Monday, September 11, 2017

Long Point Trail

When I finished my Master's degree in May, Casey's family was kind enough to give me an exceptional graduation gift to send both Casey and I on a whitewater rafting adventure on the New River.  For as much as I love to hike, I'm not a true adventurer at heart and although I was extremely appreciative of the gift, I was more than just a little terrified.  However, I'm also about as frugal as they come and the thought of putting a gift like this to waste was not in the question, so we booked our adventure with ACE adventure resort last weekend.  When we arrived it felt reminiscent of summer camp as a kid.  There was a lake filled with giant, bouncy, water toys, a long gravel road with a grassy camping area at the top, a dining hall, a ping pong table, corn hole, and a big pavilion filled with picnic tables.  The whitewater trip on the lower New turned out to be surprisingly a ton of fun and I made it through the full day without taking a swim (although everyone in our raft did get plenty wet).

In any case, the resort also coincidentally happened to be just down the road from my cousin, so we met up on Sunday and he showed us around.  He took us to Long Point Trail, an easy 3 mile, nearby hike with an astounding view of the New River Gorge Bridge.  Being an amazing naturalist, he was kind enough to help me learn to identify some common plants.  I'm embarrassed to say that for as much as I hike, until yesterday, I couldn't so much as identify a white oak versus a red oak.

View of the New River Gorge Bridge

Casey, Paul, and I at the overlook

A white oak leaf

Chestnut oak leaf

American chestnut tree leaves

Beech tree leaves

White oak bark

Goldenrod

Red oak leaf

Elliot Knob

This one is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the little town of Staunton, VA.  Casey and I have found Staunton to be a great place to visit.  It's close to a mid-point between our two homes and such a cute little town.  Before we did this trip, we spent the night in the Old Staunton Inn, an adorable bed and breakfast within walking distance of a winery and some fun places to eat.  Once we had filled up on warm breakfast after our evening about town, we hit the road for this hike.

Elliot knob is a longer day hike, but more than doable in a day for a adult or child of average fitness.  Where it lacks in rock scrambling, it makes up for in a variety of sights.  The hike boasts small waterfalls, a few creek crossings, some scenic views, and a neat old watch tower that at least when we were there had a wide-open gate and no signs labeling it as off-limits to climb.

Even more, on our particular journey up the mountain, we met a redbone coonhound whom we named Staunton and then later, his friend, a treeing-walker coonhound whom we named Barkley.  Barkley and Staunton were clearly well-loved hunting dogs with GPS transmitters, so we left them to do their thing on the mountain, but they made for some excellent hiking buddies.

Me at Old Staunton Inn

First meeting Staunton, the redbone

Staunton decided that he would join us on our hike up the mountain

Staunton surveys the trail as we head to check out the waterfall

Mr. Staunton at the waterfall boasting lots of GPS collars

Staunton decided to join us at the waterfall.

And then there were two.  Barkley joined us for a short while before both dogs loped off into the woods after a scent.

View on the trail up

Terrifying stairs up the watch tower

View from the watch tower

Even more terrifying stairs back down from the watch tower

The watch tower from the safety of the ground

Dragon's Tooth

I'm a few weeks overdue on this one, so just some photos for today.

Sarah and I at the top


Sarah at the overlook

The "slot" if you want to climb your way up the rock.  I forgot how rocky this little hike is.  It's got some good little rock scrambling parts.

Pretty view and you don't even have to climb the tooth to see it

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Wind Rock

I'm embarrassed to say that I don't know if this is the first time that I've been to wind rock during the day.  During my college years, my friends and I would make frequent nighttime trips to wind rock to look at the stars and talk about life, but I don't recall ever visiting this little overlook during daylight hours.  To be fair, wind rock does make for a pretty perfect nighttime hike because it's hardly a hike at all.  In two tenths of a mile from the parking area, you've already reached the overlook.  No rock scrambling is required, and if you wish to camp, there's ready-made, free campsites available right next to the overlook.  Granted, during the nicer season, these campsites are often occupied if you arrive late, but still, it's a nice after-dark destination.  Just now did I learn that it's also a pretty nice daytime destination.  Casey and I encouraged his family to accompany us on a detour before going to the Cascades so that we could show them mountain lake and wind rock.  The road was as treacherous as ever, but we made it to the parking area and marveled at the views.  If you're looking for a great effort:reward ratio, this one is right up there along with Buffalo Mountain (it's even easier!).

Sign at the beginning of the hike (the hike is all along the white-blazed AT)

The overlook

Casey's family

me and Casey

The whole group of us at the overlook

The Cascades

I've taken two trips here in the past few weeks, so I figure I may as well lump them into one post.  I took the first of the two recent trips with my new coworker who is just becoming acquainted with the area.  Having come from the other side of the state, she hasn't had the opportunity to do much hiking in recent years, so we decided that a trip to one of the most iconic hikes near Virginia Tech was in order!

Sarah and I at the Cascades on my first of two trips up
The more recent trip was just this past weekend when Casey's family came to visit.  They've been to the Cascades before and loved the hike, so we made a return voyage when they were in town.  As always, the hike was gorgeous and felt almost reminiscent of a jungle.  And of course, as is also always the case in the summer, the place was a zoo.  But, if you're willing to overlook the droves of people, it's still a pretty impressive sight

Part of the "jungly" seeming path up

Casey and Max behold the waterfall

Casey and Max at the waterfall

A leap of faith

Friday, July 14, 2017

Trimble Mountain and North River Gorge

Trimble Mountain trail.  This was what most of the trail looked like
I was kind of "meh" about Trimble Mountain, but the North River is a really neat place.  Casey and I took a trip to North River campground in George Washington National Forest outside of Staunton as a weekend getaway and did a bit of hiking on day 2.  Trimble Mountain was a wooded loop (~4 miles round trip), but despite the promise of "3-star" views from Hiking Upward, there wasn't a single overlook point given the tree cover of summer.  As such, we did the trail quickly and decided to find a spot on the river to eat lunch.  We found our way to the nearby paved lot that serves as the start of a steep descent into the new river gorge.  Although steep, the walk to the river was short and the river was beautiful.  There was a campsite right beside the river, which I wish we had found the day before
Salamander friend
because it was a perfect little spot.  That said, I didn't mind having bathrooms (no matter how primitive) at the GWNF maintained campground that we stayed at.  Tadpoles were everywhere, the water was warmer than one would expect, and we even found what I think was a white-spotted slimy salamander.  On our drive back, we had the pleasure of watching a barred owl catch something; he looked quite affronted that we pulled over to watch him eat his meal, so he just sat there starting at us for a while.  Unfortunately, with cell cameras, I don't have even one halfway reasonable photo, but it was a truly neat experience.
The river off of the North River Trail (right at the beginning from the paved lot)
The river directly behind our campsite at North River campsite

Another of the river right beside our campsite

Although it's technically a river, the river came across as more of a large creek.  The North River Gorge trail runs along the river for a bit over 4 miles (and Hiking Upward provides directions for a ~~12 mile loop that incorporates the entire North River trail).  We didn't do more than walk for about a half mile along the river, but I would love to go back and do the full trail or possibly even the loop.  The North River Gorge trail requires several forges of the river.  Online, this notion worried me (I was picturing something just shy of a Potomac river type size), but Casey and I were able to complete one of the fords by simply rock hopping.  I can't attest for the others (we ran out of time and turned around), but in mid-summer of 2017, I think this would have been a very reasonable hike even with the water crossings.

This whole area was especially neat because of the ample free camping areas.  We ended up paying $5 for our site for the luxury of bathrooms, a picnic table, and a fire pit with a grate over the top, but there were many large pull-off areas where it would be easy to pitch a tent (or several).

Buffalo Mountain

This one might just be the best in the way of "effort: reward."  I'm a bit overdue on posting it, but some college friends were back in town for a few days over the fourth of July and so we made a trip to this neat little hike.  It really is a "little hike" for some big views.  At about one mile each way, even though the trail climbs steadily, it's not a tough one.  The gnats were swarming at the top and unlike the last time I did this hike, there was little breeze at the summit.  However, in any case, it was an enjoyable trip.

The group at the summit

Views from the summit

Views from the summit