Sunday, October 25, 2009

14 September 2009 On The Trails At Shenandoah

Whenever we visit Shenandoah and stay at Skyland, we always set aside a few days in Dogwood. We've been lucky on each visit to be able to stay at the same place where we were for our honeymoon. Dogwood is small, but quiet and nestled back in the woods.

View From Crescent Rock

We started our hiking by making a trip between Betty's rock and Crescent Rock. Both were repeats, but the hike includes a nice stretch of Appalachian Trail with tall rock faces between the two. The flower above is an alien, but it was a new sighting for us and didn't appear to be aggressive as we only spotted it near the parking area for Crescent Rock.

Hawksbill is the tallest peak in Shenandoah. It is also very near to Skyline Drive so while the climb is a little rigorous, the walk is short and this is the easiest peak trail in the park. The perfect weather brought lots of visitors to the peak this morning. It was a little strange because there were at least two groups of visitors from Wisconsin and another Ohio couple at the peak while we were there. Hawksbill doesn't give a 360 view, but it is close to a 270 degree pan with a great view of the Shenandoah Valley.

Mountain Ash at the Edge of a talus slope

After we left Hawksbill, we picked up the AT to complete the loop hike. It's a short trail of only about three miles, but offers a nice look back at Hawksbill from a talus slope to the south.

This was a really bear filled trip. We had the most sightings on this trip as ever and by far the closest. Our first was on Sunday on an early trail. The bear moved off quickly and we continued our journey. This sighting in the photos was different. We were returning along the Rose River Fire Road when we saw a bear tree itself. Seconds later we heard the bear begin making sounds and soon realized the bear in the tree was momma calling to her cub. The cub found the tree and joined its mom with a little coaxing from her. We cautiously started to plot our way back (our car was on the other side of them) when Ali spotted bear number three. It was her second cub responding to mom's call. Cub two was soon up the same tree and we moved forward again. We detoured through the woods to give the three bears as much room as possible, but were completely surprised by the sight of a fourth bear. It was a third cub that was far from mom and just now responding to her call. Luckily he ambled past and joined the trio already in the tree.

Later in the afternoon we ran into yet another bear and her cub. They also treed themselves, and we gave a wide berth so all were happy.

We thought of doing Old Rag Summit on this trip, but it didn't work out with the shorter days. It will be at the top of our list on a return trip.

The Point gives a super view of the range for a number of miles. We enjoyed it here enough to return another day for sunset.

Miller's Head is our favorite place to go for sunset when we are at Skyland. It is a short walk of less than two miles round-trip from the amphitheater to the overlook. On our last visit we made multiple quiet trips here for sunset. This trip only this evening worked out for a visit. It was a little hazy, but we were happy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

13 September 2009 Arriving at Shenandoah

Overlooking the Shenandoah Valley

A View from Dickey Ridge Trail

Columnar Jointing

Sunset on Hogback Ridge

It had been five years since our last wonderful visit to Shenandoah. This was our seventh. When we arrived on Sunday afternoon, the views were amazing. Over the years we've been coming here, we've steadily seen a decline in the views from the D.C. area development sprawl. Usually it is best only after a strong rain has washed the smog away. Today it was grand even without advance rain. We knew as the week wears on the view diminishes so we enjoyed this while we could.

We made a geocaching stop to find an earthcache. This earthcache took us to an amazing place. The write-up taught me about columnar jointing. As usual, the questions and 'educational' requirements were a negative part of the earthcache. We spent the rest of the week looking for examples of what we had learned at other areas of the park, but not once discussed the questions within the earthcache that made us roll our eyes.

Our last stop before Skyland was at the Hogback Ridge Overlook for sunset. An RV with many antennas gave us a good reason to smile and enjoy the end of an outstanding day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

13 September 2009 Exploring Winchester, Virginia

Patsy Cline's Home

The Handley Library

Ali signing a cache log

Mount Hebron Cemetery

Thursday, October 08, 2009

12 September 2009 The Last PA Counties

With only three counties remaining and our hotel in one of them, it was a certainty we were going to finish the last counties today. We started in Allegheny County. It's always seemed a little strange that we had zero finds in this county, but we made ammends in the morning. We stopped at a county park and enjoyed a few walks along their trails. We tried for an old cache for the Jasmer Challenge, but our gps was routing us to a landfill. Instead we settled for a visit to the Montour Trail.

After a visit to see the church where the leaders of the Whiskey Rebellion gathered and a visit across the road to see some Revolutionary War graves at Mingo Cemetery, we made our way to an outstanding park in Mingo County. There were some nice, old hides here and some tough terrain. We really enjoyed the park. There are multiple covered bridges across Mingo Creek so we stopped for a few visits. With the counties done, it was time for Virginia.

This fungus looked like cotton candy.

Revolutionary War General John Hamilton

The Covered Bridges of Mingo Creek.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

11 September 2009 Chasing Counties

"For everything you have missed, you have gained something else..." Ralph Waldo Emerson

To day was the first day of vacation. We had planned to spend a fun day at the Albion Fair. This was a great idea, except it was the wrong week for the fair. Instead, we decided to spend the day chasing a few new counties in Pennsylvania. We only needed five more counties to have cache finds in all counties and a new challenge completed. We stopped at Mcconnells Mill State Park and had a great time exploring the old mill and hunting a few caches. The photos from the rocks are from a dnf. It's strange how some of our dnf's remain as super memories. Later in the day and early evening we stopped at a Beaver County Park. It was strangely quiet and unused. The park was really large and pleasant, but was almost without visitors.