Strong Winds, Stronger Women

After the warm, sunny day I had for hiking earlier in the week, it was quite a shock to wake up Saturday morning and find the temperatures had dropped, it had rained all night, and it looked like the winds were going to be steady at 20 mph all day.  I had a weekend hike planned for my working friends, otherwise I would have just gone back to bed and slept all day.  I checked the hourly forecast for our mountain and saw that there was no rain in sight, possible sun and a high of 53 degrees.

Knowing that one friend had ditched a conference to be able to join us, and knowing that it was the only weekend another friend could make it – I texted out the GO signal and was pleasantly surprised to see that everyone showed up at the designated meeting place.

Off we went to the Peaks of Otter!  Our destination was to hike Flat Top Mountain -it’s actually the less popular, so not as much traffic.  It really doesn’t look that impressive from down below.

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But it offers incredible views from the top.

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Pictures courtesy of fellow hiker and fellow blogger Laurie (LifeontheBike)

 

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And Tiina

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When you have two experienced photographers along, there is absolutely NO reason to pull out the cell phone.

 

Did I mention what a blustery day it was?  As we were walking up the trail, we heard a crack!  All of a sudden (as I watched parts of trees falling just beyond where we walked) it occurred to me we should be wearing hard hats.  Adding to the excitement, the trail is covered in leaves which, while very pretty, makes it a little treacherous as you cannot see the hidden rocks and acorns and honestly I don’t know what I would do without my hiking stick to help me keep my balance.

The sign at the trail head says 2.6 miles to the summit.

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That was the longest 2 miles I’ve ever hiked.  As we were trekking upward, a cute young couple was going down and the girl smiled at us and said “You can make it!”  Excuse me?? Of course we can make it, we are women! What the heck?  But the next (and last) part of the trail proved to be quite challenging, climbing rocks, making steep turns and wondering where that damn summit could be.

We did indeed make it to the top where we enjoyed our views, our lunch, good conversation and friendship.  These women continue to inspire me!

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Oh, by the way, when we got back to the Visitor’s Center we read that it was actually 4.4 miles to the summit – my knees will testify that that sign was more accurate.

 

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The Cascades and Barney’s Wall

Anyone who has lived in the New River Valley for any length of time has probably made a trip to the Cascades.  This is the singularly most popular hike in the area and even non-hikers have been here.  The easy 4 mile round trip leads to this beautiful waterfall.

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We visited the Cascades shortly after moving to the area.  It became our “go to” place to take out of town guests.

What I did not know, was that there was a spectacular view of the New River Valley, just two miles farther up the trail to Barney’s Wall.  This is a not so easy hike, it is steep in places, very rocky, slick in some places, but totally worth the effort.

I had been on this hike only once, my hiking buds for the day had not been there at all, so it was up to me to get us there.  Bad idea!  Even though I was there just a year ago, even though I read the directions before leaving home, and even though I felt somewhat confident that I knew how to get there – alas, I got us lost just long enough to add an extra mile to the hike (thank god for smartphones and internet or we’d still be wandering around).  But eventually we made our way to this!

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It’s hard to capture the magnificence of this setting.  As you peer over the rock, you are looking straight down (do not go here if you have vertigo). It’s the most spiritual feeling as you take in the power of Mother Nature.

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There is something about being on top of a mountain that brings me pure joy!

But wait, there’s more!  We met a couple on the trail who told us about another waterfall.  It is located on an unmarked trail close to the intersection for Barney’s Wall. We decided to explore it on the way down.

But first, stopped to admire some colorful fungi.

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Adding just another mile for this detour, we were treated to this waterfall.

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The best part about it, was that you can walk right up to it and it is as impressive as it’s famous sister falls.

It is fed from this creek.

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A little over 5 hours, about 10 miles, and 3 happy (but weary) hikers.

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My husband always says if he ever wants to get rid of me, he’ll just drop me off in the woods somewhere with no phone.  Oh well, as long as there’s a good view, I’ll be content.

 

 

Let the Sun Shine!

As I picked up my friends this morning (in the heavy fog that has become a standard morning fare) to head down the highway for a hike, I had this feeling that it was going to be a beautiful day!  I woke up with excessive energy and anticipation of returning to my favorite park – Hungry Mother.  In fact, I showed up early to all three pick up points, and ended up having to wait a little bit at each spot.  But once we headed down the road, my enthusiasm had spread to the others.

And indeed, it was a beautiful day by the time we arrived at our destination.

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The trails at the park are so well maintained, it is always a joy to hike here.  I did startle my friends a couple of times – once when a little snake crossed my path.  That paved the way for my jumpiness, which came out when I heard and saw something tumble in the brush, causing me to scream and leap into the person in front of me.

But it was all worth the effort when we arrived at the view:

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Today is Yom Kipur – a day of Atonement.  We discussed this holiday as we sat looking at this view.  My Jewish friend could not elaborate much on the holiday, so I came home and looked it up.  Quite interesting.  And what a beautiful setting for the discussion.  Fortunately, my friend did not participate in the traditional fasting, so we enjoyed a delightful lunch at the Wooden Pickle in downtown Marion before heading home.

Fall Hiking

Let’s see. What to do on a beautiful fall day that promises sunshine, warm temperatures, and clear views?  You guessed it – go for a hike!

Today’s hike to Buffalo Mountain was low key.  The road had been repaired so I can’t complain about tearing up my car getting up to the parking lot.  There was no one else at the mountain top – so all the views were ours for the choosing.  No swarm of flies, no bears, no snakes.  Today was just a relaxing hike with a friend, to one of the best views in the area.

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Tried to capture the bees on the flowers – but they must have been camera shy.

What did you do on this beautiful fall day??