This past summer was great for my photography. I was lucky to see numerous butterflies, dragonflies, and flowers. I hiked a lot less than I normally do. The free weekends I had were spent running Spartan Races versus hiking and that’s okay. I’m hoping that my Saturdays will free up soon so I can get back to it. I imagine I’ll be hiking a ton this winter to make up for it.
I wanted to share a handful of photos from this past summer. Some of these are included in my calendars that can be pre-ordered but I am also leaving some as a surprise.
I often lament that there are not that many waterfalls closer to me. Sure, there is Scott’s Run Nature Preserve and that is a really cool one. And of course, all of the ones in Shenandoah National Park and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I just really wish I lived right next to one I guess.
However, Potomac Wayside Park is only 30 minutes away. I feel like calling this a “park” is a bit of a stretch. The first thing to know about this park is that there is parking for about three vehicles. That’s it. When you drive up to it, there is a large, long paved area but they (Loudoun County? NOVA Parks?) call most of it a roadway. And they don’t allow parking there except for the very end of it. If you decide to go, go early (no later than 9:00 am). It is unfortunate that there is so little parking because the area is beautiful. If you go during the summer, you’ll see that the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center uses the full length of the “roadway” to park for their tubing expeditions. I know, it seems unfair that they get to use it for commercial ventures while the rest of us cannot.
When you arrive… very early in the morning…you’ll see a sign at the start of the trail. The trail is incredibly short and it will take you directly to the waterfall. Each time I have been to the falls there has been a good amount of water. The name of the waterfall is Piney Run Falls. It dumps directly into the Potomac. I once visited during the winter and it was pretty much frozen solid. It looked amazing. There are some large rocks to climb on but just be aware that they are very slippery. On a hot day, feel free to wade into the water. It feels amazing.
If you continue down the trail, you’ll come to the Potomac River. From there, you’ll have a great view of the bridge that connects Maryland and Virginia to your right. And to your left, you’ll see Harpers Ferry. I suppose you could fish from this area. I would recommend swimming here as the current can be strong. The chances of seeing an eagle fly by are very high. When the water is lower, there are exposed rocks where you can sit and relax.
This is one of my favorite spots in Loudoun County. Because I go very early, I have it to myself each time. While it is a shame the parking lot is so small, I guess, it is also a blessing. It would probably be overrun with people if it was larger. It is a balance. I definitely recommend visiting Harpers Ferry after seeing the falls. There are a number of smaller trails to explore. Or you can do the Maryland Heights Trail which will give you an incredible view of the entire area.
August has literally flown by… I can’t believe that it is almost September. I sound like my mom right now. She always is commenting how fast time goes and I usually agree with her. But August was something else… I guess having two Spartan Races, a family party, with just one free weekend does make the month go by lightning fast.
I had two photo shoots scheduled for this past weekend. The weather forecast changed by the minute and I ended up re-scheduling both of them. And, of course, the weather turned out perfect for both time slots I had scheduled. Incredible. It did leave me with free time yesterday. I’m still struggling with getting my son to want to do anything outside of the house. I have attempted a few things: beach, exploring, fishing, taking a friend… nothing works. I try very hard to not be offended or hurt…but I honestly still am. Since he wanted to stay home, I gave him a list of chores to do while I was gone. I supposed I could force him to go but then we’d both be miserable. One of the issues I have with leaving him home is that I don’t like to go anywhere I don’t have service. That means no hiking in Shenandoah or Sky Meadows State Park or other close areas. So… I drove around.
I put 90 miles on my car yesterday. I stopped at a few favorite spots but they didn’t produce too much in the way of photos. And then I found country roads in Loudoun County that were just blissful. I thought I would find random barns (I found a couple) but instead I think I found where all the wealthy horse farms are in Loudoun. The pastures were just amazing. I found an area where at least 15 goldfinches had taken up residence. I drove past a milkweed plant with butterflies galore. I saw cows and horses and fawns. Because it was a one-lane, dirt road, I basically could stop anywhere to take photos. Only once did a truck come down the road which left me scrambling to try and move my car out of the way.
Eventually, I grew tired and decided to finally go home. I was gone for 4.5 hrs and while I didn’t have a ton of photos to show for it, I did have peace of mind. I had calmed down and wouldn’t return home angry and hurt (well, still a little hurt). I was glad to see so much open space in the south-western part of Loudoun County. There is a new county plan and it really doesn’t allow for much green space. The focus is on building, building, building and growth. I do hope that the protest and comments people are providing will cause them to re-think the plan and keep these open spaces.
These area a few photos from my day.
One of the biggest reasons any of us hike or spend time in nature is because it helps us… mentally. You’re having a horrible week and so you get out on that trail over the weekend. You smell the fresh air. You listen to the birds. Your feet walk on dirt, rocks, logs, and you feel that connection with nature. I wrote, awhile back, about how I felt like I barely made it out of 2017. One of the reasons I did was because of the time I spent in nature.
Even today, as I sit here and write this, I’m feeling a big draw to be outside. I’m down about much of what is on the news cycle. Racism. Misogyny. Harassment. Threat of wars. I’m in pain about someone’s inability to really know me and understand how they hurt me on a daily basis. It just all gets to be too much. However, I have learned to get out, on a trail, and go into a meditative state. I have a way of letting go of these stressful things and returning fresh and ready to face another day. I have found that when I go too long without a good hike I start to feel anxious.
I have read how nature helps us deal with anxiety and stress and I stand up and scream, “IT WORKS!!!!” Because it does. A friend sent me a link about Forest Bathing one day. It has been a proven and useful tool in Japan since the 1980s. They use it as one way to help with mental health issues. And I thought, “I can do this. I can lead people in nature immersion walks.” and so I started a business. Loudoun Nature Therapy. I so believe in this I registered the name, created my website, and am moving forward with my plan. Is it slow? Sure. I have had numerous people tell me, “That is a fantastic idea!” Of course, it will be more fantastic when people sign up or hire me for sessions.
There are, of course, those who say it is dumb. Lame. You can go and get “certified” for like $3500. That is not something I plan on doing because I don’t think I need it. I already have a degree in social work where I focused on counseling. I know nature and how to use it to reduce anxiety. I am already “certified” in my mind and practice. Some would even go as far to say that people don’t need to sign up for a session. However, with Americans spending, on average, 95% of the time indoors, I disagree. I think the majority of people do need to be taught how to fully immerse themselves in nature. When I’m out and people are on their phones, listening to music, or not paying attention to what is around them… I know they could use some help.
I have a plan. I have a goal. And I am working hard to make it a reality where I get to help people connect with nature. That connection will help them in their life. I know because I live it and it helps me.
Take a moment and go check out my site: http://loudounnaturetherapy.com – share it with someone who needs it (Obviously it helps if you’re in Loudoun County, VA). I’m really looking for ways to get the word out about it and am open to any ideas or thoughts. As I sit here in my office, I yearn to be outside. I feel an actual NEED to be outside. I do this job so I can provide for my family but I’m desperate to find a way to help people and combine that help with nature. I think we could all use it.