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

Friday, March 28, 2014

#14 - North Valley Trail

Friday, and a day off of work! With rain in the forecast, I knew the best time to get outside was this morning. There were light showers as I departed, but knowing I would have some protection from the forest canopy, I headed out to hike the North Valley Trail at Prince William Forest Park. Riley heard me packing up, was raring to go, so she tagged along.

The rain gave me an opportunity to check out some new gear and make sure I was packed appropriately for Spring. I was very happy with how everything held up, with the exception of my camera bag, so I'll need to research some options that allow me to cover ground, keep the camera dry, and still get the photos I want.

Quantico Creek and the bridge to North Valley Trail

Portion of the North Valley Trail

Quantico Creek

North Valley Trail is a great trail, with many sights to see as you make your way along. The quietness, interrupted only by the sounds of the creek, forest, and grasslands, is soothing and beautiful. What's nice about a day with some light rain is you feel you have the whole area to yourself. Today, I was passed by one trail runner, and came across one other hiker coming from the opposite direction. Two people in 3 hours or so allows you to really enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.

North Valley Trail

North Valley Trail at old Pyrite Mine

One of the many beautiful grass and pine areas

Western edge of North Valley Trail
Of course, if we're headed out where there is water, Riley wants to swim and play. It won't be long before we start seeing northern water snakes, but for today, the creek was running at a perfect level, with the water nice and clear.

Riley trying to catch salmon ;->

Always looking for a pool over her head so she can swim

Happy Dog

Today's hike was six-miler, and just a perfect day. The wildlife, the flora as we head into Spring, and the beauty of the area, made for a great hike.

Lower end of Quantico Falls
A nesting pair of Mallard ducks

Until next time,

Happy Hiking!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

#13 - Cape Hatteras National Seashore

From mountains, to battlefields, to historical cities and towns, each hiking experience is a new and wonderful experience. Then you go to a place like Cape Hatteras National Seashore, soak in the natural beauty for a few days, and wonder if it gets any better than this! Of course, that's after weeks of snow and ice and mud...

There's no doubt a weekend break to the sunny shores of the Outer Banks was a perfect change of pace from recent excursions. Each time you go, this barrier island is as different as it is the same. Always shifting, always changing, always beautiful.
While the beach is never far, much beauty and wildlife is also found just off the sandy shores.
Dunes stretch across most of the 70 miles of the Outer Banks. Above is a view from Ocracoke.
A beautiful point in Hatteras. Where the Ocean meets Pamlico Sound

The trip was two-part: Therapy from the harsh Winter - and the first beach area hiking of the year! The Outer Banks stretches 70 miles or so, and I was able to hike various stretches of the entire length. Most hiking was accomplished in Kill Devil Hills, Hatteras, and Ocracoke. To take 10 days to hike the entire length of the island, exploring the nooks and cranny's in between, is a definite goal and very much achievable.

Outer Banks - Corolla to Ocracoke
 I found hiking this time of year to be comfortable, and both bug and tourist-free. There is enough wildlife, waves, dunes, and shells to keep things interesting and fun. Hiking in the sand proved different than the hills and mountains of the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah areas, however, the drag created by the sand, and the camber of the shoreline, kept it challenging through the miles.

Bodie Island Light House
Laughing Gull

Kinnakeet (Avon) Pier
Snapping Turtle

Scallop shell
Of course, I highly recommend the Outer Banks for hiking. Pirate history, shipwrecks (Diamond Shoals, aka "the graveyard of the Atlantic"); four unique lighthouses; miles and miles of unspoiled beach, and Wildlife, Seashore and Sound protected by the National Park Service and nearby Pea Island Natural Wildlife Refuge, make this area a great place to find the space you need to get some great hikes in.

Until tomorrow...

 See you on the trails!


Saturday, March 15, 2014

#12 - The Potpourri 8-Miler

DuPont Circle
With a full day ahead of me, my 8-miler today was done in three distinct segments; and all done one after the other. The day started in Washington, D.C. as I drove up to participate in a march from DuPont Circle to the South African Embassy in protest of a practice known as canned hunting.

The morning started out quite chilly, but it didn't take long for the sun to burn through the clouds and warm things up. The march, along Embassy row, turned out to be 3 miles total, and it was very interesting to see the various Embassy's along the way.

Turkish Embassy

Venezuelan Embassy

South African Embassy

 After 3 miles in the city, I was anxious to get back to the trails closer to home. Riley was anxious to go, so off we went to Prince William Forest Park, and a 2.5 mile hike. I headed further back in the park, in order to get further away from the crowds. Riley was happy just to be near the creek!

Quantico Creek - Where the creek dam creates a small reservoir

Riley getting a swim in!

Quantico Creek - Beyond the dam

Quantico Creek
After this 2.5 miler, I got Riley home, but wanted to get some more miles in. I headed out from my front door, which gives me a number of options. I chose a route that ultimately runs me by a nearby marina. This allowed me to get another 2.5 miles in, giving me my 8 mile hike for the day!

Aquia Harbour Marina
With my hiking partner, Bonnie, sidelined by injury (though expected back soon!), today proved that a hike is a hike, no matter how creative one must be to get the miles in. It felt great to be outside all day, enjoying the sunshine, fresh air, and warm temps with the occasional cool breeze! "Transition" was the key word of the day, as I went from urban, to rural, to suburban terrain. With plenty of water and a good pair of hiking shoes, I made it through the day just fine!

See you on the trails...


Sunday, March 9, 2014

#11 - Appalachian Trail to Weverton Cliff

AT to Weverton Cliff
All I can say is, "Wow!!", what a great day yesterday to get outside! With my hiking partner off enjoying the sights and sounds of Charleston, SC, I decided to head west to get some AT hiking in - a nice 9 mile out and back from Harpers Ferry to Weverton Cliff. This is rated as a great day hike, and it didn't disappoint.

You can't ask for a better starting point than Harpers Ferry, as the beauty of the area makes you anxiously get out and get started to see what's in-store. From weekend backpackers, to bicyclists, to kayakers out enjoying the two rivers that join here, this is a place full of good times regardless which direction you plan to head - and what you plan to do.

AT crossing Potomac
Kayakers on Shenendoah
Crossing the Potomac into Maryland, the AT follows the C&O Canal for about 3 miles. It's a nice, wide path, and since we're still early in the season, I found the crowds to be low. Most people were out for a mile or two stroll, so as I made my way further along the trail, I started to see fewer and fewer people.

AT / C&O Canal

One of the many trains throughout the day.
Freight trains pretty much put the canal system out of business.

White Blaze of the AT

As I made my way to Weverton, the C&O Canal continues East for another 58 miles towards DC, while the AT branches off to the North, for another 1162 miles or so. I branch off to follow the AT up South Mountain, a rather steep 550 ft climb. The AT noticeably narrows once off the canal path.

Weverton - Where the AT branches of from the C&O Canal

AT to South Mountain

AT to South Mountain

AT - South Mountain

AT - South Mountain
After a nice hike up South Mountain, I arrived to Weverton Cliff. As it was later in the day, I had the cliff to myself. With the time change this weekend, I don't expect that to be the case again until late Autumn.

I had a nice break here, and enjoyed the serenity and the view. As I looked out, I saw the sun beginning to set. Time to get moving!

Weverton Cliff

Weverton Cliff

Weverton Cliff
I made it down South Mountain, and back to the C&O Canal. I was feeling great from the day outside and everything I had seen. Another train came by, and as I watched it head westward, I realized we were both chasing the sun. Neither one of us were going to catch it on this day.

Chasing the sun

From Weverton to Harpers Ferry - Along the river - Like many before me
If you've got a day, nine miles in you, and the legs for a short, but steep, climb, I recommend this beautiful hike to Weverton Cliff.

Happy Trails!