Monthly Archives: April 2016
I recently saw a photo on Instagram of The Channels of Virginia. Again, I’m totally jealous because they are exploring The Channels the way I wanted to but couldn’t figure out how. I’ve asked on a number of photos how to find where to explore and finally, someone answered me.
If I had just kept walking the way I was going I would have found the trail. I had walked towards the fire tower to take a photo and got freaked out as it swayed in the wind. Apparently, the path to the formations is just past there. That small fact was omitted from every review I read of the hike. Not one person mentioned that. It seems like a key piece of information because as you get to the top the path goes one way and basically stops.
I feel very frustrated and disappointed. My kids were so happy to explore and I failed them. I want to go back soon but my daughter’s schedule is so packed this summer that we won’t have a chance for a long time. Heaven forbid she have one free weekend over the summer.
So now when do we go back? In the fall I guess. Or wait again for Spring Break but I wanted to go somewhere new for Spring Break. So I sit here angry and frustrated with myself. I was right there and missed the adventure.
The Potomac Heritage Trail is a networked series of trails that runs through Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and even into Ohio. It most often follows the path of the Potomac River. I am very lucky that I live very near to a large portion of the trail and get to hike/run on it often. My son is a little soccer player. There are numerous fields near me where he practices. The bonus is that the Potomac Heritage Trail runs right next to two of the complexes. In years past, I have just walked or ran the immediate trail right next to the fields. Then one day, I passed a sign and I saw the trail marker for the Potomac Heritage Trail. I took it. It was amazing and just kept going. The next time I ran a little faster and went a little farther. I couldn’t believe that essentially I could take the trail all the way from my house to Great Falls (about 14 miles or so). That’s just amazing. In just the last two weeks I discovered even more of the trail at the new practice location. I feel like I’ve hit the lottery. The trails are well-marked, cleared, and most importantly – beautiful.
I love being near the water and this whole trail runs next or close to the Potomac River. There are plenty of little off-shoots that allow you to be right next to the water. I like to climb around on the downed trees and listen to the birds. The trail also runs through a few golf courses. Last fall when I was running on the newly discovered trail I passed through a lush course. There were boardwalks over marshy areas and in the fall, the colors were amazing.
The Potomac Heritage Trail is a great set of paths. I’m learning more about them all of the time and will definitely be adding to my photo collection as I go.
My son has been bugging me about camping. He has it in his mind that he wants to backpack, camp, etc. – the whole nine yards. I’m not so sure about that myself so when I was planning our spring break trip I decided to try a cabin at one of the Virginia State Parks. I settled on Hungry Mother State Park for a couple of reasons. 1 – It was close to where we’d be hiking and 2 – it looked beautiful and had great hikes.
We arrived to the park after the park office had closed. We picked up our packet that was waiting for us and proceeded to the cabin that was listed. Unfortunately, they had mixed up some of the packet information and it was the wrong cabin. Thankfully the park ranger on duty fixed everything up for us and we quickly made it over to our right cabin. It was a two bedroom cabin. The one room had a double bed and the other had bunk beds. If you plan on staying in a cabin during the winter please note that the temperature only goes to 72 degrees. I know that’s warm enough for some but not so much for me. But I had come prepared so I was ok with my cabin socks. The room with the bunk beds was a little tricky. The top bunk was blazing hot while the bottom one was cold. I had a kid in my bed both nights we were there. I did attempt to start a fire the second night. They give you a bundle of firewood at the doorstep. I grew up camping and was actually quite good at making a camp fire but no matter what I did – the wood wouldn’t burn. I’m not sure if it was just too cold, damp or what. I was a little bummed.
Other than that small issue the cabin was great.
The first morning we woke up it was very cold. 25 degrees in fact. We headed to the park office to check-in and asked about a restaurant. There wasn’t much in that little town but the Appletree Restaurant was quite good. The warm coffee and food really helped out a lot. We headed back to the cabin and prepared for our hike.
We had originally intended to do Molly’s Knob. I really wanted to tackle it but since the previous day’s hike had been pretty tough I took it easy on my kids. I’m sure my daughter could have handled it but wasn’t so sure about my son. We opted to do the Lake Trail. It winds around the man-made lake and does have some elevation. It is about 5.7 miles and was beautiful.
My son kept asking to eat lunch and I kept putting him off. I wanted to find a nice spot and lo and behold I did. We were about half way through the hike and a nice spot presented itself to us. It was sunny and almost warm. When the wind wasn’t blow it was perfection. The grass was soft and we were right next to the water.
As you wind around the lake towards the entrance of the park you see the damn that was build to create the lake. You can even walk out onto it which is pretty cool. The kids took some time to wrestle and roll down the hill that is nearby and I was able to stand watch them get along. That’s rare.
I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the lake. The whole park is just so beautiful. I had gotten up and walked to the lake early that morning in hopes of seeing the sunrise. The mountains blocked it but the sunsets were really spectacular.
I could imagine staying at Hungry Mother for a whole week and loving it. They have canoe rentals, paddle boats, parks, playgrounds, a restaurant, and more available for recreation when summer rolls around. I might not look forward to spiders in the cabin (I bet there are a lot in the summer) but it’d be worth the gamble. If you haven’t made your way to one of Virginia’s state parks – do it! I have been to five so far and each one has just been beautiful.
See all my photos on Flickr.
Over spring break my kids and I ventured out to Southern Virginia for some hiking. Our main goal was to get to The Channels of Virginia. I had read about them on various sites and the photos told me that my kids would love it. After showing them some of the photos I found online they were definitely eager to hike there. I found the best directions on this site. You can visit and find her driving instructions which were perfect.
That morning it was pretty chilly. The temperature was about 38 degrees. We had come prepared with layers and bundled up. We parked on the trail and our car was the only one there. That made me very happy. I was looking forward to some solitude and not having to worry about who we might meet. I had my new SPOT device for checking in with people and leaving GPS locations for safety. Surprisingly though we had phone service. Go figure.
The trail was really nice. It is well-maintained and wide. It is a gradual climb up about 1200 feet (3 miles). There are portions that are more steep than others but there is plenty to see so if you have the time, stop, look around, take photos. The climb won’t seem so bad. For experienced hikers it should be a piece of cake. My son had moments of complaining but he trudged along with his trekking poles and with the use of my hand. I find that holding his hand helps him up the mountains and also slows me down so we go at the same pace. Plus, he’s 10 and it won’t be long before he won’t want to hold my hand anymore.
At every turn there is a view. I would stop sometimes and just gaze out at the mountains or valley. I was pleased to be the only ones on the trail that day. I guess that’s the benefit of going on a Monday. Every few minutes I got the, “Are we there yet?” question and I told my son when he saw the fire tower he would know we were there. Cheers escaped his mouth when he saw it and knew the hard work was over. We saw the sign for The Channels and turned onto that portion of the trail.
On the Spur trail you climb to the top and see the old fire tower and old cabin. I saw a large rock so of course I climbed it. The view was spectacular. The kids are a little afraid of heights but I assured them it was fine so they climbed up too and were equally amazed. The best part about hiking with my kids and witnessing their love of nature.
After we explored the fire tower area we went back to see about exploring The Channels. All of the photos show people down under the rocks. They were amazing. We attempted to get down in two different areas but they both lead to dead ends. I found a way to get to the top of the rocks so we hung out there and had some lunch. I tried to rock hop a bit and see if I could find a way down but all of the drops were pretty far. My kids were a bit scared of me doing that and I didn’t want to worry them too much so I sat with them. The wind had died down a bit and it was almost warm up there on the rocks. My daughter said, “All of SnapChat is at the beach but I’m here and I get to see this! Their spring break sucks!” That made me so proud. I’m so glad she was happier on top of a mountain, cold, with me and her brother than just hanging at the beach.
On the way down we tried another way to explore the rocks but found nothing. I was pretty sad and disappointed. I don’t know what I did wrong in trying to find the entry. The kids were still thrilled with the hike but I felt like I failed them. We had gone specifically to explore the maze of rocks. My daughter said it was an excuse to go again some time so I guess we will. If anyone reading this knows how to get down under those rocks, please share! I reviewed everything after arriving home and nothing was helpful. All sites make it sounds like the entry to the rocks is just right there.
Overall, though, it was a fantastic hike. It was peaceful and beautiful. You can continue on the trail for quite a few more miles if you so choose. You’d need a pick-up person, however, to get you at the end unless you hike all the way back.
Check out more photos from the hike.