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Signal Knob – GWNF

Hike Summary

It was cold, rainy and foggy as I pulled into the parking lot for the Signal Knob trail. I was a little upset at myself, because I probably should have brought a jacket and didn’t.

I lucked out though, because the rain stopped shortly after I set out, as the weather had forecast. The first part of the hike, which crisscrossed through some river gullies while slowly ascending, is fairly heavily forested.

There are definitely more and more signs of autumn on the way. Some of the trees are turning already, and I saw a few of these as I ascended.

About halfway up, the sun decided to make an appearance, and the rest of the day had lovely, sunny weather. There’s nothing like that contrast between the coolness of the shade and the warmth of the sun as it comes out.

I hit a nice point on the switchbacks, and there were some great views towards Buzzard Rock across the way. I stopped here for a small break and snapped some pictures of the view. There are some nice camping spots just above the viewpoint. It would be the perfect place to do a late afternoon hike with a camp at the top, to view the morning sunrise.

The trail wound around to another overlook, the Fort Valley Overlook, that was unfortunately obscured too much by trees to give a very good view. After this point, the character of the hike changed a little bit. It became much much more rocky, and pretty uncomfortable. I am increasingly aware that I need new boots soon with every hike, as my feet became very sore climbing over an endless succession of rocks. It seemed like every turn was another rockpile!

Eventually, the trail intersects with the Meneka Peak trail, and we were in territory that I’d last visited in early May. The trail levels off here, and goes through evergreen forests to the transmission tower and Signal Knob, where I got a nice view of Strasburg, I-81, and Great North Mountain off in the distance. I’ve gotten a little more familiar with the area overall since I was last out here, only a few months ago. I’m less afraid to stop and check stores and places like that out. I really enjoy getting to know the whole area, especially after years of cutting myself off from almost everything and staying indoors. It’s not all better yet, and I don’t know whether it will ever be, but I’m trying.

After my stop to admire the views from Signal Knob, I made the descent down the fire road from there. There were a few late-summer wildflowers out and about, mostly asters of various types. I also saw a mature Indian Pipe, which I hadn’t seen before now. It’s easy to miss the brown and pink of the plant, they look like something dead.

Back down to the intersection of the Tuscarora Trail. There’s a section that goes out to Doll Ridge and parallels the fire road that I’d like to get a hike on one of these days, but this day I was going in the other direction. It was another ascent, and I was pretty tired already.  About a mile in, and I’d finally hit the other end of the Meneka Peak trail and it was all downhill (well, mostly) from there.

I got to make a new observation, an Eastern Fence Lizard, as I made my descent. Usually, animals don’t hold still long enough for me to take pictures of them, especially when my dog comes to help investigate. I missed out on a picture of a huge black racer snake the previous hike, for instance. But this lizard was nice and helpful and pretended it was part of the rocks long enough for me to take a picture.

Most of this descent was dry and rocky before finally hitting some forest at the bottom. It was nice to have some shade on the way back to my car.

2013-09-13 signal knob
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Appalachian Trail – G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Preserve

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Hike Summary

(Note: I didn’t get to take any pictures on this hike due to the pace, so you get lots of words!)

So, June 1st was National Trails Day, so what better way to celebrate than to go on a hike?

I often go just with my dog on hikes, as there are very few people with time off during the week, which works both in my favor and against me. It works in my favor in the respect that I don’t often encounter other people on the trail, but it works against me because there aren’t any people to hike with. My SO has an aversion to the outdoors for the most part, as well as being afraid of heights, so he’s mostly unable to go hiking with me. That’s totally fine with me, we have different interests and hobbies.

Still, I have made close to zero friends since I have moved to the East Coast. A good chunk of that is my depression and social anxiety, but it just seems to be hard to meet people. Most of the meetup type organizations in the area seem to be stay at home moms, and since I am only a mom to a dog, I don’t exactly qualify.

Anyhow, I wanted to get out and meet some new people. This is probably something I would have been much more nervous about doing even a year ago, but it seems that shedding the weight that I have has also helped a little with confidence. I’m not there yet by any means, but I’m getting better.

So, to the hike. I arrived fairly early, not wanting to be late, and there were a few cars in the lot, and one guy and his dog. This was Tom Johnson of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, one of the hike guides for the day, and his dog Sam (a girl.) She was an enthusiastically friendly and intense Aussie Shepherd/Border Collie mix. We chatted for a while, waiting for the others. It ended up being a very small turnout, with Alyson Browett of the Front Royal/Warren County Appalachian Trail Community, and another  hiker named Bob.

We set out in one car to the starting point of the hike, at the other end of the G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Preserve, which is one of a multitude of Wildlife preserves in the state of Virginia. It is open for fishing and hunting with permit, and is an excellent place to view bird migrations as well as wildflowers. A good chunk of the Appalachian Trail bisects the area before heading into Sky Meadows State Park.

It was a pretty warm day that day, but not overly so. Most of the trillium were long past their season, something I’ll have to remember for next year. I remember seeing them before they bloomed in Sky Meadows in April, so it seems they have a narrow window of blooming.

We did see quite a bit of wildlife though: several toads, squirrels, a box turtle, and even a black racer. Luckily we did not see any Copperheads, which used to live underneath the Manassas Gap Shelter, where we stopped for a snack and to chat. Manassas Gap Shelter is the oldest of the AT shelters between Shenandoah and the WV border, so it has a long history. As we were chatting, we met an AT thru-hiker who went by the trail name of Goose. He’d been on the trail since early March, and was making excellent time, living off mostly Pop-Tarts.

As we hiked on, we chatted about the trail, stopping to check out trees and plants. It was nice to have other people who knew more about the  flora than I did. I can identify any number of California native plants, but I am definitely still learning my Virginia wildflowers.

Near the end of the hike, Bob was kind enough to snap a picture of us for posterity. I had a great time, and really enjoyed hiking with more people. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do so again soon.

A Year Ago Today

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So, no hike this week. It decided to both snow and be incredibly cold, and although I had planned on visiting a museum to make up for the lack of a hike, it seemed with all the ice that it would be a better idea to just stay indoors.

So I did, and tried to work extra hard on the elliptical machine.

Then

So, a year ago today, I decided to start logging the food I ate with a little app called MyFitnessPal. I had been feeling pretty crappy about my weight for a long time, and had taken some tentative steps towards correcting the problem, but this was my first real effort in a long time.

“I’ll just start seeing what I eat and see how badly I am doing,” I said to myself. Boy, was I being bad. I mean, it could have been a lot worse, but I generally dislike most fast food, and I pretty much cook dinner every night.

However, when you cook dinner for 4 for two people and eat it all, you have a problem. I’d often eat whatever leftovers my SO hadn’t eaten either, so I was often eating enough food for 3 people at a time.

I hate wasting food, and I love eating, so that was a big issue. I also love to bake things, and baking a batch of cookies and eating most of them was also a problem.

So, I started taking steps to correct things. I had pretty much given up on soda and coffee for a while by this point, only occasionally drinking them. I also cut out fruit juice, as drinking it with breakfast often left me feeling dizzy by lunchtime. I limited myself to tea and water as my main beverages. I started eating a regular breakfast of oatmeal. I started cutting down the portion sizes at dinner.

And I started walking. At first, it was only 30 minutes of walking, but as time went on, I moved it up to an hour worth, and then I added in my weekly hikes. Walking every day and listening to audiobooks while I did it really helped, along with the portion size changes, and the tinkering with menus to eliminate high calorie foods.

I think the difference now between when I tried to do this before, is the change in technology. My phone is with me all of the time, and I can even scan barcodes, and look up foods in the database, so I can make better choices. This gave me no excuse to not log my food.

As I lost the weight and as I exercised more, I felt some of the symptoms of my depression lessen. It’s not totally gone, nor is my anxiety. I am not sure if I can ever stand a stressful environment again. But I am trying.

One year ago, I weighed 248 pounds. Today (well, as of last Saturday, actually,) I weigh 159.

Now

I still have a bit to go: I would eventually like to hit 140 pounds. I feel like I’ve come a long way. I can hike 10 miles up and down a 1500 ft incline. I have more energy. I don’t feel like I’m dying when I go up all the stairs in the house I live in.

Here’s hoping another year will be as productive as this last one has been.

Hello

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Greetings.

If you’re here, it is probably from some sort of Google search or something, as I haven’t really told anyone about this little blog. It’s still new (brand new, as of today, in fact.)

It’s been a very long journey trying to dig out of myself of this bottomless hole of depression. I have no medical insurance, having lost it several years back after getting let go from my job due to too many stress-related absences. With the loss of the medical insurance, the loss of medications was not far behind. Antidepressant withdrawal is a hell of a thing.

I was in a deep dark period for a few years, but I am getting better. A big part of that has to do with daily walking or hiking, with my canine companion. I’ve just started dipping my toe in to the hikes around the region, and have been learning things about how to better get out there, and things about myself. I figured maybe it would be a good idea to write about those things again.

It might be interesting, it might be stupid and boring, but it will be here.