I continue to marvel at the outdoors opportunities within an hour of the DC metropolitan area.
One recent weekend I went with the local chapter of the Sierra Club to the Blue Ridge Mountains (on Saturday) and a trail along the Potomac River on the Maryland side (on Sunday). The first was just over an hour drive from our rendezvous site in suburban northern Virginia (plus the 45 minutes from my house) ; the second was a half-hour ride from my house.
The following weekend my friend Tim was visiting and we drove out to Shenendoah National Park, about a 2-hour drive from my place. I bought an annual pass, figuring I’d be back often.
The first club hike was on the Appalachian Trail, my first foray on the storied trail south of Massachusetts. The leader billed it as a strenuous 6-mile hike that would feel like closer to 15 miles because of the scrambling on rocks. Well, for this gal used to the Adirondacks, this was no rock scrambling! The trail was rocky, yes, but just small rocks to walk over; nothing to pull myself up by my arms or with a helpful boost from behind from a friend. The hike was through forests of mountain laurel. Our group of 11 people included a couple of recently graduated university science-oriented students, so we had to look at the mushrooms and varieties of trees. Our destination was a rocky outcropping where we had a view onto some hills and farm fields below. Afterward, se stopped at a tiny hamlet’s country store where we had cheap ice cream cones ($1.99! I haven’t seen anything less than $4 in the metro area) and/or fried green bean chips and bottled fruit sodas. Guess what I chose?
The next day the Sierra Club sponsored an 8-mile walk, really, along the C&O Canal, to re-enact part of the 100K One Day Hike that I volunteered for at the end of April. The Canal, part of the National Park Service, stretches from Georgetown in DC to Harpers Ferry, W Va. We walked from a picnic area called Carderock to Great Falls, which is a gorgeous series of rapids that is within spitting distance of the Virginia shore on the other side. This was a more interesting stretch than what I had walked previously with a club, with wider patches of the canal and some open views of the river. We were treated at the falls to at least half a dozen great blue herons swooping and landing on the rocks below; I’d never seen more than one at a time before.
At the cook-out that concluded the hike I sat with 3 other women, one of whom entertained us with stories of her matchmaking exploits. She’s a geologist by profession at a federal agency, but her hobby is fixing up people. She counts 41 successes, and she’s working on her 42nd. By the end of the lunch, we all had given her our email addresses and phone numbers in hopes that she might work some magic for us.
During Tim’s visit, we drove about half of the 105-mile Skyline Drive to take in the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond, then hiked a 7-mile loop through woods to end up at the presidential camp of Herbert Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry. We learned some fascinating facts about the couple — how they came from modest means but he went on to quickly earn a fortune in mining, and they spent their own money to feed many of the starving Europeans following WWI — and toured one of the few remaining buildings from the original camp. We then hiked out the final 1.8 miles and stopped at a lovely waterfall; I was amazed and fascinated to see a couple of fish trying to leap up the waterfall, all too often bashing themselves against a rock instead of making any vertical progress. Driving out of the park we passed a coyote and a bobcat, along with some of the straggler cyclists we had passed in greater quantities earlier in the day.