Little Devils Stairs – Not exactly a day off

After 14 days of bike riding in a row, I decided it was time to take a day off. What better way than to do a hike in Shenandoah National Park.

My friend Chelli and her daughter signed up to climb 19,000+ foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. To get in shape, Chelli assembled a team of grad school friends to do day hikes outside DC. Most of these hikes were done while I was on my bike tour but I joined the team when I came home.

We did two hikes on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland. After that, Chelli and her daughter went to Africa and conquered the big one.

Chelli called us together again for a Columbus Day hike. I chose Little Devils Stairs in Shenandoah National Park. According to the website HikingUpward.com this hike is rated at the same level of difficulty as the Sugarloaf hike.

I’d done Little Devils Stairs once before and remember it as challenging and fun. Somehow in the intervening years the trail became much steeper. I blame plate tectonics.

A full moon and fog on the river were indications of a beautiful fall day emerging on the way to Chelli’s house in Arlington. Chelli took the wheel of her car and we drove to the park, After about 40 miles the highway leaves the ugly urban area and enters splendid Virginia countryside.

Dry weather meant that the unpaved road to the parking lot made for easy driving. We parked and headed up the trail. Basically, this trail goes straight up a gorge along Keyser Run. The trail is rocky, increasingly so as we ascended. There were perhaps 8 creek crossings but these were trivial because the drought in this area reduced the creek to a trickle.

At one point in a particularly rocky section we lost sight of the trail blazes. No worries. We forged ahead and soon found the trail again. At a few points the hike became a rock scramble. I was huffing and puffing. We took some stops to gather ourselves. Then moved on and up.

The gorge was beautiful. The creek with a trickle of water, trees just beginning to take on their fall color, and sheer rock walls. I stopped a few times to appreciate how steep the trail was.

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After the rock scrambles there were some switchbacks. An Hispanic family of about eight people came down the hill toward us. One of them was carrying an unopened bag of tortilla chips. Somehow I refrained from assaulting him with my hiking poles.

Soon thereafter we reached Fourway, the intersection of four hiking trails. We stopped to eat lunch which Chelli had packed. Veggie burgers, crackers, and watermelon.

We were burning up on the way up the 2.2 mile climb, but now that we were sitting the cool breeze across out sweaty clothing brought a chill. Time to boogie.

We took a fire trail all the way back down the mountain. 3.8 miles. I was wearing new hiking shoes that were a half size bigger than usual. The extra room in the toes kept my feet happy.

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Along the way we passed an old graveyard. Several of the headstones indicated deaths in 1918. I speculated that the Spanish flu was the cause. Imagine being sick with that horrible disease up this mountain far from medical help.

As we left the graveyard the Hispanic family came hiking by.  Hiking down that gorge must have been tough but they seemed like they were having a good time. Their ten-year old boy was running up the trail. Don’t you just hate youth?

Walking downhill for several miles can really deaden your legs. We managed without too much difficulty. My wonky left knee and hip did reasonably well. I felt a pain in the side of my hip most of the way down the hill but my knee tolerated the descent without much discomfort.

Normally, getting out of the car at the end of a hike makes me feel like I’m 90 but today I felt okay. New shoes, cortisone, and PT to the rescue.

Not a bad day off.

 

The Mule’s Still Got It. My Knee Not So Much.

After two days of beautiful weather, The Mule insisted on going for a long ride. The Mule was jealous because I went hiking with friends yesterday. The Mule gets like that sometimes. The Mule would have killed me in my sleep if it had seen this view from the White Rocks overlook on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland.

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And so I found myself heading northwest along the Potomac River. For 12 miles I rode into a headwind on the Mount Vernon Trail to DC. I crossed the river on the 14th Street Bridge and headed to Georgetown. Next, I took the Capital Crescent Trail along the north side of the river. I had a choice of routes. Either follow the C&O Canal towpath or switch to the somewhat hilly roads. I chose pavement since the towpath was a mess the last time I rode it.

After 30 miles I reached Potomac Village where gas costs more than top shelf single malt scotch.

I turned left onto River Road and partook of the massive rolling hills, views of stupefying mansions, the tony Bretton Woods Country Club, a Buddhist temple, a one-room schoolhouse, and fields of corn. After over 20 miles I had no choice but to climb Mt. Nebo Road. It goes up steeply, three times. Maybe four. However many times, the last one hurt.

I had a headwind leaving DC but now I could tell the wind direction had changed. I was riding effortlessly, except for the steepest hills. As every cyclist knows this either means you put performance enhancing drugs on your Wheaties or you have a tailwind. Since cinnamon isn’t a PDA, I knew it was the latter.

A few miles later I picked up the towpath, expecting there to be only one mile to get to Whites Ferry, where a privately run cable ferry shuttles travelers across the Potomac River. Somehow the one mile was actually four. Yeah, well. At least the towpath was in excellent condition. I spun along merrily and spooked a couple of deer who were hanging around looking for trouble. They put out their cigs and hightailed it into the woods.

I only had to wait five minutes for the ferry. There were a handful of cars on it coming and going so I was off the boat in under two minutes on the Virginia side of the river.

Did I mention that the weather was nice?

I rode to Leesburg and picked up some snackage. Then headed back home along 35 miles of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. Into a headwind. Sadly, the snackage contained only chocolate and other sugary delights, not anabolic steroids.

I estimated that the ride would be about 100 miles, but my calculation error on the outbound portion of today’s excursion meant it would be a bit more.

All in all, it was a very pleasant day on the bike, except for the last 20 miles which I did on fumes while trying unsuccessfully to ignore a screaming left knee and shoulder. The left knee has been getting worse by the month and will require some medical intervention this fall. The shoulder has a rotator cuff impingement. (Impingement is a fancy medical term for “messed up”.) I could have surgery on it as well.

Did I mention my sore left hip?

Ugh.

This ride, my longest of the year, was well worth the pain.

So much going on

  • The home renovation project is proceeding. We are in Week 4 of having our family room and a chunk of our basement refurbished. Framing and electrical are done. The plumbing awaits the fixtures. Insulation is in. Next week will add more drywall, install a new exterior door, and do more work on the bathroom in the man cave. I think we are past the unpleasant surprises stage. Knock wood.
  • I have been collecting golf balls on my athletic excursions for decades now. No photo description available.Yesterday brought the biggest one day haul ever.
  • Nine golf balls! They were scattered about on the outside of a golf course fence near a green and its adjacent sand traps. There must have been a parade of rank amateurs recently. Among the balls I found a beat up iPhone. I took it to a local phone store. They found that it was missing its SIM card and concluded that it was stolen and tossed out a car window. Phone thieves are the worst.
  • For two years, I have been working on my application for Irish citizenship by birthright. Just before I left for my tour in May, I sent off a request for documents to the New York State Vital Records office. I paid $30 extra for expedited, 60-day treatment. I should have received the documents in July, but it took them a month to cash my checks. So the clock on my expedited treatment didn’t start until mid-June. (Unscrupulous credit card companies use a similar tactic. They sometimes sit on mailed payments then charge late fees. My wife had this stunt played on her twice.) Despite giving themselves a full month leeway, it still took the folks in Albany 2 1/2 months to process my request. I had lost all hope until I checked today’s mail. Bingo!
  • With my grandmother’s wedding certificate now in hand, I now had all the necessary documents in support of my application. As I went to mail it, I noticed that the form listed one address in Dublin and the Irish government website listed another. A lovely lady at the Irish embassy in DC told me to use the address on the website and to send the documents with tracking. As I left the house it began to rain as if I was in Castlebar, County Mayo on a dreary winter day. I drove to the nearest FedEx office. They couldn’t deal with the lengthy address. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever get this thing out of my hands. A competent bloke at a nearby UPS store set things right and my application and documents are now winging their way to Dublin. Now I wait a year. Yes, a year.
  • On my way home I was stopped at a stop light. A big silver sedan pulled up behind me and nudged my car. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a bun of white hair and two eyes peering over a steering wheel in the sedan. The little old lady had a death grip on the handlebars. It’s a good thing that I drove. That nudge would have knocked me ass over kilter had I been on my bike.
  • My left knee is really unhappy with me. When I exert force on the pedals, it barks and sends painful electrical signals to my hip which then joins the pain party. When I sit with my leg elevated the knee stiffens up. No bueno. If this doesn’t clear up, I am afraid I will go under the knife this fall. What’s winter without a medical mess to deal with, I say.
  • Congrats to
    • Ed and Mary, the King and Queen of Caffeine, on completing Paris-Brest-Paris yesterday. They rode their tandem 750-odd miles in under 3 1/2 days. Mon Dieu!
    • My friend Chelli and her daughter Shivani. They both climbed Kilimonjaro in Africa. Over 19,000 feet. Chelli is taking some friends, me included, for a hike on Sunday. We are so screwed.
    • The French sisters who completed their ride across America in New York City this week. I only talked with them for a few minutes in Boulder, Utah but their energy was inspiring. In the process, they raised over $4,500 for Rose Altitude, a breast cancer charity
    • Dan Hurwitz who I met near Sapinero, Colorado. He was scheduled to reach the Atlantic Ocean at Revere Beach, Massachusetts today. He started in San Jose, California over 100 days ago.
  • Cassy is riding 50 States with me this year. When I asked her to join me for the ride, she said she was worried that she wouldn’t be able to keep up. Today she passed me on the way to work. Left me in the dust. Suffice it to say, I am going to get my ass kicked in a couple of weeks.

They Don’t Call It Killermonjaro for Nothing

While I was away, my friend Chelli decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro this summer. To get in climbing shape she’d been taking Mrs. Rootchopper and other friends on hikes in the Catoctin Mountains and on Sugarloaf Mountain. Yesterday, a day that will live in humidity, I joined the fun as the gang returned to Sugarloaf.

Sugarloaf has been the scene of two of my past misadventures. Five years ago I hiked the yellow trail with a ninja and a golden retriever. The experience left me cripple for days, and oddly marked the beginning of the end of an eight-year friendship. Another time I rode bikes around the base of the mountain with Science Mom. She somehow managed to end up falling ungracefully into a mud puddle. Our friendship survived even with her temporary loss of face.

Getting back to yesterday, Chelli parked strategically below the peak of the mountain. We started hiking upward on the blue trail, transitioned to the purple trail, and returned to the blue trail. After forty seven miles, we stopped at the white rock overlook to munch on pita sammies that Chelli had prepared. Paul chipped (sorry) in some Nacho Cheese Doritos. It was a lovely view and even lovelier breeze. 

Somehow the hike managed to seem all uphill. It took three hours and at least five gallons of sweat. Did I mention the humidity was off the charts?

 

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Hiking with sticks on Sugarloaf – photo by sneaky Chelli

A few years ago I did a hike in Shenandoah National Park with Kirstin. She used hiking poles and highly recommended them. On a whim, I bought a pair of poles on sale this spring. I have to say they are a big improvement over pole-less hiking. They kept me from turning my ankles and from putting excess impact stress on my knees and back. It only took about a mile for me to get used to them. When the hike was over, my wonky knee and hip didn’t have their usual crippling pain. I’d been wary of hiking in recent years but now I’m eager to get back out there.

I still can’t get over how hard hiking is. When I was younger I could run and jump and scramble and feel perfectly fine afterward. Yesterday, we were passed by a number of energetic young folk during the hike. I had to resist the urge to bludgeon them with my poles.

It turns out that hiking is deceptively hard work, made all the harder by aging. And it’s probably good for you. All the same, I’m glad Chelli is hiking Mt Kilimanjaro and not me.

 

Rest? Moi?

After taking the first day of the month off, I managed to mash 204 miles in six days, ending with yesterday’s 63 miles of cold, hilly Vasanneuring. So I decided to take a rest day today.

By 11 a.m. I was going stir crazy so I jumped into the car and drove to Great Falls Park in Maryland for a recovery hike. As soon as I got out of the car, I could tell this was not going to be restful.

I took off up the canal towpath to the far end of the River Trail. This hike is about 2 miles round trip and totally flat. Just the thing for my tired knees and back. Along the way I did the runners calf stretch against a tree or two. This somehow loosens my back up.

Next I walked to the Olmstead Island Overlook located right in the middle of the river at the fall line. The Potomac was raging today in Mather Gorge. The sound of the rushing water was a tonic.

Once back to the canal, I decided to give a longer, hillier walk a go. I took off up the Gold Mine Spur Trail. I was intending to hike the Gold Mine Loop Trail but when I got to a fork in the road I Yogi-ed it.

My turn to the right took me back toward the canal. At one spot I had a nice high view of the gorge. I made my way back down to the canal via the Lock 19 spur trail. By the time I arrived at the car, I felt like the Tin Man in need of a joint lube.

I had walked over five miles. It was time to head home. Of course, this meant that I had to drive by the gym. Why not stop to lift some weights? So I did.

I feel all rested now.

Or not.

 

 

 

Billy Goating at Winter’s End

The low 40F Degree temperatures and the cooling breeze and clouds did not exactly call to my bikey brain today. Off I drove (yes, I have a car) to the gym to push and pull on the machines. The machines won.

Then it was off to Great Falls National Park in Maryland. I pulled into the Carderock area that is located about 2 miles outside the Beltway. The access road passes beneath the C&O Canal and towpath. After parking and getting myself all arranged with layers and hat and Buff and backpack full of water bottles, I set off the Billy Goat C trail, clockwise toward the river. I was walking upriver and the breeze was in my face. It took about a half mile to warm up. My legs had bounce in them and I was cruising along, resisting the urge to break into a trot. Slow. Down.

There were no leaves on the trees, so the place looked rather stark. I had good views of the river and they didn’t disappoint. After about a mile, the path looped back to the towpath. I headed further upriver on the towpath.

The canal in some sections has water. I noticed some tall reeds near my side of the waterway. Inside the grass was a great blue heron shopping for lunch. A few hundred yards later I could hear the quacking of a duck. The duck was with about sever others, paddling about near the far side of the canal. I saw something move in the tall grass on the canal’s far bank. It was a fox, stalking the ducks. No worries. They kept themselves out of paw’s reach.

The sky was full of bird’s chirping. A massive flock of birds filled the trees beyond the canal. Suddenly, they became quiet and flew of in a cloud of winged mayhem. Seconds later they landed in some trees no more than a hundred yards from where they started. The racket began anew. Birdbrains.

I kept walking past the sign for the Billy Goat B trail. I was taking the canal to the western entrance so I could loop back along the river. Like the C trail and the towpath, the B trail was practically deserted. I was also fortunate that it was dry. The towpath, which is flat and has poor drainage, had some muddy sections.

Back along the river, wind at my back, I cruised along. My legs were still fresh but my decrepit lower back was not on board for the fun. Fortunately, I came upon some big rocks on the river’s edge. I sat down and pulled out a water bottle. The water was rushing over some rocks about 50 yards into the river. Once my breath calmed, I listened.

Is there anything more relaxing than the sound of rushing water?

I listened.

The cool breeze tried to distract me. It failed.

I listened.

After perhaps 15 minutes, I decided to get up before I fell asleep. If it had been 10 degrees warmer, I’d be curled up in a ball snoring.

It took a few minutes to get myself back into an ambulatory mood. Rock scrambles, none too difficult for an old dude with balance issues, persuaded me to get with the program.

I made it across a small stream. Most people would dance across on the rocks but my body seems to prefer stumbling.

Soon I was turning back to the towpath up two quick rises. With the wind at my back, I hiked the towpath beyond where I had parked my car to pick up the C trail. The trail took me back to the river and eventually, to the car.

My legs felt fine. My lower back was bitching up a storm. I didn’t care. My head felt great.

So my first hike, a six-miler, of the new year was over. A productive use to a cold and gray afternoon.

Top Ten List for 2017

For a year that started out rather boring, 2017 did a fine job of recovering. In no particular order, here’s my top ten.

  1. Hey Bulldog – Daughter Lily grabbed her diploma with departmental honors from Butler University. The way she maxed out her college years put me to shame.
    • An entire junior year abroad split between Sydney, Australia and Stockholm, Sweden.
    • A double major and a minor, taking classes in the summer to make it all work.
    • An internship in the county DA’s office, working on student government, making community service trips out of spring breaks, and displaying infinite patience as an RA for two years.
    • Traveling to Russia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the UK (London and Scotland), France, Belgium, Germany, Czechia, Poland, Latvia, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Italy, Vatican City. Monaco, Spain, Thailand, New Zealand, and undoubtedly a few more.
    • She’s now in London for grad school. Her passport must have burn marks on it.
  2. Call Me Johnny Paycheck – Mrs. Rootchopper threw in the towel on the work-a-day world in the spring. She immediately adapted to the new normal. I waited until my August birthday to get a 10 percent bonus on my pension. We are both very happy with our decisions. If, however, you want to pay us big money to quilt or ride bikes, we’d be interested in your financial offer.
  3. I’ll Take 50 States, a Century, and Break Some Cider, Hon – I rode only five event rides this year.
    • I traveled to Charm City to do the Tour Dem Parks, Hon ride and visit with Mr. Hoppy 100, John Roche, and his daughter Eleanor. (I think she’s swell.)
    • Carrie Ross is on the board of a local charity that helps homeless people get back on their feet. She’s also married to Greg Billing, WABA’s Executive Director. In a page right out of Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movies, they put on a bike ride for the charity. Sadly, there was no tap dancing. Anyway, I rode it. Pretty darn good for a first time event. Not to rest on their laurels, Carrie and Greg brought a baby boy into this world a few months later. Congrats Mom and Dad.
    • In the late summer, I rode the Reston Century. I failed to understand that hilly rides are a bad idea unless you have itty bitty gears. I believe I was lanterne rouge.
    • This explains why, a couple of weeks later, I nearly died climbing to Cathedral Heights during my ninth 50 States Ride. I was aided and abetted by a great posse of #bikedc’s finest including Stephen, Rachel C., Kevin W., and my 2014 50 States Ride buddies Michael and Emilia. Ellos eran muy buenos.
    • In November I did the Cider Ride for the fifth time. It was cool, literally. I missed a few turns, but used the Google to get back on course. For the second year in a row, I was stung by a bee at the second pit stop. It was all worth it because the after party, as usual, was a winner.
    • In December I rode around in circles for 44 miles with something like 600 other people in support of WABA’s Women and Bicycles program at the Hains Point 100. It was an impressive turn out considering the fact that most people have crazy schedules this time of year.
  4. Let Me Help You with That  – For the longest time, I have avoided volunteering. I’m such a jerk. This year I volunteered at WABA five times. I learned that stuffing envelopes in the office is more comfortable than standing around in the cold  at the start/finish of the Vasa Ride. Do the math: free beer + pizza > hot blooberry soup. I also tried my ineffectual, introverted hand at bike advocacy by attending three events.
  5. March! – I attended some rather large marches in DC. The Women’s March was really the yoogest. I could not see the edge of the crowd I was in. When I got home and saw pictures of the throng I was shocked. There were at least a three dozen people I knew there. I didn’t see any of them. My guess is the crowd was at least 500,000. The Science March seemed inane. We’ve stooped this low in this country that we have to march to support science? I hung with the folks at WABA for the Climate March. I went to the Immigration Ban protest and left before it became a march down Pennsylvania Avenue.
  6. Riding to the End of the Road – Without a job to constrain me, I took off on a solo, unsupported bike tour. With cool weather approaching I decided to avoid the chill and head straight south — into a hurricane zone. I called it the No Way So Hey Tour. After hundreds of miles of rural poverty, cotton and peanut farms, friends old and new, and gale force winds pelting me with sand and rain, I rode through the hurricane ravaged Florida Keys. What a great feeling to stand next to the storm-damaged Southernmost Point buoy in Key West. I followed it up by riding Alligator Alley through the Everglades across central Florida. Along the way, I took side trips to Charleston, the Okeefenokee Swamp, and Savannah.
  7. Making the Most of a Sad Situation – Through Facebook, I learned of the death of one of my grad school roommates. Jim Burgess, whom we called Chet, was, as Mrs. Rootchopper said, “The nicest guy in the world.” He died of colon cancer. I drove to Providence for the wake and funeral. Afterward I went for a bike ride along Narragansett Bay. On the way home I stopped to ride Little Nellie around the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
  8. Why Life Nearly Doesn’t Begin on Opening Day – At the end of March, I was riding in the rain to a Nationals exhibition game when an SUV came out from behind a wall and hit me. How in the world I managed to get out of it without a scratch is beyond me. About 100 yards later, I learned that the game was cancelled.
  9. Lazarus in an Expos Hat – After surviving the exhibition demolition derby season, I attended about a dozen games. I even went to Baltimore with some co-workers for a Saux game. It was so wikkid we did it again at Nationals Park. I drove to a few more Nats games with Lily who likes the pregame happy hour about as much as the game itself. I also did a game with @BobbieShaftoe and her family. March 29, 2018 can’t come quickly enough.
  10. Take a Walk – As usual, I didn’t do nearly as much hiking as I intended to.  I managed to finish the Potomac Heritage Trail. In a planning blunder, I did the Ashby Hollow hike again. The hike to Raven Rocks was probably the best though. I have a fear of heights so there’s nothing like a hike to a cliff to keep things interesting. And in the spirit of Nigel Tufnel,
  11. Full House – Last night we had a full house for the first time in two years.  Mrs. Rootchopper spent days making fudge and baking cookies in anticipation. Daughter Lily flew in from London and son Eamonn came around the world from Phuket, Thailand. My hope is they both remember to drive on the right. Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, closeup and indoor

 

An Accidental Return to Ashby Hollow

The weather was perfect. I haven’t gone for a day hike in months so I grabbed a print out for Ashby Hollow – Mt. Weathers from a backpack I use for hiking and took off.

I had this weird feeling of deja vu. For good reason. This was my first solo hike on the Appalachian Trail a few years ago.

The drive up a dirt road to the start was an adventure. The road was all ruts and washboard. The car’s autotraction was going nuts. My wheels were spinning but I made it in one piece.

I immediately recognized the start. Oh well, no sense in going looking for another trail. Off I went down the rock trail.

I remember this hike as very difficult footing. And it was but not nearly as bad as others I have done since. The low humidity and comfortable temperatures combined with persistent shade to make this just a glorious day to be in the woods.

Once I warmed up, I could just truck along. Unfortunately I had to look mostly at the trail because of all the rocks and tree roots. While doing this it’s really hard to think about anything but the task at hand which ends up being kind of meditative.

This section of the AT is called the roller coaster. On weekends it’s crowded but today I only saw four hikers in three hours, two of them passed me withing 200 yards of the finish. This time of year there aren’t much in the way of flowers so I basked in the green. There were no vistas on this hike at this time of year. The foliage is just too dense. No worries.

Despite having hiked this before, I missed two turns. I haven’t seen a blaze in a while, have I? Nope. When you wander off, just return to the trail and begin again. Sounds like a Joseph Goldstein meditation video.

It took me about 3 hours to do the entire 6 1/2 miles.

The ride back took me past vineyards and horse farms and through tony Virginia towns like Upperville and Middleburg. With windows down and the sun shining through puffy clouds it was a lovely end to another day of slacking.

 

Tick, Tick, Tick

I feel like I am riding the last couple of days of a bike tour. The end is just down the road a bit. I want to savor the last bits of riding but the anticipation of completion is yanking at my monkey mind.

That’s what the last week of work before retirement is like. It would feel worse if not for the fact that DC is a sauna this week and I am mighty happy for the air conditioning in my office.

Today, I erased all the scribblings on my office white board. The list of hikes I meant to do this year. (Intentions count, don’t they Ultrarunnergirl?) And the list of 17 states I have ridden a bike in. And the list of 31 countries that various members of the family Rootchopper have visited. (The family Rootchopper sounds a bit like we should be escaping the Nazis over the Alps. Given the recent news, it might not be a bad idea.) Down went the list of clever phrases I came across during my six years while at this job, such as

  • The future is a foreign country  – Finn Quinn
  • You are what you do, not what you say you will do – Carl Jung
  • Is this useful? – Joseph Goldstein
  • Simply begin again. – Also, Joseph Goldstein
  • Ride and shine – Me. A fortuitous typo of “Rise and shine,” the words my mother used to say to wake me up for school
  • Fusiform gyrus – the part of the brain for name/face recognition. By way of Katie Lee who says mine is broken. She’s right. I am pathetic.
  • Full hearts, clear mind, can’t lose – from Coach Taylor’s pre-game speeches in Friday Night Lights.
  • Culo y calzon – literally “ass and panties”. Spanish language idiom that (very) roughly means “thick as thieves.” Used with coy double meaning in one of Florencia Renedo’s blog posts.
  • Let it go. Move on. Fuck [’em] – Katie Lee who had to tell me this too many times before I finally listened to her. Still grateful.
  • Are you happy? What will make you happy? Do it with everything you’ve got. – Speaker after speaker quoting their departed friend Lorena Gimenez at her memorial celebration.

So tomorrow is closing time. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Time to get to know the feeling of liberation and release.

 

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.