National Park Access Free

2014 National Park "Free Entry" Dates!! January 20th Martin Luther King Jr. Day; February 15-17th Presidents Day weekend; April 19-20th opening weekend of National Park Week; August 25th National Park Service Birthday; September 27th National Public Lands Day; November 11th Veterans Day

Sunday, December 28, 2014

#50 - Revolution

Revolution #50: 01 Jan 2014 - 31 Dec 2014
On New Years Day 2014, I kicked off "Fifty Hikes at 50." A chance to get back outdoors, see things I hadn't seen, to see things again, to think, and to live more outside. I was excited; and the timing was perfect.

For my first hike on January 1st, I headed to Great Falls National Park. It was nearby, it was beautiful, and it was the catalyst that lead to 49 more hiking excursions.

So where to go for #50? As I complete one revolution of the sun, I chose to circle back to Great Falls; where it all started.

Jan 1, 2014
Dec 27, 2014
I recall day 1 fondly, when Bonnie and I started out on that first hike. Sunny, slightly chilly, a beautiful day. Today, similar, though more mild. Sunny, not a cloud in the sky.

Three of my children joined me today. I have had numerous hikes with my wife, a number with each of my four kids. Each one was great! Each one a memory I will never forget.

We started at Difficult Run. Surprisingly, trail maintenance efforts have started and are nearly complete. Floods in the area had previously deteriorated the trail making portions of it impassable. Now, many portions of the trail are new and wide, allowing you to enjoy the views, move along, not nearly as treacherous.

Difficult Run

From a previous visit, I knew there were a pair of nesting Black Vultures in this area. We saw them both, but only captured a photo of one, as the other flew upstream as we approached.

One of the nesting Black Vultures
 As Difficult Run comes to its end, it empties into the Potomac. It is at this point we began our hike westward toward Great Falls.

Confluence of Difficult Run and Potomac River
This is such an enjoyable hike. Fresh air, nice views, pick you distance, and while it's far from isolated, it's enjoyable to see others enjoying a day out.

Mather Gorge awaits as you make your way toward the Falls. There are plenty of areas to stop and enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of the area.

Sarah at the Eastern end of Mather Gorge

Across the river, Maryland - and Billy Goat Trail

A lone kayaker makes his way downstream
A Rock Climber, kayaker, and paddle-boarder all enjoying the day
Hike #50 was about enjoying the day. Enjoying my kids. Enjoying the past year. Recalling great memories. The excitement for the year ahead.

And with that, "Fifty Hikes at 50" is complete! Oh, I'll still hike - and hopefully by Spring I'll be out backpacking some. I'll be a 51 year old man hoping the trail never ends - and enjoying the journey along the way!

January 2014
August 2014
December 2014

Riley on one of her many hikes!

Keep hiking, friends!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

#49 - Gravelly Point to Theodore Roosevelt Island

A jet taking off from Reagan National Airport - Gravelly Point
What a great hike this turned out to be! It has a little bit of everything, from jet airliners roaring overhead, Potomac River and National Monument views, all leading to a wooded island that ends at an impressive monument celebrating our 26th President.

It's all part of the 18 mile Mount Vernon Trail. This is a diverse trail that spans from George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island. I have run, biked, and hiked portions of this trail over the years, but the 7 miles from Gravelly Point to the Island and back was a first for me - and it is a "must do" for those wanting a nice hike with great views.

The day was sunny and cool as I parked at Gravelly Point Park. This is a great starting point, and many people were here simply to picnic and watch the jet airplanes, and other critters, take-off and land.

I picked up the trail right here, and heading in toward the city, followed along the river, though never crossing. It is a beautiful area with trees (the Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove is here), grassy areas, bridges, and paths - all within view of some of our Nation's largest monuments.

There are many moments when the city seems far, far away, then you come out of the park setting to see familiar surroundings.


Alas, you come upon Theodore Roosevelt Island. I have passed this many times, but wasn't certain what, if anything, was there. I was happy to see a 1.3 mile loop through the woods, ending at a beautiful monument area.

Forest to swamp, I would have never had known the Kennedy Center was just across the river had there been leaves on the trees. A sanctuary of nature - all very well done.

Near the end of the loop is the monument. It is the first time I had seen this one. It almost seemed forgotten on this day.

In part: "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value."

In part: "It is hard to fail but it is worse never to have tried to succeed."

In part: "Courageous hard work, self mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life."

In part: "If I must choose between righteousness and peace, I choose righteousness."
A very cool trip around the island, with a 3 mile hike back to Gravelly Point. So many opportunities to veer off and keep looking. To keep exploring.

Kennedy Center

Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, U.S. Capitol

A Memorial to all who work the seas. Navy, Merchant Marines, Watermen.
Back at the car, I had thoroughly enjoyed this day.

Keep Hiking, Friends!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

#48 - A Beautiful Day

I love a day like today - taken off guard by how you think things will be, vice how they turn out.

I awoke this morning expecting a bitter cold day, with plenty of mud from the recent rains. I wasn't totally off the mark, as when I took Riley for a walk this morning, ice made for slippery footing along the wooden planks leading towards Government Island, and we bypassed an area or two due to muddy terrain.

But, whereas Riley had to settle for a 1.5 mile hike this morning, I wanted to get out for an 8-12 miler; too much for a well-loved, seven year old Golden Retriever, who's top end these days is 4-5 miles.

I knew where I wanted to go. As I wind down my "Fifty Hikes", I had to go close out Prince William Forest Park. You see, while the park is very small compared to any other National Park (just 37 miles of hiking trails), I have hiked Prince William in the cold and barren weather of Winter, watched new life blossom and grow with Spring, hiked it's shade and cool streams in the heat of Summer, and saw it's color of Autumn. I was back one last time, to hike one last section I had missed.

I stopped in the Visitor Center, as I wanted to hike a loop vice an "out and back". The Ranger pointed out two loops, one 9.3 miles, the other just over 10. I chose the latter of the two.

Visitor Center
The loop started at the Oak Ridge Campground and would bring me back along the most westerly portion of the South Valley Trail. For the first time, I would see some of the damage and re-growth from a fire that burned 318 acres in 2006.

The sun was beautiful and it made for spectacular views. Temps reaching near 50 made for excellent hiking weather. I have come to realize that whatever the weather, it's always perfect for the hike that day. When I have hiked in cold - it was perfect! In heat, rain, snow, fog - always perfect for the hike that day!

The hike started on Oak Ridge Trail. A cemetery, and wooded trails to get things started.

Oak Ridge Trail transitioned to Old Blacktop, which was plenty wide, with a few runners and bike riders. From there it was to a narrower Taylor Farm trail, and on to South Valley.

I have hiked South Valley before and it is one of my favorites. I enjoy the views of the South Fork of Quantico creek, particularly with the bright sunshine shining through.

As I looped back up toward the campground, 10+ miles under my boots, I entered the area where the forest fire had occurred 6.5 years earlier. Few remnants remain, though the forest is noticeably thinner, with some blackened and burned trees and stumps remaining.

Some of the new growth comes in the form of loblolly pines. With the Holiday's around the corner, it seemed the perfect time of year for them to show their bright green colors in the sun.

 Happy Holiday's, friends!