Adventures in the Wild

What an exciting hike today!  So many things happened, where to start.  We got on the trail early, 9:00 a.m. (hey, that’s early for a Saturday).  We were at Mill Creek Falls in the town of Narrows, VA, about 50 minutes from home.

Starting out, we were the only car in the parking lot and we did not meet another hiker until we were about half way down.  I had tried this hike before, but it was after heavy rains and the creek crossings were such, that we turned around.  Today, it was fairly easy taking the 3 creek crossings.  However, this hike turned out to be a lot more than I bargained for – it was rocky, steep and at times narrow.DSCN6002

On the way up we ran into what we think was bear scat.  Not being experts on scat, we could be wrong.  And, since it didn’t look especially fresh (no steam rising) we were not too worried about it.

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Just before we reached the top we heard voices coming toward us and looked up to see about 10 people riding horseback down the trail.  We were both shocked, that was about the last thing we expected to see.  I assume they went down a different trail than we had just come up, because some of those rocks were not easy to negotiate.

We made it to the top after a little over 2 hours and were delighted with the view of the town below.

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We sat, enjoyed the view, and ate our sandwiches while resting our tired legs.  We were right under a power line.

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It was really nice to have the whole mountain top to ourselves.

Downhill is always a challenge for me, but we packed up and headed back down.

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This doesn’t really capture how steep it was, but it does show the rocks which were loose and not just a little slippery.

As JG went off to check out a waterfall – I parked my hiking stick against a tree and got my water out for a much needed drink.  You know how sometimes you see something out of the corner of your eye and you want to stop it but you know you can’t?  Well, my stick had fallen and was starting to get away from me and all I could do was watch and scream “NOOOOOO!”  But it was too late.  Even though I could see where it landed, I knew I could not retrieve it without endangering myself.  JG said “At least it was your stick and not you!”  So I started thinking – at least it was my stick and not my cell, at least it was my stick and not my car keys, etc., you get the picture.  Stick is gone, I was sad.

We continued on, and all of a sudden we heard dogs barking.  About eight dogs came out of the woods and were going crazy.  They were hunting dogs and had GPS trackers on, and were not at all interested in us.  Then (not being a country gal) I started thinking they were out there to track some escaped convict or something!

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We soon encountered some fellow hikers who explained that they were coon dogs in training.  Whew!

Anyway, we continued down the rocky trail.

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As we approached the parking lot, about 5 big trucks with kennels arrived, some were already filled with dogs.  We talked with the owners and they told us that the dogs had just tracked a bear from the top of the mountain, half way down and had him treed. Wait, what?!  We were just up there!  The dogs were just training, so they planned to call the dogs in and let the bear go.

You never know what’s going to happen on just an ordinary hike.

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As we packed up the car, we took a picture of where we had just been – Yes the highest peak in the background – what an incredible day!

P.S. that’s JG’s stick in the trunk – he has promised to buy me a new one tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

Back in the Groove

It’s been a while since I went hiking with my retired friends.  First there were the body malfunctions, then the weather, then travel, etc.  But, Tuesday I was finally able to organize a long over due hike to Read Mountain Preserve.

It’s funny when you have been on a hike before and you only remember the good parts (I believe it’s called selective memory).  Sometimes things get lost in the details. Like what I thought I remembered as an easy 4 mile round trip, was in reality closer to six miles and more on the moderate level.  But we had a great time, great view and just general pleasure of being back out in the woods together.

 

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When my knees are screaming and my hips are aching, I just look at these happy faces and remember why it’s all worth it.

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We hike for the pure joy of it.

Western North Carolina – WNC

Just back from a short visit to Western North Carolina where you can find the highest mountains in the Eastern United States.  I know that Virginia is a wonderful place to live and we have great hiking and beautiful mountains, but the area near Asheville really captured my heart on this visit.

We stayed near Black Mountain – a cute resort town with specialty shops and a variety of restaurants that are sure to fill everyone’s palate.  025

A local shop owner suggested we hike around Montreat College, just a couple of miles from Black Mountain.  Greeted by this entrance

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we stopped for a trail map and suggestions for a short hike (4 miles ish).  The young man at the shop guided us to a trail, and as we were walking up what was listed as “moderate” we quickly realized he thought we meant 4 miles one way.  This was NOT our intent as we had planned an afternoon in Asheville.  Also, I’m not sure how they rate their trails, but this was a little more than moderate,

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with 3 creek crossings like this one.

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We decided not to go to the top since we did not bring supplies for a longer hike.  But we veered off to have a look at the waterfall.

I don’t want to sound like a waterfall snob, but this one had me laughing.  I think I’ve seen more  action from my faucet.

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Still, it was a lovely day to be in the woods and we were doing what we enjoy.  We ended up hiking around 4 1/2 miles which was our original intent.

We did make it to Asheville later that day and were drawn to this old Woolworth’s building that has been converted to an art gallery, but kept it’s lunch counter.

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Asheville is a very fun artsy town which also yields some interesting restaurants, mostly emphasizing locally grown foods and local beers.

The next morning we headed out to the Blue Ridge Parkway and took a short 2 1/2 mile hike to see this view.

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Most views on the Parkway have easy access from the road.  But there is a Mountains to Sea trail that runs parallel to the BRP so if you are adventurous, you can hike or bike from one end of the state to the other.

It’s hard to capture the beauty of these mountains as amateur photographers, but we couldn’t resist trying.

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Growing up in the flat country of the Midwest, I’m still in awe of these majestic summits. I don’t think I will ever get tired of the incredible vistas provided by the Appalachian Mountains.

 

 

A Strenuous Hike

Last night I had this brilliant idea that JG and I should get up early (4 ish) and go for an early morning hike – maybe even catch the sunrise.  He reluctantly agreed.  I woke up at 3:50 a.m. and decided to lay there just a little longer – which turned out to be 4:45. Okay, we might not see the sunrise on top of a mountain, but it’s still early enough to beat the crowds.

We decided on Peaks of OtterSharp Top.  This is a hike I had not tried, however, I have hiked it’s twin – Flat Top twice.  As we headed down the Interstate, we saw the fog interfere with the sunrise.

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We arrived as the first wave of early morning hikers were about to leave the parking lot.  I had not attempted this hike before because even though it is only 3 miles round trip, it is very steep, rocky, and every book has it listed as “strenuous.”  But today I was feeling frisky and while it was a major “huff and puff” going up, we made it.

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It was quite humid, so we are pretty much soaked by the time we reach the top. Even though it was a bit hazy, it was a very rewarding vista.

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It was a wonderful way to celebrate our nation’s birth.  I haven’t been such a proud American lately, at least not politically.  But the mountains remind me that there is so much more to this great country of ours than a few bad seeds in Washington.

Now I am completely exhausted and achy, so I plan to spend the rest of the day with my feet propped up.  Hope you all are having a good day!

Revisiting my Happy Place

As many know, Hungry Mother State Park is my favorite place in Southwest Virginia.  I’m pretty sure I have been on every trail there, as well as kayaked across the entire lake, and on occasion have rented their cabins.  Not to mention the many times I’ve written about it and shared pictures.

When it is 75 degrees, sunny with a cool breeze and low humidity – it seems pretty natural that a hike is in order, especially since my body is in pretty good shape (at the moment).  And, since it is only an hour away. . .

 

We hiked about 8 miles – including going to Molly’s Knob which I have only done once before because it is kind of steep.

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But we made it. . .

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And there were some very nice people up there who offered to take our picture.

We ended up walking much further than we had planned, mostly because it was a beautiful day and we had nothing to do that couldn’t wait until tomorrow.

While uphill takes the wind out of me, downhill can be downright painful, so I slipped on my knee brace before heading down to the lake level.

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As we were about to cross the dam on the way back to our parking lot, we were treated to this lovely site of a mother duck and her babies.

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Such a great park!  Do you have a favorite place that you like to visit frequently?

 

 

 

Germany

Finally, the last installment of our trip abroad.  Sometimes it is a challenge to find new adventures in a place you have visited so often, but we managed to find a few, along with new angles on some favorite spots.

People may not think of food when they think of Germany, but I have to say, it is awesome!

and picture worthy

 

especially dessert

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One of my favorite spots on the Rhine River is the Loreley Rock.  I’ve seen it from the water, been on top of it, and this year I saw it from the other side of the river.  It continues to fascinate me.

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The legend behind it is also intriguing.

“The rock produces an echo and is associated with the legend of a beautiful maiden who threw herself into the Rhine in despair over a faithless lover and was transformed into a siren who lured fishermen to destruction.” (from Britannica)

Rather than ramble on about our trip, I’m just going to leave you with my favorite scenes from little towns, lakes, rivers and general landscapes.  Enjoy!

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I love that even a small town soccer club knows the importance of having beer!

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If you’ve ever considered taking a river cruise – this could be your boat.

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This is Riesling Country

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Unfortunately, wine festivals are wasted on me, but we did go to this wine presentation and JG did the family tasting.  Standing on top of the wine mountains, we had this incredible view of town.

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As many times as I have been to Germany, it still impresses me.  Their technology is top notch, they are very concerned about the environment, they love children, they are more uptight about guns than sex, and their health care and retirement benefits are far superior to ours.  We could learn from them.

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Thanks for stopping by, I hope I inspired you to visit if you haven’t already.

Norway

The second part of our trip was 6 nights in Norway.  Our host was a cousin of my husband.  She was not only an excellent host, but guided us through some fun outdoor adventures that we probably would not have discovered on our own.

The first stop was a sculpture park for women called Ekebergparken.

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This was called Anatomy of an Angel

 

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From a distance, it looks like an approaching hiker, but. . .

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This one was hanging in the trees. So cool!

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It was a beautiful park and there are many more sculptures, but these were my favorites.  The park is on a hill overlooking downtown Oslo.

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Of course we had to go on a hike.  Even though the trails are a little more like roads, we got in a full day’s hike and saw snow on the ground while it was in the upper 70’s.

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We toured Blaafarveværket a cobalt mine, which was a little traumatic for this claustrophobic hiker who is way more comfortable on TOP of a mountain than INSIDE a mountain.

But I survived it, and learned a lot about mining and came away wondering how people worked there on a daily basis.

Of course Norway has waterfalls too.

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Even downtown Oslo

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Finally, here are a few scenes from downtown. . .

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An absolutely beautiful place!  I have been there 3 times now, and each time I come away with new memories.  Summers here are wonderful, I highly recommend moving this up on your “must visit” list.