Spring came early!

When Mother Nature gifts you with a perfect Spring day in the middle of February, you have to jump on it.  And that’s just what my Wandering Divas did yesterday.

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I’ve been putting off the hike to Angels Rest on the Appalachian Trail, until I was sure we were ready.  This is a challenging climb – 1.7 miles with an elevation gain of 2000 ft.  It is not for novices.

It’s for warriors!

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After an exhausting climb, you just want to celebrate.  It took us two hours to get to the top.

But it was worth it, as usual.

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Just so you know where you are, this little angel serves as a reminder.

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The best views come a little further down the path at a place called Wilburn Valley Overlook.  We took off in two groups to experience this view.  In hindsight, it’s probably better if the whole group sticks together, because as three of us were just about to reach the site, the other group phoned to see which direction to go at the fork.  We had completely missed the fork and were convinced that we had also missed the overlook.  So we told them to stay put and we walked back to them.  Oops!  We had not missed the overlook, but by the time we caught up with each other, it was 3:30 p.m.  Knowing how long it took to hike up, we decided we best get ourselves back down before the sun went behind the mountain.  We arrived back at the car right at 5:00.  Exhausted, exhilarated, and proud of our accomplishment, we rode home planning our next hike.

 

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Whether to weather the weather

Being the leader of a women’s hiking group means you have to make decisions:  where to go, where to meet, and when to call off a hike due to weather.  After carefully checking the weather for several days, I thought today would be a good hiking day – only 20% chance of rain and temps in the 40’s.  So when I woke up this morning and heard rain falling, I jumped out of bed to check my local weather.  Whew!  It’s scheduled to stop around 8:00 a.m. and then be clear until evening.  So I sent out an email that the hike was on!

My group of seven, dwindled down to four.  Great, we all fit in one car!  But, about half way there, it began pouring, with the windshield wipers getting a great workout.  Plan B was to drive around the park and then go out for lunch.  What luck though, as we pulled into the park it cleared up.  And these brave women were off!

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Though I’ve been to Hungry Mother a gazillion times, this was only my third climb to Molly’s Knob.  It is a fairly steep, steady climb to the top, so we took several breaks along the way.  Including this lookout of where we were headed, that’s Molly’s Knob.

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The last half mile is the steepest – I guess you have to earn your view on this one.

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It was not a great day for picture taking, but the view was really worth the climb.  Just look at these happy faces.

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After a long rest, we headed back down.  We immediately picked up a strong wind, a little rain, even a piece of ice fell from somewhere, but that only lasted a few minutes and then it was pleasant.  We stopped at the lookout again and this time saw patches of blue sky.

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I checked three different weather sources this morning, one of them actually mentioned freezing rain, but I knew if I could just get one more person to go with me, that I really wanted to go today!  So glad we didn’t have to cancel.

As Sir Ranulph Fiennes says:

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

 

 

The Lost Girls

You would think after being on a trail 3 times in the past, that one wouldn’t have any trouble navigating that trail again (even though it was a year since the last time I was there).  But here’s the thing, if a trail is not CLEARLY marked, I can easily take the wrong path.

Today, surrounded by five fellow hikers, we took off for what should have been a short 3 mile round trip to High Rocks, in Wytheville, VA.

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Smiling with anticipation: Hannah, Peggy, Cindy, me, Jan and Sharon.

Shortly into the hike, I felt like something was not right.  It’s called Sand Mountain, because there is sand on the trail, presumably from sandstone rocks.  So my first clue was that I didn’t see any sand.  I also didn’t see a road that I remembered running parallel to the trail.  And, though I do remember a lot of vegetation closing in on the trail, I did not remember all the thorny bushes that rubbed up against us as we walked on.  Finally, at one point, I convinced everyone to turn back and try again.  About half way back, we ran into 3 other hikers and we excitedly asked if they knew where the main trail was.  Unfortunately, it was their first time and they were making the same mistake as we did.  But they were young, and looked like they knew what they were doing, so we followed them.

For a while, we took turns following each other, looking for the real deal.  Jan, who came equipped with a phone app with GPS, could see our trail just to the left of where we were.  But, there was no easy way to get to it.  We had to walk through brambles, brush and all kinds of rocks and obstacles.  Finally, after many detours, we made our way to the proper trail.  I recognized it immediately and was so excited that we would not have to turn back without completing the hike.

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Yay, we made it!!  Only took us a little over 2 hours and 1.5 extra miles.

But it was fun at the top, and though I’ve seen it before, it’s still fun to hang out on the rocks.

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It was another beautiful, January day and I was so happy to be outside.

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The trip down was much shorter.  When we got to the bottom we saw where we made our mistake.  If you go there, from the parking lot, walk between the two boulders and then go to the LEFT!  If the trail is not straight and you don’t see sand, turn around and try again.  Don’t bother looking for tree markings, there aren’t any.

For some reason, my “lost girls” were not discouraged.  We had a great time and they talked about going out again.  It’s always an adventure, and we always manage to get back home.  So I guess I’ll get busy planning the next outing.

From Trails to Streets

Thanks to social media, word spreads quickly.  You share pictures and a friend of a friend sees them and wants in.  This is the case with my women’s hiking group, A.K.A. The Wandering Diva Striders.  This week I met two new women who joined me and another relative newbie for a quick in and out on the Appalachian Trail.

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That’s Sharon, Jan, me, and Ruth!

We started on Wilderness Road in Bland County and hiked North toward Dismal Falls.  There was snow on the ground, clear blue sky, and though it started out a little cool, the temps warmed up considerably before the hike was over.

We met two lone, through hikers, who were coming from the North – much respect to them for hiking the AT this time of year.  They must have some very cold nights.  Neither of them seemed to want to chat, so we just had to imagine their stories.

Thanks to Jan for this awesome shot of the blue sky.  She was breaking in her new (and first) smartphone.  Looks like a pretty decent camera.

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It was fun hiking with new people and getting to know each other.  One thing we all share is our love of being out in nature.  It always amazes me how many women love to hike.

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Having a lot of names on my list, means I can usually find 2 or 3 who are available at any given time.

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A connector trail led us to the falls.

And they were beautiful!

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If you are not a hiker, you can drive to the falls and view them from the other side.  In fact JG and I had done that on Monday.  It does offer a remarkable view.

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No matter what time of year, or how you get there, these falls are worth a visit!

To top off the week, my feminist husband took me to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Women’s March.  It was an incredible day, filled with energy and hope.

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Though nowhere near the crowd from last year, thousands turned out and there were some very inspiring speakers, including Virginia’s Senator Tim Kaine.

What a week!  From the trails to the streets, from winter cold and snow, to spring like temps, this year is off to a great start!

Thanks for visiting!

 

First Day Hike

For the past few years, the state parks in Virginia have been hosting a “First Day Hike” challenging people to come out and hike on January 1st.  While we have done a couple of hikes at our own Claytor Lake, we decided to start off the new year with a hike at Hungry Mother.

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Located just an hour away in Marion, we decided to spend New Year’s Eve there in our favorite downtown hotel.  There a lots of fun bars/restaurants in the area, including a very nice one located in the hotel.  So off we went with thoughts of fine dining and partying without having to go outside (it was about 10 degrees).  As we pulled up in front of the hotel, we got quite a shock looking into the windows of an empty restaurant.  We discovered that 90% of the town is closed on Sunday!!!  What??!!  Okay, a normal Sunday maybe, but this was NEW YEAR’s EVE!!!

After a small tantrum and a few cuss words, we realized there was nothing we could do about it.  So instead of dressing up, we just hit the two places that were open and made the best of it.

 

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The sun beamed in our window around 7:30 and gave us hope that it would warm up for our hike.  Ha!  Mother Nature laughed at that idea.  When we arrived at Hungry Mother, it was 14 degrees (F) -10 (C)!  The lake was frozen, snow flurries were in the air, a pretty steady wind was blowing, but we ignored it all and off we went.

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This place is beautiful all year round.  Even the dead rhododendron was pretty in its own way.

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The original plan was to hike the 6 mile Lake Trail, but we modified that plan for the weather and ended up doing a 2.5 mile loop combo of the Lake trail and the CCC trail.  Believe me that was plenty.

What an exhilarating way to start the new year!  I hope you all had a great “first day” too!

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As the year comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on all the wonderful things that have come from hiking.  The biggest is overcoming my fear of heights.  I cannot imagine doing this 5 years ago.

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I never think of hiking as exercise, but you cannot deny the health benefits of challenging yourself on steep climbs, long distances, and being outdoors in all kinds of weather.

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The biggest surprise for me, was finding so many women who love to hike, who just needed an organizer.

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I’ve made many wonderful friends through hiking and through blogging about it.

My year started out rather slowly; first the vertigo, then back issues, hip issues, knee issues, my goodness, I thought I would never get back on the trail.  But thanks to PT, water aerobics, and a shot in the hip – I was able to complete 180.3 miles of hiking this year.

My goal will be set higher for 2018 – all I want for the New Year is my body to stay stable.

Happy New Year!  May 2018 bring you joy and happiness, and good health!

One last hike for 2017

Today was my last women’s hike of 2017, Mother Nature was on our side.  She must have woken up in a good mood and thought “let me warm up the day for the Wandering Diva Striders.”  Sunshine, warm temps, great friends, made for a very fun December day.

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Cindy, Peggy, Hannah, Jan, Joanne

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So much enthusiasm for a “winter” hike, that we had to take two cars!  And, two pictures.

No vistas today, just a little jaunt on the Appalachian Trail, from the lower parking lot to the entrance to Angel’s Rest.

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Then a visit to the Pearis cemetery, which I wrote about in a previous post – Falling into the Woods.  In this cemetery, you will find Revolutionary soldiers buried along with Civil War veterans.

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This was a fun place to hang out and eat lunch.

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From there we walked across the US 460 bridge, so I could show them where the AT crosses.

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Everyone sees the signs on 460, but unless you see a hiker, you have no idea how the trail crosses the road.  That’s because you have to go under the highway.

By the way, we tried waving to all the cars going by and only got one person to wave back.

 

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What goes down must come back up – lots of steps.

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As I introduced everyone this morning, I realized that exercise is what brought us all together.  I used to play tennis with Jan, I met Peggy and Joanne from high energy aerobics, and Hannah from water aerobics.  Cindy has been in my life a while.  I never think of hiking as exercise, but thank goodness for exercise classes and the chance to meet such fabulous women!

Can’t wait to see where we will go in 2018!

Wishing all my blogger friends a very happy, safe, and healthy holiday!

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