.

Once up at the top, there are good views to the east, where there were gun emplacements to keep watch over the Potomac, and some towards the south towards Loudoun Heights. Even though the place was heavily settled during the war, nature has taken its course over the past 150 years and obscured much under layers of leaves and plenty of tree regrowth. The signs are definitely there, though.

On the way back down to the junction, the trail gets really steep and narrow, with a lot of sliding rock. It got better when I went on the trail to the cliff overlook though, with a lot of switchbacks, that made the way a lot easier.

The overlook is fantastic, offering a wonderful view of the old downtown, as well as up the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. I took quite a few pictures, and most of them came out pretty well, despite the crappy weather.

I tried not to dally too much around on this hike because of the weather and my hands getting cold — same with the visit to Harpers Ferry in general. I find the driving in this area to be a little stressful, and I had farted around a bit at home before I set out this day, which made me take too long. I really want to take some time to visit the downtown again and poke around the buildings, maybe visit the AT center that’s there, and the bigger gift shop. Well, there will be more opportunities, I’d like to hike some of the other trails that are around the park area.

More Pictures of Maryland Heights

Appalachian Trail – Pine Grove Rd to Raven Rocks

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Hike Summary
So, after that marathon (for me) saga of Mary’s Rock a couple of weeks ago, I decided I should do something shorter. I had planned on hiking this last week, but of course Sandy had other plans, and I had to stay home. That gave me some extra time to recover and plan.

I decided to go on a Tuesday this week, because I was a little worried that the Nor’easter was going to drop some snow on the area (completely didn’t happen, but better to be safe than sorry!) and it was a beautiful, clear, and rather chilly and blustery day.

This is my second time hiking a portion of the AT, and the first one where the focus of the hike is that particular trail. It has a reputation for being called the “roller coaster” in the Virginia portion, and after this hike, I can definitely see why. This hike was a bit of a roller coaster in miniature, as it wound its way up and over a couple of hills before coming up to Raven Rocks.

It starts out as a little path coming off a parking lot on Pine Grove Road, at the intersection of the Leesburg Pike.  Up and down it goes, over wrinkles of hills, down into little stream valleys that had trickles of water flowing. The second stream, I never actually saw but only heard, as it burbled under my feet. It was around this valley that I saw my first AT Survey Marker, which are used to mark the right of way of the trail and as reference points.

One thing that is somewhat easy to forget, but was actually also a fairly constant reminder, is just how well traveled this trail is. I only actually saw one other hiker this day, but every time I put a hand out to steady myself on a tree branch, I could feel a smoothed down feeling. It reminded me of the railings at Disneyland, and also really spoke to just how many people travel on this trail. The occasional bits of debris and garbage are of course another reminder, and I picked up what I ran across.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures this day, I am not really sure why. I was feeling a little less motivated about my photography skills than I have been. I’ve been trying to read about how to take better photographs, but it often seems like I’m unable to put those things into practice. I think I sometimes get distracted by the fitness aspect of my hiking, and forget to take time to stop and look at things better. I need to remember that, although I am trying to lose weight, I also am hiking to enjoy the hike, and that the purpose is to get out of doors and enjoy it.

Somewhere along the way, I ended up losing my hat. I was silly and only half shoved it into the pocket of my jacket after going uphill and becoming too hot.

Continuing on, I crossed the border into West Virginia, and then a little further and up to the Rocks, which are definitely a place that is well and often visited. There was a splendid view towards the south, with a teensy bit of color left in the trees. I marveled at having such a good phone signal, which is rare, and then looked behind me.

One can never truly escape technology anymore, it seems.

Back I went, headed towards home. I did find my hat, at least.

More Pictures of Appalachian Trail – Raven Rocks

No Hike This Week…

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Sandy struck the area, not so terribly as it did New Jersey and New York, but still it downed trees and caused chaos. I felt it was in my best interest to stay at home and not go out until trails and whatnot were cleaned up.

Although things are calm and normal here, it isn’t in a lot of places, so I urge people to donate to the Red Cross by texting “REDCROSS” to 90999.