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Attempting the Sunrise at Hawksbill Mountain

The last time I hiked Hawksbill I had planned to get there before the sunrise. That just wasn’t possible although I had captured the sunrise at an overlook (I don’t know that it turned out very good). Hawksbill is the highest point in Shenandoah National Park and you get about a 270 degree view at the top. I figured this was perfect.

The kids agreed to get up at 3:30 am for the drive out to the park and then the hike. As we arrived at the first visitor/restroom area we realized how windy it was. Hurricane Hermione was off the coast a bit but perhaps the winds were reaching the mountains. We took some time to stop and look up into the sky. My kids had never had the chance to see the sky with so many stars. It was a bit overwhelming. The last time I had seen a sky like that was when I went to Mexico on a work trip in college (many years ago). The sky there was even more magnificent but the kids were appropriately wowed.  As we drove down to the trailhead I started to worry that perhaps it was too windy for hiking in the forest area. There were small branches down on the road and the last thing I wanted was to be hiking in the dark and not being able to see branches falling.

When we got to the trailhead I left my car lights on and walked out onto the trail a bit to assess the situation. I didn’t see any branches – small or big – along the trail so I decided to make a go of it.  We gathered our packs, flashlights, and headlamps and started up the steep trail to Hawksbill. This was our first time hiking in the dark. It was just about 5:45 am and there was no one else out there. I had my SPOT (GPS locator and SOS device) ready and was prepared with bear spray and my knife. Perhaps overkill but I wasn’t going to let anything happen to my kids. At one point my daughter and I heard something in the distance. To me it had sounded a bit like coyotes but I’m not so sure they hang out in the Shenandoahs. It didn’t really sound like bears either. It freaked her out a bit but she decided it was the wind so we carried on.

The hike up Hawksbill is not long but it is steep. We had to wait for my son a bit as he started to complain (par for the course with him). We usually grab his hand and help him up the mountain. It didn’t take us long to get to the top. First light allowed us to put away our flashlights. The wind was insane. The gusts were probably upwards of 40-50 mph and it was chilly. Normally, it is fun to scramble around the rocks a bit but I chose caution over risk that morning. One wrong step and you’re down the mountain – having a gust of wind wouldn’t help. So we hung around the look-out area wondering if the sun would come up. I looked out and only saw clouds. I had lugged my tripod up in my backpack and it is a good thing. The lack of light made photos difficult (as I’m just a newbie and have no clue what I’m doing) and the tripod at least helped me get them in focus.



My kids huddled down together to stay warm as I roamed around looking for good places for photos. Needless to say I didn’t do great. Eventually, I couldn’t feel my hands anymore. Working the camera was difficult and it didn’t look like the sun would be up for quite a bit of time. The clouds were very high. So we decided to head back down the path. We made it about 10 mins down and the sun decided to appear. I contemplated going back up the mountain again but the looks on my kids’ faces said it all. They were frozen and hungry. So I took a forest shot of the sun and headed down the path. I wasn’t happy. I was pretty sad and disappointed because it is not easy to get out there for sunrises.


We made it back to the car and my son realized he couldn’t find his phone. Alas, he had left it at the restroom we stopped at on the way into the park. Thankfully, it was there and we drove all the way back to get it. All I was hoping was that no one else would visit the restroom and find it before we could get there. Whew. We hopped in the car and returned back on the road to return to Skyland Resort for breakfast. The dining room was beautiful and the food was fantastic. The windows offered great silhouettes although I couldn’t quite get what I wanted with my kids. They played along a couple of times but usually grow tired of me asking them to pose for photos.



On the way back we stopped at various overlooks for photos. There are quite a few that didn’t make it into my album. I need to add them because it shows us having fun and goofing around. Finally we reached the road to go home and made the 1.5 hr drive back to the house. All-in-all we had a good time. My son loved hiking in the dark while my daughter was freaked out about it. We agreed that we would try again in the future so that we could see the sun actually come up and bless the mountains with its light.




I always love this tree



All photos can be seen by clicking the link below:

Turkey Run Park in McLean, Virginia

Turkey Run Park in McLean, Virginia is certainly a little gem of a place. I have passed this park while driving on George Washington Parkway for years. I finally looked it up one day and saw that it looked pretty nice. Since the weather was beautiful yesterday, a coworker and I headed out for what was supposed to be a trail run.  We’re in the midst of a weight loss challenge at work. While his is going splendidly, mine isn’t. I don’t think I’ve lost anything. Size – yes. Pounds – no. As it turns out, the trail was a bit tricky for good running so we walked and talked. He has a job situation he’s trying to figure out and hopefully the walking and talking was a good way for him to figure out what direction he wants to take. My coworker, we’ll call him ‘O.K.’, doesn’t hike much. I wasn’t sure how he was going to like this trail as it included a bunch of rock jumping, creek crossings, and some log hopping. He took it all like a champ and enjoyed it.

Turkey Run is incredibly beautiful. Even without leaves or flowers in bloom it was gorgeous. If you take the trail that goes under George Washington Parkway you’ll be treated to a beautiful creek system. This makes the path a bit muddy but nothing I couldn’t handle. At times, the path is difficult to find. It isn’t very well marked or the blazes have faded quite a bit. We just followed whatever path we could find. You’ll eventually come to a large fence that marks off a residential area. We stopped there and turned back. Apparently if we had gone further we could have seen some water falls and found a different loop back. I was short on time so I’ll have to figure that out another time.

As we came back, we stayed to the left and ended up along the Potomac. If I would have had more time it would have been fun to explore a bit. We instead followed the path back up to the parking lot. The hike isn’t strenuous in any way except for maybe the climb back up. It isn’t very long but some people seemed to have issues. Obviously they aren’t in Fit Camp shape like me. (hahaha).

I definitely will be back to this park ASAP. I know my son will love all of the rock jumping and log walking. There are numerous spots for sitting and having a bite to eat. I can see, though, that if you come during the warmer months that you should plan on lots of bug spray. With all of the water I imagine the mosquitos will be pretty bad.


Burke Lake

This past weekend was so beautiful that I was determined to not spend the days indoors. My son really didn’t want to leave the house on Saturday but I promised him some time at the park if he went with me to REI and then for a little hike afterwards.

We went to REI to get him some trail shoes. He was always wearing some older sneakers but because he keeps asking to go on harder hikes, I decided he needed the right kind of shoes. I wouldn’t say REI’s selection was amazing… they had only 4 to pick from but we were able to find some that work well for him.

After dropping some cash at REI we headed over to Burke Lake in Fairfax. I had heard a lot about it but had never been. I knew it would be busy considering how nice the weather was. My son was excited because if there’s a lake – that means he can skip rocks. I could give him 100 rocks and he’d skip them all. He loves it so much. Burke Lake is a rather large park – I know we only saw part of it. There is a nice trail that goes around the whole park. I think I saw that it is about 5 miles around the whole lake. The boy and I headed to the path and started our walk. Apparently there is a mini railroad at Burke Lake. My son HAD to walk the train tracks. This is something he gets from his Papa (my dad). We really didn’t get very far on the trail because of this but that’s ok.

The trail also has a ParCourse. I think they are fun and we took time to try a couple of the stations. My son’s favorite is the rings. I’ve been doing a ton of work on my back and pull-ups. I found out on Saturday that I still cannot do one. Haha. But I can pull myself up a little and do leg lifts so Yah! Stomach!

I would highly recommend this for families that want to start their kids on hiking. It is easy. There is lots to see and do and it is beautiful!

Burke Lake//