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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sky Meadows State Park

Hike Summary

This was not my first visit to Sky Meadows, but it is the first visit I have made since I started writing about my hikes.

The last time I hiked Sky Meadows, it was my first “serious” hike, after I got new hiking boots and a backpack, but before I got my Garmin etrex 20. It was actually this hike that inspired me to get a hand-held GPS, as using my mobile phone for navigation was something, I discovered, that was hazardous due to the short battery life.

It was also where I realized just how out of shape I was, and now I realize how far I’ve come in my fitness.

The first time I tried to hike this hike, the first hill, up Gap Run trail, absolutely killed me. I was barely able to get through, and ended up cutting my hike short, taking the North Ridge trail around and only hiking about half the distance.

What a difference 7 months makes. The hike up the Gap Run trail was still a bit of a lung burner, but I wasn’t gasping for air every 100 feet. It was a very very chilly day out, windy and cold, with a temperature of 14F with wind chill. I had to keep my jacket zipped up for the entire hike.

The trail winds uphill, past old ruins of a house, and then keeps going, with some nice views off to the west. I also saw a very unusual sight — a bright spot of green in an otherwise grey forest. A pool of water must be warmer than anywhere else, and the lush greenness really stood out to me.

On the trail wound, through some meadows, and then eventually junctioned with the Appalachian Trail. There was a bench where I was able to sit and have a little snack, and I finally saw some other hikers. They continued on up the AT, and I sat for a bit longer, sipping my tea and giving them time to build some distance on me.

I took the Old Appalachian trail side trip, and it was a nifty trail, with some snow still on the ground and nice views of I think Winchester through a clearcut section of forest. The trail wound on and rejoined the AT, and I hiked back up to the ridge.

There, I entered the high meadow sections, which were quite lovely after all the forest. I saw (but didn’t manage to get a photo of, sadly,) a herd of whitetail deer. They just quickly dashed through the meadow in front of me, causing me to pause and watch them run by, completely forgetting my camera in my bemusement.

Now it was time for some downhill bits of trail, and the ground had thawed enough somewhat that it made things a little slippery at times. As I was hiking, I encountered one of the oddest sights I’ve seen while out hiking: Another hiker, an older gentleman, who was so well dressed it completely took me off guard.

He was wearing hiking boots, as one obviously would need to, and I didn’t catch notice of his pants, but he was wearing a nice jacket and … a tie. Hiking while wearing a tie just seemed so strange to me. I was talking about it to my mom later that day and she commented that some people just like to be well dressed, no matter where they go.

I suppose this is true. It was very impressive. I wish that I could be that well dressed when I go hiking, but I end up looking like a mess most of the time, with my grubby jeans and my 3 sizes too many coat (losing 90 pound in a year has that effect, but it seems wasteful to buy a new one when this one is barely a year old.)

I hiked on, and nearer to the end of my hike, managed to accidentally flush a red fox, who quickly bounded away.

I kinda miss these hikes, with all the mileage building hikes I’ve been doing as training. I like to hike for enjoyment, and sometimes the other ones seem like more of a chore. I need to figure out a balance of entertaining and training, so that I can continue to post interesting posts and get the needed miles in.

2013-02-21 Sky Meadows
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Bull Run-Occoquan Trail: Bull Run to Hemlock Overlook

Hike Summary

This was another one of those mileage building hikes I’ve been trying to get done. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m trying to get into shape for the One Day Hike, coming at the end of April. I hiked 12 miles the previous week, so I decided to try for 14 this week.

There was still a lot of mud and a lot of traces about from when Bull Run was at high water a few weeks back. It made for some very messy hiking, with my feet getting constantly stuck in mud, and a bit of slipping and sliding on the trail.

The trail had quite a different character compared to the summertime, when it was green and lush, with lots of shade and rustling of trees. This day it was stark and monochromatic, which sometimes made for depressing hiking. There really wasn’t a whole lot to see, but there was a lot of birdsong in the winter trees, and I also was able to revisit my favorite graffiti art at the railroad trestle.

At some point I wasn’t fully paying attention and ended up on a side trail that followed the river a little more closely than the blazed trail. It wasn’t really that terrible of a mistake, although with the river overflow it had created a few deadfalls that were tricky to get around. The PATC will have its work cut out for it the next time they do maintenance.

The hike was pretty uneventful, although on the way back, I spotted a Mourning Cloak moth. It was one of the few living things I’d seen on this hike.

2013-02-15 Bull Run Occoquan

W&OD Trail: Purcellville to Clarke’s Gap

Hike Summary

This is kind of a short update, because this was somewhat of an uneventful hike. The W&OD (Washington and Old Dominion) trail is a mostly asphalt, multi-use trail that goes from near DC all the way out to Purcellville, VA, a distance of about 45 miles.

It’s crowded with joggers, walkers and bicyclists, and runs through suburbia. There are some fun little bits, and I got a good long, almost 12 mile hike out of it, but it really wasn’t that compelling to me, and I really only took one picture:

I hiked on the gravel path as much as I could, but the asphalt parts were murder on my ankles. This week, I am going to try to hike further, but I’m going to pick a place that should be all dirt/trail.

Manassas/Bull Run – The Grand Tour

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Hike Summary

So I ran into a bit of a conundrum. I was all happy with myself and though I’d hiked 13 miles, but when I pulled up my Garmin data, as you can see it’s only like 9.77.

Needless to say this bummed me out slightly, as I was hoping I was keeping pace with the training hikes for the One Day Hike that I registered for in April. I intend to do the full 100K, but I need to make sure I can actually hike the distance. I don’t want to have to drop out!

So, this hike. I hiked both of these routes separately back in August, but I wanted to do a more challenging hike, as well as see the changes to the trail in the winter. I also wanted to hike it backwards, as another interesting perspective.

I was also low on gas, so something that was close by was a great choice.

The previous day had had some stormy weather go through, so I made sure to check with the rangers to see whether or not any of the trail was washed out. They warned me that part of the section near Stone Bridge was underwater, and advised taking a shortcut to avoid it.

It was very windy, and I somewhat regretted not bringing my gloves with me. I often make this mistake, and really should just keep them in my backpack.

The park was mostly totally deserted, and I only had the haunted feeling of the battlefields (and my dog) to keep me company. There were brown fields and skeletal trees everywhere. The sky was a deep blue with streaky clouds.

The trail was muddy. Muddy is probably a bit of an understatement — the trail was often an open stream, or wet with water. My dog quickly became a mobile mud ball.

Wandering backwards through the park almost felt like wandering backwards in time – I followed back through the trail of events of Second Manassas, and then on to First Manassas. Both of those battles were fought during warmer weather though, so I didn’t quite have the same feeling of what the soldiers went through, but it was still spooky and quiet, particularly around The Deep Cut and the area where the Second Manassas memorial was.

On I went, though forest, where I could hear the wind making the trees rub together, making creaking noises, which were unsettling. Then I got to the part of the trail where it parallels Bull Run, where I was warned it was washed out. I of course had to see for myself, and true to the ranger’s word, the trail had been swallowed up by Bull Run, causing me to have to backtrack.

My misadventures weren’t over, though. After my crossing of Lee Highway, there was another river crossing, and this one was very much overtaken by water. I really didn’t want to have to backtrack more, so I managed to find a way across, albeit with one wet boot.

I’m hoping I can get a longer hike in soon, possibly something in the area of 18 miles!

Bull Run