Larry and I have been trying to hike as much as possible in 2016. We've always been good about hitting the trail whenever we have a nice weekend, and we hike a lot when we travel, but this year I've been trying to plan out some hikes ahead of time and be a little more intentional about it.
After our short walk on the A.T. in February, and reading about the National Park Service's A.T. Hike 100 Challenge, I set a goal of hiking 100 miles in 2016. I realize this isn't very far, and that a seasoned thru-hiker can complete 100 miles in three or four days. But I am not a thru-hiker - I am a weekend hiker who is just trying to get outside and get some exercise whenever I can. Our typical weekend hikes are about 5-6 miles, which means we'll need to hike 15-20 times this year to hit our goal. Considering that the only months that generally have acceptable hiking weather in Virginia are March through June and September through November, that means we need to hike 2-3 times per month. And since we work during the day and live in the suburbs, we only have a few weekend days per month available for hiking, and that all depends on weather, and if we don't have house projects to do on the weekends. Anyway, that's the long-winded backstory to our little goal for the year.
With spring approaching, I created a trail log and started researching hikes in VA/WV/MD, to avoid the dreaded Saturday morning "Where should we hike?" discussion. I think Larry and I had both been getting a little bored with local hiking because we felt like we'd done every trail in the area. Obviously, this is not true, but we were definitely stuck in a rut and needed to discover some new trails, branch out a bit, and challenge ourselves. We've mostly hiked in Northern Virginia and the northern part of Shenandoah National Park. Virginia is a big state and there are many other regions that we need to explore. It would just take a bit of planning ahead. I found Virginia Trail Guide to be a great resource, and came up with a long list of potential hikes, which I taped to the wall in my office. They ranged from easy local trails for when we only have a few hours or want to bring the dogs, to trails in Shenandoah that we've missed (we still haven't hiked Old Rag, but it's on the list for this year!), to hikes in the southwestern part of the sate that will require a road trip and weekend cabin accommodations, to more ambitious hikes with steep climbs that I feel like we need to train a bit for first. I was pretty amazed at some of the incredible hikes that Virginia has to offer - Devil's Marbleyard, Mount Rogers, Brumley Mountain Trail in Great Channels, Cascade Falls, Devil's Bathtub, McAfee Knob, to name a few - and it got me excited about exploring our state again. Who knew there were boulder fields, slot canyons, and wild ponies on the trails in Virginia?
This post is going to be a bit of a let-down after that introduction, as we didn't try any of the ambitious hikes on my list, and instead opted for a 4-mile loop in good ol' Shenandoah. I'd actually been wanting to hike Rose River Loop for years since I'd seen it described as one of Shenandoah's best trails for streams and waterfalls. We headed out to Shenandoah the day after we visited Hillwood Gardens. It's always surprising how far behind the seasons are in the mountains. With spring in full bloom in DC, it was a bit disappointing to get out to Shenandoah and see that everything was still brown. I lugged my camera up and down the trail (which seemed to go on forever, and felt like much longer than 4 miles!) and took very few photos, because brown-on-brown just isn't that photogenic. It was still a pretty trail along a stream with lots of waterfalls, but I imagine it being a lot prettier in late spring/early summer.
Anyway, here are a few photos of Larry's back hiking through the brown:
Spotted in the wild: Two dorks, inadvertently matching
I'd love to go back to Rose River Loop when there are leaves on the trees and we could take a dip in the pools, but that probably won't happen any time soon, because there are lots more trails on my list and lots more mountains to climb...