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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Nicholson Hollow – Shenandoah National Park

In my fretting over Christmas gift selections, I completely forgot to make a post yesterday, my apologies!

Hike Summary

It was a pretty frigid Thursday as I set out to go on a hike. Things are definitely getting colder, although I am pretty well equipped to keep hiking, as long as the weather cooperates. There are a couple of things I could definitely use, and I am hoping someone in my family checks out my Christmas list, and purchases accordingly. Drinking cold water on the hike is alright, but I sometimes have to force myself to drink, as I don’t feel as thirsty as I did in the summer.

The parking for this hike is at the spacious lot for Old Rag Mountain, which is off of Route 600, in the back of nowhere behind Sperryville. I was a teensy bit surprised to see quite a few cars, but all of those people were off to hike Old Rag, which is something I can’t do with my dog, so I’ll have to wait until I can find a hiking companion. There was a sweet old dog hanging out in the lot, probably from one of the nearby farms, and he was super friendly, but my protective guy nudged him away, probably out of jealousy.

I’ve been somewhat afraid to write about how I hike, that it will invite bad luck on me or something. I think that part of that is because of the way I was raised, when the Trailside Killer was at his height in the SF area, (something that my family actually has a personal connection with,) and it was always drummed into my head that hiking solo is a Bad Thing.

Which is why I carry various self defense items, plus hike with my dog. He’s large enough and protective enough to be somewhat of a deterrent. Still, I definitely don’t take things for granted, and there’s been a couple of times where I’ve gotten a twinge of worry, like the time I tripped and fell into a patch of stinging nettles. Still, I consider every hike I make a blow against my anxiety and depression, and hope that it continues to do so.

There’s a half mile hike up the road to where Route 600 ends, and the trail begins, winding along private property, before crossing the Hughes River and following along it for most of the hike.

This river is pretty full and energetic, even at this time of the year, so I imagine that it’s quite lively in the springtime. There are large boulders at the crossings, which required a little bit of jumping, but not too bad to get across. There was one of the crossings that was a little trickier than the others, but I managed to get both myself and my dog (who hates water) across without too much trouble.

There are quite a few pretty waterfalls and cascades along the way, with a nice thunderous one near the beginning.

You can tell at times that the trail was probably an old road, as there are times when it felt very built up, with rock walls on one or the other side, or sometimes both sides. It made for an easier hike than some of the hikes I’ve done recently, a lot less rocky, with sandy soil  and a pretty gentle climb.

Eventually, the trail comes up to Corbin Cabin, which was my turning around point. The trail continues up to Skyline, but this was a good place to stop and eat some lunch. Even though it was sunny out, I found myself getting cold quickly, and somewhat regretted taking my gloves off, as they got cold and numb fast.

On the way back down, I heard some crashing in the undergrowth that sounded almost human like. I became a little nervous, and my dog was rather excited. The sun was in my eyes on the way back, but I looked off the trail to the side, somewhat behind me, and that’s when I realised I had just seen my first bear.

Or at least, the first backside of a bear, as it lumbered off away from me. Luckily it was the kind that was afraid of me, as opposed to the kind that would want to peel me open to find the delicious Clif Bars contained inside. I knew that all of Shenandoah was bear country, but this was my first. It was a bit of a thrill. I am no stranger to wildlife, I’ve seen lynxes, and foxes, and even a mountain lion, but bears aren’t something you see all too often.

It put a spring in my step on the way back for sure.

More pictures of Nicholson Hollow

Sugarloaf Mountain, MD

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Hike Summary

Sugarloaf Mountain is a strange creature. It’s a monadnock, which is one of those hills that’s left over after glaciers have had their way with a place. It is there, in the middle of Maryland, minding its own business.

It’s a pretty popular place, at least when the weather is warm. I only saw 3 other people this day, and for good reason: it was freezing when I started out on my early morning hike.

Literally freezing: 30ºF. I had had to scrape ice off my windshield when I started out that morning. Suffice to say, it was a bit chilly.

Once I got moving though, I got pretty warm. The initial climb of this hike was pretty steep, direct from the parking lot up to the summit. The trail was in a pretty sorry state: horribly eroded from all that popularity. It could definitely use some TLC and improvement, but I’m not sure if the maintainers have that kind of resources: Sugarloaf is free.

Having the summit ascent at the beginning of the hike was almost a let down — the remainder of the hike was mostly downhill, winding around through hills and folds of the mountain. I saw several white-tail deer, and I’m glad that I finally had my safety orange hat for my head and a vest for my dog, as they’re in the process of culling the deer population.

For some reason, I couldn’t get the song “Marshmallow World” out of my head as I hiked along. The Dean Martin one, to be specific. The terrain I was on was anything but marshmallowy. It was rather rocky, although once I got off the sunrise trail and onto the blue trail, it was less eroded, and at times the rockiness gave way to sandy soil and occasional gravel.

The song knocking around in my head gave me some time to reflect on my family and the holidays. I do miss my family terribly, and would love to be able to afford to fly out and visit for the holidays, but it hasn’t been possibly the past couple of years. Something has always gotten in the way. I hope that his next year, I’ll perhaps be able to visit in the summer, when the heat is punishing here, but not so bad there.

I hiked on, taking a small break at a pile of rocks that almost seemed like a chimney stack but had no actual explanation or signage. I wound my way around to White Rocks, which afforded a nice view west towards Frederick.

On the way back around, I had a minor crisis at an intersection with a road. The bits that I’d printed out happened to be lacking the actual trail description, only a map of Sugarloaf park itself, and my GPS was being a little fuzzy on the directions. I didn’t exactly panic, but my frustration level built up a bit from not being entirely sure where to go, and I have to admit that I snapped a little at my dog, who insisted on not holding still and wrapping himself around my legs several times. Once I was able to realize that I was getting stressed out, I calmed myself and simply decided I should follow the road a ways, and this turned out to be the right direction. I made sure to make up for my exasperation at my dog by giving him some extra treats once we were underway.

I was a little smidge disappointed that once I was back at the West parking, the remainder of the trail directions led me down the road to the East parking, but it wasn’t very long, and I was happy to get back to the car. I’d burned a lot of calories this day, so I was looking forward to stopping by a creamery that I’d spotted on the way, Rocky Point Creamery.

Sadly, I was to be disappointed. The implications of it being December really didn’t register on my West Coast native brain, and the creamery was sadly closed.

I had a backup plan, though. I thought about stopping in Leesburg, but I still don’t know the area well enough — something I really need to remedy one of these days. Instead, I drove home and went to an old faithful — Cupcake Heaven.

Butterscotch cupcakes are truly the best.

Sugarloaf, MD