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, May 25, 2014

#21 - Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn

9-11 Memorial Museum - Starting Point
This weeks hike was in NYC, where I had the joy of picking up my youngest daughter who completed her first year of school. I was happy and excited for her, and it was exciting to know that she was coming home for Summer! I arrived a day early to get an urban hike in prior to packing up her belongings and heading home.

I was accompanied by my oldest daughter, who I get to spend too little time with, and I was excited as she agreed to be my hiking partner! All together, we covered 12 miles of the city - 7 miles as an active hike.

That excitement was tempered for a period, as we visited the 9-11 Memorial Museum, which had just opened to the general public days prior. It was sobering, and a reminder of the importance to enjoy time with family and friends.

After visiting the memorial museum, we set out on our hike. As we were in lower Manhattan, we started from there.

Destination - Chinatown!

We decided our circuit would consist of a trek through Chinatown, over the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn (and Brooklyn Heights), and back to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge. Columbus Park and the markets of Chinatown were full and bristling, and we enjoyed the hustle, bustle, sights and sounds as we hiked through.
Columbus Park
Columbus Park
One of many Chinatown markets
One of many Chinatown markets
Manhattan Bridge, with it's graffiti, subways, and vehicle traffic is busy and loud, but offers wonderful views as you cross the East River into Brooklyn. The bridge span, the water, and all of the activity keep you moving forward as you take it all in.
Constant subway traffic on Manhattan Bridge makes for a noisy experience
Some of the graffiti along the way

Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan from Manhattan Bridge
A good pace, a stop for a cold water, and back on the trail. The temps were perfect and although we had been on our feet all day, we both felt strong. Knowing we had miles still ahead of us, we pushed on. We headed back toward the Brooklyn Bridge, a fabulous walk, and one we both enjoyed very much.

Brooklyn Bridge back to lower Manhattan
Lady Liberty from Brooklyn Bridge

Love locks: Lovers mark their names on a lock and throw away the key into the river below
Midtown Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge
Just as we crossed back into lower Manhattan, the sky turned dark as a storm began to roll in. We hiked a bit further, beyond City Hall, where we were able to catch our subway back to our destination. We had started our day at 10:00 a.m., ended it at 9:00 p.m. and considered the day a huge success!

New York City is a great place to get your urban hike in. Pick a direction and go. There's so much to see along the way!
Thank you Megan for hiking with me and spending a day together! I love you very much!
Hike on, friends!


Sunday, May 18, 2014

#20 - Difficult Run to Great Falls

I was very happy to be able to do this hike yesterday. It is one that has been on my list for awhile, the weather was perfect, and with the rains from the days before, the water levels were way up - providing views you don't normally see.

I was able to get an early start, which is key in the Great Falls area. By 10:00, I already had 3 hours of hiking under my belt, and was able to enjoy the calmness and coolness of the morning, catching some of the area wildlife before the sun's full rise.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect, though almost immediately, it was clear the water levels were high, some of the banks and paths had been breached, and other areas were not passable. Those turned out to be minor issues, as the area itself was beautiful, and I was determined to move on.

From the start - underbrush knocked down from flowing water
Trail washed out

Trail washed out
The area of Difficult Run turned out to be gorgeous, and I could not believe I had most of this area to myself. I paused a number of times, just to take in the early sun and rushing water.

Difficult Run

As I headed further downstream, I came upon an area with high rock walls and the water rushed by more powerfully. Difficult Run is essentially a creek, so to see this volume of water made for some nice views. In fact, as I sat down to take in the beauty, and the sound of the rushing water, I was surprised as I looked over at a Turkey Buzzard - who was looking back at me!

As I sat down for a moment to take in the sights and sounds, I turned my head to see this black vulture. The black vulture has shorter wings and tail than a turkey vulture - and is less common in this area. It's head is dark gray to black, compared to the turkey vulture's red head.
It was beyond this point where Difficult Run joins the Potomac - and I climbed from the waters edge up to Ridge Trail, where I could hear the river roaring in the distance. The views were beautiful, and I could not get over the speed of the river. Logs and full size trees moving at what seemed about 15 miles an hour.

First view of Potomac from Ridge Trail
Potomac from Ridge Trail

One of many large logs and trees sweeping by

Docks, barrels, tires, trees...

I moved from Ridge Trail to River Trail. Part of River Trail was closed, but the remainder made for beautiful views and some tense moments. Across the Potomac, on the Maryland side, is Billy Goat Trail. The National Park Service closed Billy Goat Trail due to dangerous conditions, though one hiker ignored that closure putting US Park Police in a dangerous situation.

US Park Police directing hiker to evacuate
Hiker on closed trail
US Park Police had their hands full with people ignoring closures

I came upon a Park Ranger rushing to get these two off the rocks

Spectacular views and being in awe of the rushing river kept this hike amazing as I worked my way toward Great Falls. Rock formations, plants, and wildlife made each step of this hike a great experience. As I made my way along, I was surprised to see both a Pileated Woodpecker and Red-shouldered Hawk. I was able to take a number of photos of these very beautiful birds.

River Trail

One of thousands of rock formations
Pileated Woodpecker
Red-shouldered Hawk
I made it to Great Falls. It was quite spectacular with the volume of water rushing through. I have never seen all of the rock formations completely covered. Even so, this level of water came no where near the top floods of the area. As I watched the water rumble by, I wondered how it would change the falls when water levels receded. I have attached a photo of Great Falls under more normal conditions - and as of yesterday.

Great Falls under more normal conditions
Great Falls - Saturday, May 17, 2014
 Yesterday's flow rate was 150,000 Cubic Feet per Second (cfs)
From here, it was Swamp Trail back to where I had parked. Green, lush, less traveled - as all of those arriving now were here for the river. The coolness and greenery was the perfect way to wind things down.

Swamp Trail

Chipmunk on Swamp Trail
Two Deer - Swamp Trail
I logged 7 miles on this hike, though the miles were never on my mind. Not with everything I had seen today. As I pulled out of the parking lot, dozens more were pulling in - smiles on their faces. Just as I had when I had arrived.

Keep Hiking, Friends!!

Until next time,


Monday, May 12, 2014

#19 - Evergreen

Male Eastern Box Turtle
There have been a number of benefits for me since I began hiking regularly 5 ½ months ago. My doctor commented last week on the 10 pounds I've lost since my last visit. The extra weight I had gained was one of many reasons I began Fifty Hikes at 50.

While the physical benefits have been considerable, weekend hiking comes with its own set of requirements, and there is little time during the work week to plan upcoming trips, inventory gear, double check maps, and travel any number of hours the morning of your hike.

While you do the best you can, a day hike is a day hike. You get one day to get your act together, and into a state of mind, that you want to be in for days - not hours.

Welcome to Evergreen!
Tucked away in Southampton County, VA, lies Evergreen; a wondrous oasis of farm and forest whose parts do not entirely make up its whole. Owned by dear friends, Evergreen is part farm, with farm equipment dating back to the 1930’s; part garden, designed in storybook fashion by a Master Gardener whose designs go well beyond his vision; and part forest, with a quiet stream passing through its boundaries, offering camp sites for those who stay a night or two.

Outdoor kitchen area
Fire Pit and common area - where friends unite
Camping Area
Fruits and vegetables grow abundantly; and a barnyard with roosters, hens, peacocks, turkeys, and beehives, provide for a large number of eggs, honey - and poultry if the need were to arise.

Turkey, chickens, peacocks and other fowl thrive at Evergreen

Fresh Strawberries among the many fresh fruits and vegetables

Herb Garden

It was from Evergreen, that I got this week’s seven mile hike in. Rural in nature, Southampton County is dotted with farms, and it was during my hike I was able to see many of the telltale signs of agriculture and forestry. My goal was to make it to the town of Courtland and back, and the small country roads made for a good way to cover the miles, passing farms, fields, and forest along the way.

As I made it to the outskirts of town, I was running parallel to train tracks that would effectively loop me back to where I had started. With some of the wildlife I had already seen, I was excited to head back along the rails in an effort to see more. It turns out, I was not disappointed.

Train track return and a wild turkey
I came upon wild turkeys, deer, turtles, and other various birds and fowl along the way. I also learned, if you're not a big fan of snakes, it is sometimes best to stick to the path and leave the railroad tracks to the trains.

Male Cardinal

Eastern Box Turtle
One of numerous wild turkeys seen
As I approached a swampy area along the tracks, I came upon one snake, then two, then three, and four, all sunning themselves on the railroad ties. I had to gently navigate (and one time run), as I passed each one – neither of us liking that the other was there. I later found snake #5 back on the road, a rather large king snake, as I walked by.

One of four on the tracks

King snake along road
I made it back, passing golden fields as the sun rose higher in the sky. As I neared Evergreen I heard the iron bell ring, signaling breakfast was ready for those interested. A smile came upon my face as I entered back in to be with friends.

Thanks to Randy, Doug and friends for a great weekend,