Deer ? – Women 0

When you are planning a hike with a group of women, you are thinking about dates; weather; snacks; restrooms, etc.  What does not cross your mind is if it is opening day for rifle season.  Which it was.  Today.  For our hike.  Thankfully, no one shot us, but we could hear gun fire all around.

Before I tell you more about the hike, let me amuse you with the ride to the trail head.  Knowing that it was going to be a “rough” road, I asked fellow blogger Laurie (lifeonthebikeandotherfabthings.com) to drive her 4 -wheel drive, big ass truck!  I don’t think anyone else in the group had a vehicle that could have made this trip.  Just to give you a preview of the road:

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Even though a couple of passengers experience car sickness, we thought the trip was so funny, that we laughed most of the way up.  In fact, our distraction had us drive past our trail head the first time and forced us into the bumpiest part of the trip.

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A friend had given me very specific instructions and they were spot on.  But when we arrived at the end of the road without seeing the trail, I knew something was wrong.  Had they taken down the sign?  How did we miss it??  Oh well, we decided that even if we never found it, the adventure so far had been worth it.  So, after inspecting the truck, we turned around and headed back down the road.

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Laurie had so much fun driving through the “puddles” and splaying the water, that we all had to be careful getting out of the truck to avoid the mud.

Next, Beth decided to ask Google where the heck this trail was, and to our delight, Google took us right to the pullover for the trail head.  Guess what?  It was exactly as my friend had said, and the sign was there plain as day.  However, there were a couple of cars parked on the opposite side of the road, we must have been so busy inspecting them, that we totally missed seeing the sign.

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As we started down the path, it was not long before a couple of hunters approached us.  Having already heard a gunshot, I asked if we were safe to hike today.  That’s when they informed us that today was the first day of rifle season.  Swell.  So I asked, “You don’t shoot women do you?”  They assured us that they were focused on their targets and we probably would not be mistaken for deer.  So we continued.

This was my 3rd trip to Barney’s Wall, but the first time from this approach.  Usually, it’s an 8 mile round trip which includes the famous local waterfall, the Cascades.  But this approach was a much shorter hike, albeit a much longer and more treacherous ride.

But we made it.

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And it was so worth it.

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Our fearless driver, Laurie – we decided on the trip back to the truck, that we needed to surround her, to protect her from gunfire – none of us wanted to have to drive back down that road.

Another fun outing with some fabulous women!!

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Fellow hikers, Tiina, Beth, Laurie, Liz, and yours truly!

 

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Strength in Numbers

I’m sitting here watching the rain come down and reflecting on this weeks’ adventure in the woods.  On Thursday, we had an unseasonably warm day.  So after a morning of playing bridge, I loaded up some fellow hikers and we headed to Draper Mountain.

No matter how many times I hike at a certain place, I can still get turned around if the trail isn’t marked REALLY CLEARLY!  Although we didn’t actually “get lost” this time, there were a few moments of doubt.  Even taking a picture of the map on my phone didn’t help too much.  But we managed to find our way to the top.  And the view was worth the effort.

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We did not stay at the top very long though. As we were enjoying the view we noticed a group of ladybugs had taken up residence all over our bodies.  Four women running around screaming “ewww” was probably quite a site, but it wasn’t funny at the time.  As we descended  down the trail, I kept scratching and checking out my clothes.

Happy to be safely back at the car, we completed our stretches, changed our shoes and climbed in ready to go.  As I started the engine I looked up to discover the gate to the parking lot had been closed.  Seriously?!  So I got out and tried to push it open, but it didn’t budge.  Okay (after a series of obscenities) we realized someone must have pranked us, because my car was clearly visible.  It took all of us pushing against the iron gate to get it to open.  Which we finally did.

There’s a reason to hike in a group.  There is strength in numbers – literally!

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My hiking pals, Peggy, Hannah, and Janet

Falling into the Woods

It’s becoming a routine Friday question for both me and JG – “Where are you hiking this weekend?”  Because of the rain in the forecast, we had not planned to hike at all.  But Saturday morning the sun came up, the rain forecast was moved to late afternoon, so what else could we do?

We agreed that checking out a new section of the AT (Appalachian Trail) might be a good idea.  So we drove to Pearisburg, parked the car and entered the woods.  Right away we discovered the George Pearis Cemetery.

According to the Daughters of the American Revolution:

George Pearis in 1779 resided and was in command of the Pearis Fort on the New River, providing refuge for settlers from hostile Indian attacks. Captain Pearis joined Major Joseph Cloyd in suppressing Tory uprisings in 1780 at Shallow Ford along the Yadkin River in North Carolina. The cemetery is the resting place of Capt. George Pearis the namesake of the town.”

 

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I’m not usually taken with cemeteries, but this one was fascinating.

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Along with the Revolutionary War graves, there are also 4 Confederate soldiers buried here.  The cemetery was within the first 10th of a mile into the hike and we decided if we were going to get in a good walk before the rain, we needed to move on.  But first, I needed to get a shot of this tree.

 

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I thought it gave the cemetery a rather spooky feel as it seemed to be keeping watch over the graves.

Shortly after returning to the AT, you must cross the New River on US 460 before coming to an underpass that takes you to the other side of the road.

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The next entry to the woods begins here.

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After the short rise from the road, the trail became a very easy walk for a couple of miles before descending into a creek bed.  It’s probably the last weekend for the fall colors, and many trees are already bare, but we did manage to capture some of what is left.

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As we got back to the bridge, the clouds were really rolling in and there were a few sprinkles in the air.

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Good sense would say it was time to call it a day, but JG had other plans.  We had about a .5 mile connector road from where we were to the entrance to Angel’s Rest and he does not like to leave that kind of a gap.  So, with a little convincing, he persuaded me to soldier on.  Of course after all the easy hiking, that last mile turned out to be quite a challenge, albeit beautiful.

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Returning to the car required rain jackets, but we did not get too wet and we were happy to be back home when the rain really let loose.

A year ago my hiking was limited by damaged body parts.  What a difference a year make, and how happy am I that I’m back out in the woods where I belong.

 

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)

 

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.