(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.