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, September 28, 2014

#38 - Hemlock Overlook to Bull Run Marina

Back in April, I hiked 8 miles of the Bull Run - Occoquan Trail, from Bull Run Marina towards Fountain Head Park. I was surprised at that time how much I enjoyed this trail, hidden away in Fairfax County, VA (See hike #15 for that hike.)

Fast forward to Sep 12th, where I hiked the next leg - from Hemlock Overlook to Bull Run Marina. All I can say is "Wow!!", as this hike just gets better and better as you go along. Want hills? You got 'em! Flatter paths along the water? Check! Rocks, roots, twists, turns, forest, fields, wildlife and plants? This trail offers a little bit of everything.

I settled on a 10 mile (total) out and back, and with it being mostly wooded, a Summer's morning turns out to be a perfect time of year.

The path starts out dark and cool; descending to the waters edge...

Where on my previous hike (further East), I was already along the reservoir, I was surprised to see at this juncture I was still along the stream portion of Bull Run.

Trail head ending at Bull Run

Bull Run

The path lead along Bull Run for some time; a rocky, root hazard path that followed along this beautiful stream. Heading East, the stream began to slow as the effects of the dam and reservoir began to show.

The trail veered inward, where hills and switchbacks took over. It was quite beautiful; sunlight filtered through and the trees cast their long shadows.

There were stream crossings along the way, with bridges and other trail maintenance provided by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. They've done an excellent job in getting through any areas of water or mud.

Trail maintenance through a low lying area

Surprisingly, the trail ascended up and out into a field of tall grasses that made for some pretty views and a shot of blue sky as cloud cover moved in.


I made it to the end of today's destination 5 miles away, taking a break before doubling back. The trail was so nice, it didn't bother me that this was an "out and back" circuit. There were too many good things to see.

One of about 6 Blue Herons I saw this day

I couldn't have asked for a better day; the scenery, the effort, all of the different elements of nature.

The beauty of this day is in remembrance of Amalia, whom I passed a makeshift memorial for.

Keep hiking, friends.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

#36 - Stone Creek Falls & Deer Creek Patio - GCNP

"On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings..."
                                                                                           ~ America (1971)

  A Mirage

With a water temperature of 46-50 degrees, the Colorado river is perfect for keeping beer chilled; less than perfect for bathing. Yes, the daytime is hot and dry, and a dunk in the river will cool you off quickly - but bathing is a whole nother animal.

Enter the side creeks and streams! While environmentally friendly soaps and shampoos are o.k. for the "frozen" Colorado, these items are prohibited in the side streams where the water temperatures are much warmer. No matter, as the warm waters provided a wonderful reprieve from the heat and dirt and sweat of the day.

Water! Wonderful, clean water!
Stone Creek Falls was a stop for lunch. "Go up and see the falls", said our river boat Captain. "Get wet, you'll enjoy it." A short hike it was, but what a great destination after 4 days of cold river water!

Stone Creek Falls
Later that day, we landed our raft at Deer Creek Falls, with a hike up to Deer Creek Patio. It was hot, and dry, and dusty climb - but the scenery, views, and clear, clean water made for an excellent hike.

Deer Creek Falls
The hike up and into the canyon - with cactus and canyon the predominate views.


We moved into the slot canyon, with elaborate rock formations, the stream cutting its way through, and narrow paths with deadly drops below for those without sure footing.

We reached the "patio", with its cool stream and a great place to play and cool off!

Deer Creek Patio

Deer Creek Patio

Deer Creek fun - at the Patio
After some time to enjoy the area, we worked our way back to the base of the falls. At the bottom, one stays cool any and every way that you can - as Steve can attest. After swimming in the pool at the base of the falls, he found the perfect cooling off place!

It was a great day. We made camp later that day at Poncho's Kitchen. RM 137. The first big-horned sheep showed up across the river as we recalled the day. We were under the stars again that night. What would tomorrow bring...

Our camp site - Poncho's Kitchen

Poncho's Kitchen
Across the river - big horned sheep

Keep hiking, friends!