Sunday, December 31, 2017

Our 52-Hike Challenge 2017

On January 1, 2017 as Ann and I were headed to Harper's Ferry WV for our first hike of 2017, Ann told me of something she read about on a hiking site, a 52-Hike Challenge in which participants strive to make 52 hikes in a 52-week period. She asked if I might be up for it. Why not?

Our real challenge is that I work 6 days a week and 7 days some weeks. That leaves fewer than 52 days a year for hiking especially if you factor in days off for sickness and really bad weather. In any case, challenge accepted for the calendar year 2017 and this is our saga.

Hike (click through)
Jul 17, 2017
Jul 9, 2017
Jul 4, 2017
Jul 3, 2017
Jul 2, 2017
Jun 25, 2017
May 21, 2017
May 14, 2017
May 6, 2017
May 4, 2017
May 3, 2017
May 2, 2017
May 1, 2017
Apr 30, 2017
Apr 23, 2017
Apr 16, 2017
Apr 9, 2017
Apr 2, 2017
Mar 19, 2017
Mar 3, 2017
Feb 26, 2017
Feb 19, 2017
Feb 12, 2017
Feb 5, 2017
Jan 29, 2017
Jan 1, 2017


Monday, July 17, 2017

Tibbet Knob Encore

The title of this blog "Forks in Our Road" is very appropriate for this post. Life has its way of throwing up obstacles and challenges and screwing with your best-made plans. How you deal with that is up to you. It's best to be flexible and take the long view. So, let me start with the punch line before I get into the joke. Yesterday turned out to be a wonderful day with my wife. And the joke: nothing, but nothing, went according to plan.

So last week, the windows on the Jeep stopped working. Blown fuse, right? No. The shop ordered a new fuse (the wrong amperage, idiots) and when I went to put it in, the old one wasn't blown. Crap. The switch is hosed but they'll have to have a look at it to make sure and to make sure they order the correct replacement, which given their track record, is a crapshoot. The first time they can get us in is 2pm on Sunday, prime hiking time, or else we wait 2-3 weeks for a weekday slot.

So Sunday it is. Cancel those hiking plans. Hey, but let's make lemonade from those lemons. Let's go on a sunset hike to Big Schloss where the view of the sunset will be spectacular and the trail is easy enough to negotiate in the dark coming back. Ann was all for that and wanted to spend the night too so that we could schlep a bottle of Champagne up to the top to have with our dinner as we waited for the sun to set. So the plan is coming together. But the fat lady, she hasn't sung yet.

Sunday turns out just not to be a day for Annie to be motivated. She is nearly 10am getting out of bed and has been doing the same for the past 2-3 days. In the back of my mind, I know that she's off her game. We finally get our gear packed and the car loaded up and we're ready by 1pm. So, let's get some lunch before we hit the shop and we'll hang out in the waiting room and then head to Big Schloss after.

Where to eat? In the shopping center next to the shop is a newly opened kabob house in the space where a really crappy kabob house used to be. Bonus, we know the owner of the new kabob house. He owns the salon next door and Ann worked for him briefly. Shameless plug: Classic Kabob in Winchester has really good food. It's sad that we found this out just weeks before we move, but it is what it is.

Annie and Outstanding Chickpea Stew

Falafel Platter 

Lamb Sandwich

Lamb Platter
It turns out that the owner, Daniel, was in the restaurant when we went in and we spent a minute or two chatting with him. Annie, who generally orders too much food, ordered both a falafel platter and a lamb sandwich. I got a lamb platter not wanting to load up on bread. I want to load up on bread, but my belly is smaller if I don't! Everything is as you see it, nicely cooked and nicely presented and this restaurant is worlds better than the crappy joint that it replaced. The chickpea soup in particular was outstanding. It's just really nice to find a restaurant that cares about the product that it puts out.

We get to the Jeep dealer and of course, the mechanic is running behind. But long story short, involving a waiting room with obnoxious cartoons on the TV, it only takes an hour and fifteen minutes, of which the mechanic only spent a half an hour working, and so our bill was half of what we expected. Sure enough, we need a new switch and hopefully it comes in this week and we can get it dealt with. Having no windows in a vehicle is a decided bummer.

An uneventful 55-minute drive found us driving up into Wolf Gap on the Virginia-West Virginia border between Shenandoah and Hardy counties. As we arrived right at 4:00pm, we had plenty of time to kill so we thought we would head south out of the gap for the 3.3-mile round trip to Tibbet Knob before returning to the gap and heading north to Big Schloss in time to catch the sunset.

On the way down, Annie had already decided to forego camping because I had an early morning appointment back in Winchester and she did not want to get up early and "be rushed" getting back to town. We planned to drive back to town sometime before midnight.

Starting the Tibbet Knob Hike

First Overlook Looking East
It was clear from the outset that Ann was not having a good day. Finally, about halfway up to the top I said to her, "You don't look like you're having any fun today." And she replied, "I'm not" and trudged on for a couple more minutes before telling me to hike to the top on my own and that she would wait for me on a rock beside the trail.

At that point, I knew she really wasn't doing well, so I set off for the top at a very quick pace, finishing the rocky uphill three-quarters of a mile with two rock scrambles in 15 minutes. I climb hills really well (that might be why Annie calls me a mountain goat though it might also be for some of my other more caprine qualities) and though I missed my wife's company greatly, it was kind of fun to unleash the beast on the hill.

Big Schloss from Tibbet Knob

Another View North from Tibbet Knob
I texted Ann to let her know that I was at the top and she replied that she was heading back down to the gap to find a picnic table on which to lie. At this point, I knew our day was done and there would be no heading up to Big Schloss for the sunset. It doesn't do any good to get angry about such a situation. We all go through periods when we just don't feel well. For myself, my employees just about called 911 on Friday because an hour before a crazy dinner service, I was lying on the floor of the restaurant, face white as a sheet, with rivers of sweat pouring off me. Sometimes you just don't feel well. I get it.

Anyway, I tried valiantly to catch her on the way back, but she had too much of a head start. And I might have stopped to pick some blueberries. We rendezvoused at a picnic table just shy of the gap and then made our way back to the car and home. We didn't get to do what we set out to do, but I got in a good speed hike and we ended up having a great evening at home. Lemonade from lemons.

Blueberries: Free Hiker Snacks
Back home, we unpacked our dinner and Champagne and had it on the sofa while catching up on a series that we are watching. I made us sandwiches of goat cheese, spinach, avocado, turkey, and tomato for our hike and while they might have tasted marginally better up on Big Schloss, they were really good back at home.

Big Schloss Fare
And my genius self decided to put our Champagne in the PlatyPreserve wine bottle for our hike to save the weight of the Champagne bottle. But as you can see in the photo below, the collapsible bottle is pregnantly distended, never being intended for sparkling wine. The soft sides of the bottle stretch enough to let all the carbon dioxide come out of solution, leaving a weakly fizzy drink behind, in this case grand cru Chardonnay from our Roland Champion Chouilly Grand Cru Champagne.

Epic Fail: Platypreserve and Champagne
Because we were doing a lightweight overnight hike, I decided to bring a single pair of shoes to use on the trail and in camp. I chose my Keen Newport H2s. I've hiked in them on fairly non-technical trails and they do great, but this would be my first time with steep slopes, rocky trails, and a couple of somewhat technical rock scrambles. I have to say that they did great. I am considering hiking in them more and more as an alternative to my trail runners.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Lost River State Park, Mathias, WV

We're almost to halfway in our 52-Hike Challenge this year, our return trip on Sunday to Lost River State Park in Mathias WV being number 25. This is a hike that we did on Super Bowl Sunday of this year and liked so much that we vowed to return. This post is just going to be a photo-essay. You can go to the February post for details.

Suspension Bridge Over Howard's Lick Run

Rhododendron maximum by the Creek

Common Heal-all, Prunella vulgaris, in the Fire Road

Moth on Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca

White Cabbage Butterfly, Pieris rapae, on Thistle

Bee on Thistle, Climbing White Oak Trail

Bottle Brush Grass, Elymus hystrix

Shelter on White Oak Trail

View From Shelter

Posing at the Shelter

Places Are Covered with Deptford Pinks, Dianthus armeria

Viper's Bugloss, Echium vulgare

Catnip, Nepeta cataria, Behind Shelter

We Shared White Oak Trail with Horses

Cranny Crow Overlook

Bouncing-bet (Soapwort), Saponaria officinalis

Sundrops, Oenothera fruticosa

Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis

Apocynum androsaemifolium, Spreading Dogbane

View From Cranny Crow

Boot Shot at Cranny Crow

Panorama at Cranny Crow

At Southern Point of Big Ridge

Pine Cone Detail

Big Ridge South End: Blueberry Scrub Under Pines

Lots of Ripe Blueberries

Hiker Snacks!

Perhaps Belongs to a Turkey Vulture?

Ferns on Virginia View Trail

Moth in the Grass

Picnic Shelter

Striped Wintergreen, Chimaphila maculata

Fire Tower From Warden's Cabin

Red-spotted Purple Butterfly, Limenitis arthemis

Grass Under Oaks, Big Ridge Trail

Common Mullein, Verbascum thapsus

Very Fragrant Hoary Mountain Mint,
Pycnanthemum incanum

Longleaf Bluets, Houstonia longifolia

Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca

Moth on Garlic Mustard

Undulations Looking East at Miller's Rock

Lost City, WV

Another View

I Love These Mountains

1840 William Tusing Cabin

Horse Nettle, Solanum carolinense

Tiny Moth on Back of Ann's Arm

Beers in the Creek Post-Hike

Our 52-Hike Challenge 2017

On January 1, 2017 as Ann and I were headed to Harper's Ferry WV for our first hike of 2017, Ann told me of something she read about on ...