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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

#32 - SNP Three Falls Hike


Having Monday off and wanting to get a good workout in, I headed to Shenandoah National Park to hike the 9.3 mile Three Falls Hike. I had seen this hike highlighted on the Sierra Club Potomac Region's site and penciled it in as one to do soon. Knowing the park would be less crowded on a Monday, it seemed the perfect day to go.

Located in the Big Meadows section of the park, this beautiful hike will offer everything you want from hills, views, streams, wildlife - and waterfalls. Three of the nicer falls in the park - Dark Hallow, Rose River, and Lewis Falls.

I was very happy my oldest daughter wanted to go with me, as we have a similar pace and it makes for a really enjoyable time. We parked at the Visitor Center, checked in with the Ranger on bear activity, weather forecast, and to verify our route and distance, then started off on the first leg toward Dark Hollow Falls.

We found out very quickly that not all of the deer were intimidated by humans, as we walked upon one just as we started off. With temperatures a bit cooler, 64 degrees when we started, we expected animals in the area to be active.

Deer on the way to Dark Hollow Falls
The path to Dark Hollow Falls was in good shape we followed the creek, surprised of the brown trout we saw in its pools.

One of the pools along Dark Hallow Falls trail where we saw trout
We worked our way down until we reached the Falls - a beautiful sight!

We stopped for a water break, then headed onward toward Rose River Falls. It was a beautiful path, with the creek nearby and nice rock formations.

To this point, our hike had been all down hill (the first 2 miles or so.) That would change, as we rounded a corner and started working our way up to Rose River Falls. The path from here became more challenging for the remainder of the hike.

A hike up to Rose River Falls
From high atop. Does not accurately reflect the 67" drop and deep pool at the bottom
The hike to this point was beautiful, and really beginning to turn fun. Uphill we went for a considerable distance, as we headed to Fishers Gap and the Appalachian Trail.

The Appalachian Trail - the classic foot path.

An overlook from the AT
The Appalachian Trail portion of the hike was beautiful. Forest, overlooks, rock formations. Classic, rugged beauty. We followed the AT until we reached the trail head for Lewis Falls.

Lewis Falls Trail was rugged. Jagged rocks, twisting and turning. As we were at roughly the 7 mile mark, you could start to feel this trail work on your tired muscles. This trail seemed less traveled, and the two snakes we saw on trail attested to this.

A portion of Lewis Falls Trail, though not the most rugged

We finally made it down to the area of the Falls. This did not have a natural viewing area to see the Falls as a whole, but at 81 feet, it was the longest falls of the three. Winter would be rough, but likely provide the clearest view.

Obstructed view of Lewis Falls. Very remote and more difficult to get to.
We headed out. 1.5 miles up, back toward where we had parked. Over 9 miles hiked, a beautiful 5 hours on a difficult hike. It's a do-over if you want a workout - and you'll see a number of beautiful sights along the way.

Last Overlook - Last leg 1.5 miles to finish

If you want a great 1/2 day hike, SNP Three Falls Hike is a winner!

Happy Trails!


Sunday, August 10, 2014

#31 - Prince William Forest Park

I enjoy having Prince William Forest Park nearby, as it offers everything one could want in a great hike. There are paths as long as you want to go, hills that help ensure you get a good workout in, and gently flowing creeks providing rock structures and a beautiful backdrop to the largest Piedmont Forest in the National Park Service. The footpaths are long and narrow, taking you back to the days of the Algonquian Indians that roamed along this same creek.

Wanting to get 5+ miles in, and realizing I had not got Riley out for a hike in awhile, we grabbed our gear and some water and headed out to a section of the South Valley Trail we had yet to hike, between the waterfalls of the South Fork and the lake formed by the Civilian Conservation Corps dam.
Creek Crossing
Riley enjoys hiking along the creek and while I need to find a place to cross, she happily plummets in, chasing waterbugs, swimming and splashing along. The sound of the creek is a reminder to keep moving, and even as you bend away from it here and there, it is always nearby and you always come back to its rock structures, rapids and pools.

What I really like about this trail is how it remains just a foot path, tucking into the forest, providing opportunities to take a break creekside, and the coolness of the shade as you work your way along.

Of course, Riley has a blast and takes off like a bandit first thing, expending 90% of her energy in the first quarter mile. She eventually settles in to a more constant pace, picking up scents of dear, chasing butterflies, birds and reflections on the water.

Alas, we make it to the dam and the lake beyond. We take a break on the rocks, listening to the waterfall, watching the shadows get longer in the late afternoon sun. Riley knows the way back from here, so as I get up to put my camelbak on, she is already on the move, plopping in the water to chase a waterbug, running over rocks to get back to the trail, chasing the scent of some animal of the forest; burning up 90% of her energy in the first quarter mile.

Hike on, friends!


Saturday, August 9, 2014

#30 - Diamond Head

Diamond Head
Le'ahi, or Diamond Head, is one of the most recognized landmarks on the Hawaii Islands. Sitting at the end of Waikiki, Le'ahi was formed 300,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption, getting its "Diamond Head" name from the calcite crystals on the slopes of its crater.

I arrived for a short stay mid-afternoon, and with little time to get a hike in, chose a route from the hotel, along Waikiki, to the Diamond Head summit - a 9 mile out and back. My challenge was time, as the park closed at 6:00, with the last hikers allowed in at 4:30.

The area around Waikiki is alive with activity and beauty. This is "Duke" country. Duke Kahanamoku, Gold Medalist Olympian, is revered in Hawaii, and his story is a good one. Swimmer, surfer, life-saver - Duke is a modern day hero.
Heading out along Waikiki toward Diamond Head

Duke Kahanamoku
 There are a number of statues along the way paying homage to Hawaiian culture and it's interesting to read the stories and learn the history behind them.

Makua and Kila - A children's story honoring Hawaiian values of family and the ocean
Once through the resort area, there are still a few miles to go before Diamond Head. While there is a beautiful view of Diamond Head from the resort area, the access road is on the back side of the crater, adding time and miles to to the hike.

Entrance to Diamond Head Park
Through the Crater Wall
Diamond Head - the Far Crater Wall
At this stage, it has been 3.5 miles to get to the trail head. Now, a .8 mile climb to the summit.

Begin ascent
Initial stage of trail
Working way up...

Through final tunnel

Up a long line of stairs
Spiral Ladder to Observation Area
Looking back on Entrance Tunnel (middle of photo)
The distance and climbing made for a great workout. When I arrived at the summit, a stronger than normal breeze blew, and it felt good to cool off and enjoy the views.

Waikiki from Diamond Head
Diamond Head Lighthouse

Closing out a 24 hour day with a 9 mile hike!
Afterward, it was time to hike the 4.5 miles back - just in time for sunset along the beach. People were ending the daytime portions of their day...
Final Volleyball Match
Last chance to walk on a strap tied between palm trees...
Had I not hiked so far, I would have got my yoga in
O.K... Maybe not.

A final flight for the drone

Surfers at Sunset

While I had hoped to do more during this trip, I was glad to have a few hours to get such a great hike in.
A good hike, tired muscles, and finally a chance for sleep

Keep hiking, friends!