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Better late than never…

I did finally finish my 52 Hike Challenge. I thought I had written about it but November was a crapfest of the biggest proportion.  It must have slipped my mind.

I honestly didn’t think I’d finish the challenge as I mentioned previously.

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For my last hike I chose Turkey Run in Arlington (ish), Virginia. It is just off of George Washington Parkway and very unassuming. I first went there a few months ago with a friend of mine and wanted to get back in the fall. Also, I wanted to take my camera for quality photos.

My original plan had been to hike the Rapidan Camp trail in Shenandoah National Park. Unfortunately, my little dude was sick so I had to stay closer to home and shorten my hike. It was a bit chilly but the rain held off and I didn’t get cold. The best part about getting there early was that I had the trail to myself. I only saw an older couple who I scared to death as I was taking photos behind a large tree and they couldn’t see me.  Oops.

Turkey Run is a beautiful place. The run is small and gentle but still gives great photos. I wandered, took photos, wandered some more and took time to stop and listen to the deer snorting close by. I happened upon a young buck who stopped and posed for me.

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After a while I noticed that two hours had flown by and I had to decide if I should turn around and go back or continue on the loop. My motherly instinct took over and I returned to my car. I still needed to stop and get medicine for my son.

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52 hikes throughout the year wasn’t easy. My life keeps me very busy and carving out time for myself isn’t always easy but I’m incredibly happy that I do. Hiking, being in nature, and taking photos are perhaps the only things that keep me sane these days.

If you are interested in taking on the challenge, I urge you to visit http://www.52hikechallenge.com.

My next challenge? It will be a long-term challenge but I really want to hike all 500 miles of Shenandoah National Park. I have no idea how long this will take me. On the plus side, I have about 10-15 miles already done. Only 485-490 left go to!

 

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52 Hike Challenge Update

A few weeks ago I wondered if I would meet my goal of 52 hikes in a year. I was seriously stressed out about it because I hate not meeting my goals.

Well, I’m happy to say that I will meet the goal. I’m very excited. I will finish it on the day I started it – Veteran’s Day. It isn’t exactly one year – it’s a tad over – but close enough.

I won’t say where I’m going yet – you’ll have to check back here to find out.

Hiking Stony Man at Sunset

After our sunrise hike to Hawksbill, my daughter proclaimed she wanted to return to see a sunset. She, amazingly enough, had a free Saturday this past weekend so off we went to Shenandoah National Park. This time through I bought the annual pass! I should have done this the first time I went earlier in the summer. It is well worth it when making return trips.

There are a couple of different ways to reach Stony Man Summit. You can park at the overlook and do a longer hike or drive to Skyland Resort and pull into the parking lot that’s immediately to your right as you turn off of Skyline Drive. This makes for a very short and easy hike. We chose the shorter version since we’d be coming down in the dark. The trail map says the hike is 1.6 miles round trip. It does have some elevation gain but it is very minimal. This is why many say it is a perfect hike for families.

As we drove to Shenandoah National Park I was worried about rain. It had rained off and on for three or four days. It was supposed to have cleared up by Saturday but didn’t. The mist still lingered in the air. The rain started to fall, lightly, when we were about 20 mins from the park. I asked the kids if they wanted to proceed and to my delight they said, “Yes! Let’s do it!”  I offered up some alternatives in case it was raining. We could hike to a waterfall or just roam around the resort area until we saw if it would clear up for the sunset. My son was intent on hiking to the summit while my daughter wanted to see a waterfall. I figured I’d decide once we got up into the mountains a bit.

Sperryville, VA lies right outside of Shenandoah National Park. It is a small, picturesque town with a creek that runs beside it. I saw a pull-over area and asked the kids if they wanted to hike down to take pictures next to the creek. They agreed until we walked to the edge. Unfortunately, that pull-over seemed like an unofficial dumping ground for the area. Tires, dirty diapers, socks, sunglasses, and more were strewn all over. I often have a bag for trash but did not this time due to the short hike. We did our best to get past the trash and made it to the gorgeous creek. I attempted to take some pictures of the kids. I failed miserably but I did get some good ones of the running water.

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Thanks for not dabbing, kids.

 

As we drove up into the mountains the clouds were parting and there was sun and blue skies. I was so happy and relieved. We reached the parking lot and started our hike. It didn’t take us much time at all to reach the summit. I was a little disappointed to see it so crowded. I thought, perhaps, the rain would have kept people away. Taking photos was difficult. However, it wasn’t too long before they all left. The clouds were like a blanket over the mountains below us. At times it felt like you could jump and land on a big, comfy pile of clouds.

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Clouds. Clouds everywhere.

 

Sitting alone this whole time was a single dude. I felt bad for the guy. I’m sure we disturbed him a lot. My son kept messing around and I kept yelling at him. How peaceful… He didn’t seem that angry as he didn’t move. We explored the rocks and climbed around and attempted to take cool photos. I’m still a photographer-in-learning so some look great and some look stupid. And then the sun began to set. It was really beautiful and I know my kids loved it. Even my son took an amazing photo.

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Beautiful sunset

 

The wind began to pick up and it got chilly. We were prepared this time and put on gloves and my daughter wrapped herself in a blanket. The single guy stood as if to fully take in the whole sunset. He pulled out his flip phone and took a couple of pictures. And then he left. Then we did, too.

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The guy who stood/sat alone. He made for an amazing photo.

We hiked back down the short trail. My daughter looked like a warlord with the blanket billowing behind her with her light of her flashlight outlining the edges. My son felt the need to ask for photos along the way with the flash illuminating the whole area (and somehow kept his eyes open). At the bottom we piled into the car to drive to an overlook. We wanted to see the stars while we were there. We ended up at the Stony Man overlook. The sky had turned a beautiful color which I attempted to capture. And soon the stars flooded the sky. It is overwhelming to me to stand and look at the stars like that. Soon the Milky Way appeared above us. I laid down in the parking lot to fully immerse myself. Amazing. I don’t have the right instruments to take a night photo to show what I saw so you’ll just have to believe me.

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My first attempt at long exposure at night

Finally, we started the drive home. 8:40 pm. It felt like midnight.  My son had been struggling with hiking with me recently – even telling me he didn’t want to go anymore. So this trip made me incredibly happy. Not only because they wanted to go but even when it was raining they wanted to continue. I may end up with outside, adventuring kids after all!

Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve

Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve

I found a list of nature areas in Loudoun County (VA) recently and decided I wanted to visit them all.  There are 27 listed although some are just trails (W&OD or Appalachian Trail).  So far I have like 12 or 13 of them crossed off my list. A couple don’t seem to actually be ‘places’ so it may be hard to visit them. Yesterday, I crossed Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve off my list.

As I said a couple weeks ago, I’m still trying to finish my 52 Hike Challenge. I now have just 10 left. Yesterday didn’t go as planned but I still made it to the trail. It was fairly comical. I attempted to drive to the Preserve but both entrances are under construction. They both had ‘road closed’ signs. As I drove down one road there was a small parking lot with a trail sign. I figured I could reach it via this trail so I parked. I started walking. There was no path. I walked back to my car. I brought up the website and it said that I may need to use an alternate entrance due to the construction. So I drove 15 minutes to the other road. No entrance. I was frustrated by this point and drove back to the other entrance and small parking lot. I saw a guy putting his bike away so I parked again. I asked him about the trails. He suggested I drive past the signs, through the construction site, and park and find the trails. “Be a rebel!” he said. So I decided to risk it.  I drove past the Road Closed sign and through the construction site. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for being such a ‘rebel’. I turned onto the road where the entrance was supposed to be. I thought to myself, “Wow! I’m going to have the place to myself!” And then I saw another car coming down the road.

I went through the entrance and passed a few people walking on the road. And then I found the Visitor Center and there were a bunch of cars. Apparently you could turn down the road where the sign is… I just didn’t realize it. I no longer felt like a rebel. Sigh. Also, I wouldn’t be alone. Oh well.

I grabbed a trail map and tried to locate any trails with water. I have come to realize that when I hike near water I am happiest. It is calming to me. I first came upon a small pond. It was cute. It wasn’t anything special but I took a few moments to stand on a small piece of dock and listen to the birds. It was peaceful. I continued on down the trail. At first, it was pretty unremarkable. It was weedy and bushy. Because we have hardly had any rain over the last couple of months much of those weeds and plants looked dead. Not exactly pretty.

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As I walked I did end up passing a handful of people. The preserve is actually pretty big. I only walked a small part of it so even if you do pass people, you won’t see them for long. And if you do, just take a turn onto a new trail. There are many. It would be pretty easy to get lost if you didn’t have a map because of this.

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I walked a trail called, “Lookout Rock”. Well, there isn’t much of a lookout. You basically gaze down on Goose Creek. However, after this portion you start moving into more of a woodsy area and the trail improves quite a bit. I really wanted to get down to the creek. I thought it would be nice to sit next to it and listen to the birds. When I finally got to the opening for that I found three teenagers being idiots. I couldn’t tell exactly what their game plan was but it seemed to be jumping on fallen branches, smashing rocks, yelling, and being disrespectful to nature. I didn’t feel comfortable saying anything to them. I was definitely outnumbered and no one else was around. Needless to say, I never got a moment to enjoy the creek. Even if I had walked down there and found a spot, they were so loud I couldn’t have heard the birds.

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I continued on back up the path which eventually lead me back to the Visitors Center. The trails I chose gave me 2.5 miles through the preserve. I can’t say that I saw anything spectacular beyond maybe an owl that fly by but the woods were too thick to really see anything but a wing. I do think the place would be very pretty in the fall so I’ll make a return trip soon to check out the colors and explore a different part of the preserve. It is open only on Saturday and Sundays from 8 am – 4 pm.