A Mountain of Fun!

Exactly a year ago today, I was joined by my weekend hikers on a strenuous hike of about 9 miles, in 43 degree weather, with 20 mile an hour winds.  Bundled with stocking caps, gloves, and layers of clothes, we ended up having a great time.

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Flat Top Mountain (Peaks of Otter)

 

Yesterday, this same group of women joined me on a 2 mile, easy uphill hike in 60 degree sunshine!  What a contrast!

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Buffalo Mountain

 

I’ve been to Buffalo Mountain many times, but on this trip we met a gentleman who has been doing this hike since he was a kid.  He was able to point out all the area landmarks so that, for the first time, the geography of what we were viewing, seemed clear.  We looked out from this mountain and were able to spot the Peaks of Otter where we had hiked a year ago.

We love being on top of a mountain, no matter how difficult or easy the hike may be.  That is the one constant!  Thank you ladies, you make me proud!

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(Pictures courtesy of Tiina Ruus and Laurie Buchwald)

 

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What’s in a Number?

When my mother turned 50, I thought she was old.  But she surprised us all by taking swim lessons at the local “Y.”  Her and my dad frequently went fishing, and he was afraid that if she fell in the river, she would not be able to save herself.  So she took swim lessons – at 50.  It impressed me.

My hiking buddies impress me too.  These two ladies will jump at every opportunity to go hiking.  They are both in their early 70’s.

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After a long hiatus, mostly due to my busy schedule and the weather, we finally got to go out on this beautiful fall day and hike to Bald Knob at Mountain Lake.  The trail up is short but very steep.  We go slow, we rest, but they always make it to the top and are so thrilled when we get there.  We celebrate by making crazy poses.

 

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These two are fearless and fierce.  So what’s in a number?  It doesn’t seem to matter, as long as you stay active and young at heart.

This blog is dedicated to my hiking youngsters – Peggy Sue and Joanne!

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Wild, West Virginia

This weekend we rented a cabin at Bluestone State Park in West Virginia.  Having been charmed by the little town of Hinton nearby, we decided to give the area a try.  We were not disappointed.

The first day we hiked at the state park which proved to be quite an adventure.  This time of year can be challenging due to the leaves covering the trail (which may hide things like rocks and tree roots).  But after stumbling a few times, you learn to pick up your feet.  We took the Rhododendron Trail to the Lake Trail crossing a rather dry creek bed.

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After enjoying the view of the lake

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we had two options.  We could walk up the road and catch the Lake Trail, or we could try a short cut that involved climbing up a steep, slippery hill.  Guess which one we chose?

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You can’t fully appreciate how steep this was.  But JG went first to see if it was “doable.”  He barely made it to the top after sliding and banging up his legs a little.  He told me he was NOT coming back down that hill, but he was also worried that I couldn’t make it up.  His suggestion was that I take the road and we meet somewhere on the Lake Trail.  I quickly nixed that idea and gave it my best shot.  The advantage of not going first, is that the lead person has time to scout alternate routes from up above, which we found, just a few steps down from where this was shot.  With the help of a tree, and JG’s hiking stick, we managed to get me on top of the hill.  By the time we returned to our cabin, we were happily exhausted from the 4 mile adventure.

The next day we decided to go toward the New River Gorge and see if we could find a good hike.  We stopped at the Sandstone Visitor Center located at the southern entrance to the Gorge.  What an amazing facility! It’s sustainable (green) design concepts for energy efficiency, also features a floor map of the New River watershed.

The Park Ranger on duty directed us to a hike featuring two of the best vistas available, starting at Grandview (appropriately named).  The 3 mile round trip starts out as an easy hike, but just before you get to the end there are some steep ups and downs and a number of steps.  Of course you can also drive to both of them, so there were quite a few people at the lookouts, but hardly anyone on the trail.

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It was breathtaking!

Back at the park, we kept running into this little guy who was nice enough to pose for me.

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Sunday, as we were leaving the park, we decided to drive around Pipestem Resort which was only 7 miles up the road.  We had stayed at Pipestem many years ago, so we just wanted to check it out again.  We arrived as the fog was layered across the canyon.

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All in all, an excellent weekend getaway!

 

A Devil of a Hike

Tucked away in Rockbridge County Virginia, is a little gem known as Devil’s Marbleyard.

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That little spot in the middle that looks white – is the marble yard.

Saturday we drove to the Eastern part of the state to visit some dear friends.  I told JG I wanted to get an early start Sunday morning because the parking lot at the trail head only holds about 5 cars.  We did hit the road just before 8 a.m. and were making decent time until JG decided we should take a “shortcut.”  WARNING – always beware of shortcuts.  Said shortcut was a twisty gravel road off the Blue Ridge Parkway that managed to get my car filthy and add extra time to the drive. So by the time we arrived the lot was full,

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and we had to park on the street.

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We had a rather grand entrance to this trail and the path starts out very pleasant.

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A gradual incline makes you think, this is going to be a piece of cake!

Ha, too soon.  Once you get next to the marble yard, the trail turns rocky and steep.

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If you are into “bouldering,” this hike is your dream.  The trail stays like this for about 1/10 of a mile – but miles are not equal.  By the time you finish this section, you will swear is was much longer.

As we were halfway to the top, we ran into a colleague of JG.  He and his wife were celebrating their 29th anniversary.  Younger and faster than us, we let them go ahead, but we kept meeting up with them throughout the day which was nice.

Once we got to the top of the mountain, we thought there would be a view of the marble yard, but we had been misinformed.  They only view is from the yard itself.  No problem, we took a connector trail and headed for the AT.  Even though this added miles to the hike, it was worth it.  This trail was a little easier and much more serene, we only ran into one other person.

We also had some nice photo opportunities,

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After a while, the trail leveled off and we could easily stop for snacks.

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I must admit, the trip down almost did me in.  Imagine you have hiked six miles and the last part of your hike down includes the rock hazards.  The “devil” part of the name becomes crystal clear.

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To top it off, you discover that the only good view you will get is if you climb onto the marble yard.

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Which we did.

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Okay, it was worth it.

Of course, if you are young, you can just skip on the rocks like it’s nothing.

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Leaving this area, it was still 2 miles to the parking lot.  What I remembered as fairly easy going up, turned out to be rockier than I remembered and I thought at one point I could not go on.  JG, being my true rock, gave me the encouragement and support I need to make it back to the car.  He mentioned later that maybe we bit off a little more than we could chew.

Before we left her home, my friend gave me a chocolate bar from Germany .  She said “This will be your reward!”  Thanks, Jaime, it’s just what we needed after a hike that lasted six and a half hours, going nine and a half miles.  I slept eleven hours last night.

This morning my husband decided my trail name should be “Trooper.”  Thoughts?

 

 

 

Angel’s Rest on the AT

One of the many loved hikes in our area is Angel’s Rest – located on the Appalachian Trail near Pearisburg, VA.  I have read about it, heard about it, and dreaded it for years.

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Mostly I have heard how steep it is (1500 ft. elevation gain, from the road, more if you start from the parking lot below).  But considering some of the hikes I have managed lately, I was ready to give it a try.

Early morning hiking is great, you get to see the sun beat through the blanket of fog,

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appreciate the beauty of the cobwebs,

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and enjoy the serenity of having the woods to yourselves.

I was surprised by the trail.  Being on the AT, I expected it to be much rougher.  The ascent was steep, for sure, but the trail was well traveled and not very rocky – at least in the beginning.  Of course it did become a more difficult climb as we neared the top.  Isn’t that always the way, you want to be there, you think you can’t drag your body up one more step, and then you turn a corner and see that the trail goes straight up – ugh!  From the road where we parked, it was 1.77 miles to the top.  And, a pretty nice reward awaits you when you arrive.

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Of course, most people know that there is an even better view if you are willing to walk another 1/2 mile.  Which we did; and it turned out to be a very delightful part of the hike.  At this point you are walking on top of Pearis Mountain and the trail is pretty easy going.

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The rocks provided a perfect place for a rest and a snack.021

Since we were already up there, we decided to make the most of it and followed the AT a little further just to see what was there.  Unfortunately, after about a quarter mile, the vegetation seems to take over and in places you start to wonder if the thru hikers found an alternate route.  We turned back, but later took another detour to a water source. Saw this glass angel that someone left – sorry about the quality of the photo, but felt like I needed to include it anyway.

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And then we prepared for the long hike downward.

I’m so happy to have this hike under my belt.  It was not nearly as difficult as I anticipated, but definitely one that will get your heart pumping.  As usual, the descent took a toll on knees and hips, but after a good night’s sleep, I’m feeling fine.

With the weather in the 80’s, the sun burning bright, I cannot imagine any place I would rather be than on a mountain with JG.  Five hours, over 6 miles, and another perfect day.

 

 

 

 

Hiking Fun!

What a fun weekend!  The kids were home and we managed not one, but two hikes!  The weather was incredible, the fall colors are peeking out, and the company was the best!

Saturday we went to Gatewood Park and hiked about 4.5 miles around the lake.  The big question of the day was – Where’s the Lake?

Having just been there in May when the lake was full:

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You can imagine my surprise that this photo was taken from around the same spot.

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No matter, we still had an excellent hike that we all enjoyed.

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Even this guy.

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While that was fairly easy terrain with limited ups and downs, today’s hike provided a bit more of a challenge.

High Rocks on Sand Mountain, offers a good workout without being too strenuous, AND it’s only 2.7 miles round trip, AND it has views!

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So fun to climb on the rocks to grab the best views, but we also just sat and enjoyed being on the mountain top with no one else around.  We did not meet any other hikers until we were almost back to the parking lot.

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I’m glad these two learned to appreciate hiking while they are young – it took me 50+ years to realize how cool the mountains could be.

2 hikes in 2 days and 0 pain (knees – good, hip – fine, back – no problem) must be the water aerobics.  Can’t wait for next weekend.

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Channeling the Channels

Trying to plan a hike, weeks in advance, can be challenging.  For one thing, people’s plans can change – but more importantly, you cannot predict the weather that far out.  Today, gathering my working friends who can only hike on the weekend, we were gifted with a perfect fall day.

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The drive was just under 2 hours, with the last 13 miles on a twisty, winding road that led us to the trail head that would take us to The Channels.

Just a little over 3 miles up, the trail starts out as a gravel road and then splits off to a proper trail.  A little steep at times, but this is definitely doable for almost anyone.  There are a couple of views on the way up, but this one awaits you at the top

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along with this fire tower,

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and this deserted shack.

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But of course, the main attraction is the Channels themselves.  The Channels are sandstone rock formations that create a maze.

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They are beautiful, and will bring out the inner child in you as you explore each new path and squeal with delight when you realize how cool this place is.  Pictures cannot really capture these intriguing works of art.

After relaxing, exploring and feeding our faces a bit, we descended to another area that is called the “hidden channels.”  They weren’t hidden very well.

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They were also fascinating structures, but this time we were on top of them and able to enjoy the surrounding mountains.

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Me, with my weekend hikers, Beth, Debbie, and some of you may recognize fellow blogger, LB from Life on the Bike.

We had such a fun day, with the best weather we could possibly hope for, and the companionship of good friends who share a love of hiking.

As a side note:  Two years ago, almost to the day, I did this hike with JG.  Things have changed since then.  For one thing, the parking lot is bigger and fuller – people are beginning to discover this hike.  There is now a lodge, and the trail has been updated with signs (or else we just didn’t notice them before).

It’s definitely worth the trip – my friends rated it 5 stars.  I rate it as a perfect way to spend a fall day.  Thanks for stopping by.

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