Hiking Up and Down to Raven Rocks

Today I did another out and back hike on the Appalachian Trail. At my current pace I should have the entire AT hiked by 2047.

I started at just to the west of Snickersville Gap, where VA Route 7 crests the Blue Ridge. I lucked out and got the next to last parking space in the trailside lot.

This area of the AT is known as the roller coaster because it goes up and down and up and down and around. The hike started with up to the ridge. The entire hike is heavily wooded. And rocky. And tree rooty.

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The start is up. And Up. Then down to a run, which in Virginia is a creek. The water level wasn’t too high so I made it across with ease. A family came a hiking behind me. They were a chatty bunch. I resigned myself to the fact that solitude would be elusive.

Next I hiked up to the ridge Then down with rocky switchbacks. Then up. Then down to a creek. Then up then down. Then up until I saw sky.

Ultrarunnergirl told me a few years ago that seeing sky is good. It was. The trail emerged from the woods to a rocky area, the top of a cliff. This is Raven Rocks. Chatty family were sitting across the part of the cliff top that had the best views.

I resisted the urge to push them over the edge and hike a bit further. There was another pretty decent spot to enjoy the view. A sole hiker was just beginning to get underway. She said “It’s a pretty nice spot. You can have it.” And off she went down the trail.

I took in the view for a few minutes. It was very viewy. There was gIMG_0833reen. And a pleasant breeze. I got down on my stomach and looked over the edge. I couldn’t see the bottom. I saw a lot of tree tops. I thought of Flogini who used to climb cliffs even higher than this. I can’t even….

I turned to go down. And the chatty bunch asked me to take their picture at the top of the cliff. Okay folks, step back. Once more. Ayyyyy!

I was nice and took pictures of them from multiple vantage points. The gods will reward me someday.

Not today though. On the hike back to the car, I caught my right toe on a rock and started to fall. I put my arm around a small tree in the middle of the trail. My momentum swung me around the tree so hard that I came out of my left shoe. I swung completely around the tree and landed on my butt between two big sharp chunks of granite. The bark of the tree took some skin off my left arm. And somewhere in the spin I cut two fingers on my right hand. There was blood.

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Feeling like a complete spaz, I put my shoe back on and dusted off my pride and hiked onward. A group of 20 somethings came by with music playing. Bad country music. I resisted the urge to hoedown.

Along the way coming and going I encountered plenty of backpackers and some other families. This is apparently a pretty popular place for a day hike.

For good reason.

It lasted only about 4 hours, quite a bit less than I expected. On the way home, I bought a cherry pie at a place in Round Hill. It’s a bit of a cheat. People thought that the pies were made on site, but the Washington Post did an article about the place and exposed the pies as factory made by Sara Lee. They’re still damned good and a suitable replacement for a shower beer.

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There are a few more pictures in an album on my Flickr page.

May Sloth

May was my lowest mileage month of 2017. I had my excuses. My daughter graduated from college so that was well worth missing four days of riding. And the weekends were cold and damp. I went to a baseball game or two. And I did a couple of hikes. So I am not a complete sloth.  (I have been known to sleep upside down hanging from a limb, however.)

I rode 580 miles in the month. My 18 bike commutes accounted for 527 of those miles, and did one long-ish ride of 50 1/2 miles on Big Nellie.  I rode my Cross Check until it hit 5,000 miles then I switched to Little Nellie until it hit 18,000 miles. Now I turned my attention to my long neglected recumbent, Big Nellie, in search of the 41,000 mile mark. (The Mule is in the stable eating oats.)

As expected the highlight of the cycling month was Bike to Work Day, most likely my last one. I went to four pit stops and the WAMA pizza and beer happy hour. I encountered old friends, made new ones, and deftly avoided unpleasant people.

For the year I have 3,312 1/2 miles with 80 bike commutes.

Onward.

Death and Life on the Mount Vernon Trail

Seeing wildlife up close on my bike ride to work is such an interesting part of the whole bike commuting thing. It’s not all sunshine and lollypops though. Sometimes I get a grim reminder that our animal friends live in a heartless world. Today, near Gravelley Point park I saw a male mallard in the grass near the trail. It was facing the trail and not moving. As I passed I saw lying in the dirt along the edge of the trail a female mallard. Her dusky colored feathers camoflaged her a bit. She was on her side, inert. I circled back and the male waddled a few feet further away. Alas, the female had waddled off her mortal coil. Some of her feathers were strewn across the trail. I am certain she was hit by a passing bicycle.

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I have to say that it was both heart breaking and heart warming to see the male duck standing guard over his mate.

I rode on. Two miles later I came upon some Canada geese. Amongs the adults were a bunch of fuzzy gosslings. They were wandering through the grass at random, a bit like the plastic football players on the old electric football game we used to have (and break) at Christmas. (They were animated by the vibration of the field.)

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The gosling made me feel better. They always do.

Almost as if on order, Klarence posted a selfie. The literal picture of one of my favorite people. Kind. Compassionate. Rowdy. Prideful. It made my day.

Rolling Lawnchairs – a DC Bentabout

Every Memorial Day motorcyclists descend on DC as part of an event called Rolling Thunder. If you live in DC, you can plan on traffic tie ups and long waits at restaurants and crowded taverns. DC residents have learned to go with the flow when these sorts of things happen. (Except parents who are trying to get to day care before the overtime charges hit. The words “road rage” do not do it justice.)

With the Washington Nationals out of town and a hike already under my belt this weekend, it was time for a long ride. I decided to do a bikeabout on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent.  A bikeabout has no destination. It’s just a meander during which I take a ton of pictures using my point and shoot camera.

I wanted to check out the renovations to the Rock Creek trail. So I headed to DC. The MVT was a zoo, as it always is on nice days on the weekend.  I took my time. Near the beltway I saw Grace as she was headed the opposite way. I don’t know if she recognized me. (She’s never seen me on a recumbent before.)

The tourists had yet to meet critical mass in Old Town Alexandria. I paid close attention to the road ahead and managed to miss a tall ship docked at the southern end of harbor. (Thanks to Emilia who took an Instagram picture and brought it to my attention.)

I stopped at Gravelley Point park near National Airport. Typically, this place is packed on the weekends. Not today. I breezed through.

When I got into DC I was shocked that there were no crowds to contend with. The same cannot be said for the Rock Creek Trail. “Hey, let’s go down to the trail and stand in the middle and talk. We’re important people, you know.”

Must not kill.

The trail was mostly its old self. In parts it was so narrow and worn out that it would accommodate one way traffic only. When I did encounter sections that had been renovated, I was very impressed. Wider. Smoother. Straighter. With new wooden fencing. I can’t wait until it’s done.

Once clear of the trail I had a chance to enjoy Beach Drive which, for much of its length, is closed to cars on weekends and holidays. As I bombed up toward Chevy Chase, I was passed by Mike, a.k.a. @rattlingfender. Mike hosts the official Rootchopper pit stop at the 50 States Ride. I swear I do not pay him for this.

I stopped at the Rock Creek trestle because I like to ride my bike above the tree tops.

Time to head home. I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to Bethesda Row. Normally, I stop for lunch but today I just wanted to get home so I turned on to the Capital Crescent Trail. It was packed. Every time I see it like this I think: if you think a bike trail is a bad thing for your neighborhood, you’re nuts.

I never really had the chance to get any speed going. Every time I got Big Nellie up to cruising speed I had to slow to a crawl because of congestion.

The ride back home featured a strange yellow orb in the sky. What’s up with that?

Also, Gravelley Point Park had filled up. I think they only allow clueless people to use the park on the weekends. One cyclist simply stopped cold in the middle of the trail. No reason.

After the park, the trail squeezes between the Parkway and a secondary runway at the airport. As I approached the squeeze point, a bush was being blown all over the place. The wind was the backwash from a jet about to take off. Being on a recumbent kept me beneath the worst of the blast.

The ride through Old Town was just insane. Cars and bikes and people going every which way. Nobody following any kind of traffic rules. I remarked to another cyclist “This is like being in a video game.” He agreed.

After Old Town, there was nothing but sunny skies and tailwinds. Not a bad way to end a 50-mile holiday jaunt.

For the complete story check out my Flickr album.

 

 

Keys Gap to Buzzard Rocks Overlook on the Appalachian Trail

Last night I pondered my Sunday choices: bike ride, bike ride to a Nationals baseball game, or hike. I decided on a hike guessing that there might be some rain during the game.

Last weekend I hiked from Keys Gap to Loudon Heights, heading north on the Appalachian Trail. This weekend I headed south toward Buzzard Rocks overloook. which held the hope of a view of the Shenandoah Valley.

The weather report was for temperatures in the 60Fs. And no rain. Well, there was rain but it mostly happened before I started making for a muddy track. There was a bit of rain in the middle of the hike but the tree canopy protected me.

I tried to avoid the mud but it was pointless. So I let the little boy in me out and I made my peace with the slop.

The trail here is much less rocky than the trail just to the north. Without the mud you could cover this trail lickety split.

There was quite a lot of traffic during my first 2 1/2 miles. Boy scouts. Groups of adults. They all looked like they had camped overnight. They didn’t seem strained by their packs so I assumed (correctly) that the terrain would be forgiving.

The only steep section had rock steps, easy to negotiate. And it was rather striking to look at.

Along the way I was treated to my favorite: ferns. I tried to plant ferns in my side yard. They all died within weeks. Ferns are best left to the woods.

As the trail rose to the ridge, I walked into the clouds. This was great for atmospherics but the ruined the view from the overlook.  I did get one picture where you can vaguely make out the Shenandoah Valley.

The hike was 7.7 miles and that’s a comfortable distance for me. I didn’t feel all banged up like last weekend.

I was surprised to learn that it was raining heavily in DC. Sometimes you guess right. The Nats game started 90 minutes late.  Works for me.

There are some more pix on my Flickr page.

 

Bliss on Half Street

After riding to work and getting a decent weather report (for the first tie in a week) I decided to go to last night’s Nationals v. Padres baseball game. I scored some seats on the club level behind the Nats’ dugout and called Lily to work out logistics.

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I rode Little Nellie (passing some goslings along the way) about 4 miles to L’Enfant Plaza where I met Lily who had driven my car from home. I folded Little Nellie into the trunk, parked the car, and headed to the game on Metro. (I have yet to have a wretched experience on Metro despite all the bad news these past few years.) After five years of riding on beat up old trolley cars during college in Boston, I really appreciate the brand new subway cars on Metro. They are clean, well designed and quite.

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The weather was perfect. There was a pleasant breeze with temperatures in the high 60Fs. We ate dinner in the posh-ish Norfolk Southern Club. Pizza, french fries and beer. What can I say. We’re low rent.

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Nats ace no. 1 Mad Max Scherzer was on the mound throwing seeds to defenseless Padre batters. Other than a solo home run, they had no answer for him. He struck out 13. Our faves hit home runs. Trea Turner hit a laser over the center field fence to start the game. Later centerfielder Michael A. Taylor clubbed another even farther. Then came Bryce Harper. He hit a truly Ruthian clout to the upper deck in right field. Our seats were perfect for tracking it into the dark sky. It was one of the most bad ass home runs I’ve ever seen. (I can think of one in Montreal hit by Ken Henderson of the San Francisco Giants. And a bomb hit by Jim Ed Rice clear out of Fenway over the center field wall. That’s it.)

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As the game progressed, the crowd started chanting Max! Max! Max! It felt like the playoffs instead of a relatively meaningless May game. Scherzer lasted until the next to last out. When the acting manager walked out to the mount, he was roundly booed. Keep him in!! MAX! MAX! MAX! After hitting the next batter, it was clear that Max was gassed and a reliever was brought in. A screaming standing ovation greeted Max as he plodded to his dugout. He slowed and doffed his cap to the crowd.

The good guys won 5-1. Lily and I left through a crowd filled with smiles. As we passed the bike valet, I looked in to see if any of my #bikedc friends were there. I spotted Klarence and Lauren and hopped the barrier to say hello. After a brief chat and some massive hugs, I stopped to say hello to Poncho, whom I met at Friday Coffee Club a year or so ago. Nice guy.

So a great game with a #bikedc cherry on top. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night in May.

A Little Water Won’t Kill Ya

It rained last night. The passage to my backyard was a mud pit. It was drizzling as I, without a whole lot of thought, pulled Little Nellie out of the shed.

I wore rain gear fImage may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and natureor the ride to work. All was going well until I reached the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the river is to the right of the trail. Today, the trial was beneath the river. As I cleared the Dyke Marsh boardwalk, I hit about 40 yards of deep water. I’d guess it was 6 inches deep. The density of the water slowed me to a crawl and I pedaled through it getting my feet thoroughly soaked. I stopped to take a picture that doesn’t do it justice.

I hopped back on Little Nellie, pedaled 20 yards, and was deep in the soup again. Pedaling through this much water is hard work. I cleared that flood, had a 20-yard breather, then hit the next one. And the next one. And the next one. No lie. I was pedaling really hard as I hit the last one and the backwash from Little Nellie’s wee front wheel caused the water to splash up over my knees.

After another deep section north of Belle Haven Park,  I made it into Old Town without need for scuba gear.

Old Town, of course, is notorious for flooding and today it did not disappoint. Union Street (which includes the Mount Vernon Trail) Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, motorcycle and outdoorwas closed at King. Little Nellie posed for a picture. I watched a pick up drive through the water but decided not to press my luck especially with a police car in the distance.

I turned up one alley and over another and found myself on King just to the left of the water in the picture.

Free and clear, right? Wrong. I managed to avoid submersion for a couple of miles before hitting deep water twice near Daingerfield Island. The force of my bike through the flood again kicked water up over my knees.

Dang.

I really should have chosen a bike with bigger diameter wheels. I hope Little Nellie’s hubs are not completely messed up.

In the afternoon Doppler radar was showing a really nasty storm approaching. I ran into the No. 2 person at my agency who was carrying his motorcycle helmet. Good luck! Our admin assistant and I both told my boss to hit the road on his cargo bike. He rides into DC and he probably made it unscathed.

I, on the other hand, was scathed. I made it about 9 miles in decent shape. The good news was the flooding had receded. The bad news was I was heading into dark, dark clouds with wind and rain and thunder and lightning.

Oh my.

I rode through Belle Haven Park aware that at any time a limb could fall from one of the giant old trees along the trail. It had happened before but not today. South of the park I had to deal with the fact that my glasses were covered with rain drops and condensation. I could barely see to make my way.

There was nothing to do but pedal, so I did. A bicyclist zipped past me. How he could see was beyond my ken. As I went through the slalom south of Dyke Marsh branches with wet leaves slapped me in the face.

Pedal. Pedal.

All the while, lightning was flashing across the sky.

I followed a curve in the trail up and to the right. Out from behind an overhanging branch came a bicyclists. A woman on what looked like a beach cruiser. She was riding in a frenzy without rain gear and nearly collided with me. I veered off to my right and she flew by.

Sections of the trail now had run off from the adjacent parkway. Some of these were fairly high speed and gave me cause for concern. Would they sweep my wheels out from under me?

Nope. It’s good to be lucky.

Once I left the trail the rain subsided. There was still some thunder and lightning but it was not all that intense.

I rode across the front lawn, around the muddy side of the house, and down the small grassy decline to the shed. After opening the shed and getting the bike inside I started to wipe everything down with an old t-shirt. Then

BOOM!

A clap of thunder erupted directly overhead. The walls and the floor of the shed shook. I felt the vibration in my torso.

Double dang.

A little water won’t kill ya, but the thunder’s a bitch.

Aren’t You a Little Old for That Sort of Thing?

This fall I hope to ride to Key West Florida over the course of about 6 or 7 weeks. This would be a self-contained bike tour. I am in my early 60s and am starting to wonder whether I will be able to pull this off for much longer. (If I do, I am going cross country next year. So stay tuned.)

So yesterday I received an email from my friend Chanda. She is a goat scientist who lives in rural India. I am not making this up. She is one of the nicest people I have ever known. I am not making this up either.

Chanda’s email told me about an Australian man in his early 70s who is doing supported long-distance bike rides for charity. When Bob Montgomery was a youngster of 69 he rode from the Blue Mountains (west of Sydney) to Port Douglas way up north. It was a ride of a little over 1,900 miles. Dang.

Not to rest on his aging laurels, Mr. Montgomery rode from Perth to Sydney, a mere 2,360 miles two years later in 2015. If you know anything about Australian geography you’ll know this is an astounding feat for a young man. The Nullarbor Plain is not to be messed with.

A few days ago, our hero took off from Darwin in the north on his way to Perth in the southwest. This one is about 2,485 miles give or take a kilometer. Crikey!

Darwin to Perth

I feel like a complete sloth next to this guy. He’s doing these rides to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease and Huntington’s Disease.

I just can’t even…

Check his ride out on his website.

 

 

Swim to Work Day

Last Friday’s Bike to Work Day was such a success that we decided to hold Swim to Work Day today. It was difficult to dress for the rain. The temperature was 58F when I left home. So I decide to go with a water proof jacket with a hood. My bare legs got somewhat cold but no worries they were sore as hell from yesterday’s hike.

I am proud to say I did not run over any ducks or geese on my way to the office, but I cannot vouch for any earthworms.

Also, I want to that VDOT for aiming the storm drains from I-395 directly onto the Mount Vernon Trail. Nothing makes a rainy day wetter than riding through the waterfall from the highway above.

This is what my office looked like. (My jacket and shirt were hanging up across the room.)

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I didn’t bother with a shower. Seemed kind of redundant.

Quack.