RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: March 2013

Shenandoah River State Park

Posted on

Hike Summary

It was a blustery, and chill day, not exactly the kind of day you would expect in Spring, but Winter is still digging in claws in this area, even now.

I wanted a fairly easy hike, since I am still without my hiking staff after losing it. I also wanted to avoid river crossings, since that had been the cause of my calamity. So — The lengthily named Raymond R. “Andy” Guest, Jr. Shenandoah River State Park it was. It gave me a nice trip and hike without too steep of inclines and descents, and no big rivers to cross, just a gigantic one to hike next to.

This is a relatively newish park, some of the land has been acquired only in the last decade or so, and it has a brand new (and gorgeous) visitor’s center. I parked at the shambling looking horse stables, and made my way out.

Most of the first part of the trail is woodlands, with the trail meandering through river valleys, a vista that I’ve gotten pretty familiar with, but still enjoy. Part of my reason for hiking is also for fitness, so even if the views aren’t incredibly spectacular, I like being in the forest, and I like feeling my heart rate pick up and my body getting used to the rhythm of the hike.

This park has a dense network of trails, described on Hiking Upward as “a labyrinth” and they’re definitely not wrong. I only made one misstep, not totally paying attention at one intersection and wandering off on the wrong trail for about half a mile. I realized that my GPS was no longer making its characteristic beeps that I was on the trail, and realized I needed to turn around. Amusingly enough, if I had stayed on that trail it would have curved back around to where I needed to go in the first place!

The trail finally comes out to a vista point where you get some great views of the Shenandoah River. It was extremely windy by that point, so I huddled on a bench and drank my tea and a Clif Bar, trying to stay warm.

After that, the trail gently wound down to the lowlands by the river itself. This was a very pleasant portion of the hike, as the trail went alongside the river. There were ducks and geese in the shallows, flying up as I walked past. Plenty of benches lined the gravel trail, making me suspect that this is a great place in the winter. There were also a couple of cabins along the way, which would be a nice place to spend a spring or possibly even summer evening camping.

There was one difficult water crossing at the one end of the river section, as a canal was overflowing its banks, but I was able to go around one end and get away from it. After that, the trail wound back up the hill to the trailhead.

Afterwards, on the way out of town, I was particularly hungry for lunch, so I decided to stop by The Apple House Restaurant in Linden. It’s a little bit touristy, but a lot local — the kind of place that places like The Cracker Barrel are trying to be. Their specialty are apple doughnuts, which are incredibly delicious. I am both sad and glad I didn’t buy an entire dozen, as I doubt they would have made the car trip home. They also have sandwiches (named for many of the local college mascots) and some very delicious pulled pork BBQ. It’s definitely a great place to stop if you’re going into or out of any of the national/state parks in the area, and I’m sure they get quite busy during tourist season.

Shenandoah River State Park

Disaster, and Pastries

Posted on

I tried to go for a hike. It did not go well.

The little creeks and rivers are swollen with rain and water right now. With the spring thaw, weather can conditions can be unpredictable. I am discovering that spring is really the most challenging season for hiking in this area.

So, my intent was to go to Sperryville and hike the Catlett Mountain loop. I’d hiked part of this before when I’d done the Nicholson Hollow trail, back in the autumn.

There are two stream crossings immediately upon hitting the start of the trail. The stepping stones had water lapping around and in a couple of places over them. I figured it wasn’t too difficult to manage, and unhooked my dog to make the crossing.

As I went across, I slipped and pitched over. As I did, my thermos took a swan dive out of my backpack’s side pocket and dove into the creek, never to be seen again. I scrambled across and recovered myself, looking forlornly after it. I sighed, and decided to push on. I had another bottle of water.

Then I saw the next creek, the larger Hazel River. In this case the water was definitely lapping over the stepping stones too much. I decided this was time to not be stupid, it was time to turn around.

So I had another crossing. This time, I slipped and fell again, cracking my shin hard. What was even worse was my poor dog slipped also and fell into the creek, flipping over and then gaining his feet and standing in the middle of the water. He seemed to be in a bit of a panic, and he refused to move, clinging as hard as he could to the riverbed.

I scrambled the rest of the way to the other side, and quickly set my pack and my walking stick down, and took my jacket off. I was cold and a bit wet, but I had to get Varro out of the water, and soon, he was starting to shiver.

I walked out on the rocks, and tried to grab him, with little success. I had to wade into the river and drag him out, and he is not a tiny dog or anything, being an English Springer Spaniel.

So I got him to the bank, and shrugged my jacket and my pack back on, and we left to go back to the parking area. I saw a few hikers headed out, and warned them about the trail. Most of them were headed up to Old Rag though, so they didn’t have any worries.

I got in my car and headed home. I was soaked to the hips, and bummed out. My dog was soaking and wet, but the heat was drying us both out. I decided a quick stop was in order on the way back.

So when I hit Warrenton, I pulled into the wonderful Red Truck Bakery. They’ve been written about in far more reputable publications than my little blog (like the New York Times and Esquire,) but I do have to say that their baked goods are delicious, and very affordable. I still have yet to try one of their sandwiches, but their croissants are marvelous. I grabbed an apple one (only $2.50) and munched on it on my way back to the car, noticing I had scraped knuckles and a slightly bleeding hand. Hopefully I didn’t look too horrifying when I was in the bake shop!

Once I got home, I realised something terrible. In my haste to get back to my car, I had left my hiking stick behind. This was the final straw for me for the day, and the tide of shock and anger and fear washed over me, and I cried for a bit. I know that things are replaceable, but it had been a gift, and I felt stupid for leaving it behind. I thought about getting in the car and  going back, but it was an hour an a half drive back, I was low on gas, and still soaking wet. Plus, with the amount of hikers already heading up the trail, there were few guarantees that someone hadn’t already walked off with it.

So, I put an ad on Craigslist, hoping someone runs across it and will see the ad. I have my doubts, though. I should have had my name on it.

I still have a bruise on my knee and a chain of additional bruises down my shin, and I will have to learn to be more cautious with the unpredictable weather. I will go back, though!

My grandmother always told me, the times I fell off a horse, that I had to get back on or it would always hold me back.

National Firearms Museum

Posted on

So, last week there was snow! This was good, but on the downside, this meant that everything was covered in snow, so I decided to head to a museum I haven’t visited before.

So, I went to the National Firearms Museum.

A little bit about the museum:

  • Location: in the NRA Headquarters at 11250 Waples Mill Road in Fairfax, VA.
  • Hours: 9:30-5. Open every day except Christmas Day.
  • Focus: History and technology of firearms, mainly focusing on the United States.
  • Amenities: Gift Shop, Cafe, Firing Range, Library (by appointment only)
  • Fee: Free!

Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the museum, so I wasn’t able to take any pictures. The museum website does have pictures of all the display cases, so you can take a virtual tour.

I went into this museum with an open mind, even though I could be described as a “bit of a liberal.” The fact that it’s housed inside the headquarters of the NRA may give some people pause, but IMO there’s no reason to let that be a negative. Firearms are an important technology that helped shape this country (for good and for ill,) so having a museum dedicated to them seems appropriate.

There’s plenty of parking at the lot immediately behind the building, and there’s ample wheelchair/handicapped access. I was a little confused where the entrance was at first, but then I saw the signs and went up to the front door.

This is where it was a teensy bit intimidating: You have to ring a buzzer and state your business in order to be let in. Once that is done, though, you’re free to enter and peruse the Museum, gift shop, and cafe (which I didn’t visit, I apologize for incompleteness!) There are a number of informational pamphlets in the entrance area, including a gallery map and a listing of the current exhibits. Right now there’s a special exhibit on Theodore Roosevelt and his firearms and other artifacts.

The exhibits are well lit (mostly, there were a couple of sections in the first gallery where the lights weren’t working) and very detailed in labeling. There are lots of computer kiosks where you can peruse the information in depth as well. As far as staff goes, there were mainly security staff on duty, I didn’t see any informational type docents.

The Roosevelt exhibit was very interesting, there were a lot of his belongings on display, including uniforms he wore and a whole mock up of his study. There was also a great display on firearms in Hollywood, which had guns (both real and imaginary) from many films, ranging from Dirty Harry to Firefly. The one out-of-place thing there was a Star Wars lightsaber!

The gift shop was very well stocked, with a huge variety of books, mainly on guns, but also some survivalist type books, and a few memoirs of prominent NRA members. There are t-shirts, pins, and assorted knickknacks. I didn’t pick up anything, although they had pint glasses, which I was slightly tempted to get.

As I mentioned I skipped over the cafe, but for other eating options, there’s the nearby Fairfax Corner shopping center, with several restaurants and other shopping places, and you can pair the two places together to make a day of it, or possibly pair this museum up with the Fairfax Museum.

Bull Run-Occoquan: 19 Miles

Posted on

Hike Summary

No pictures for this hike, I was mainly focused on building mileage, and I’ve been on this trail quite a few times already, in fact … I am almost getting sick of it!

It was a pleasant enough day for the hike, and I only saw a couple of other joggers. One thing that I did encounter, and something I have to remember for next time, is the fussy inaccuracy of Endomondo’s measurements. This is the second time that it’s reported inaccurate distance.

I really should have trusted the mile markers, and I also should have reset the odometer on my Garmin. If I had, instead of hiking 19 miles in one day (which is pretty impressive, but also has caused me no end of exhaustion,) I would have hiked the planned 16 miles.

This does free me up to hike something shorter and more interesting this week, so stay tuned!