Sequel to the Hike … Floaties Optional

 

NOTE: The photos that look like streams were all sections of the trail we walked through and across that are normally dry soil!

Shenandoah Hiking Series: Overall Run / Overall Run Falls
Instructors: Beth and Raquel
Classmates: Charlotte, Dan, George, Fazon, Paul (a grad student from France), Jessica and Brain (a cool couple), and Jennifer and Lisa (a mother+daughter duo)
Start Time of Hike at Shenandoah National Park: 9:30 a.m.
End Time of Hike at Shenandoah National Park: 4 p.m.
Total Miles Covered: 10 (it was supposed to be 5.5)
Weather: Overcast the first half of the hike and sunny the second half

I had so much fun on my previous REI hike, that I registered for another one. Again, Mother Nature unleashed buckets of rain the days leading up to the hike, class proceeded and we met outside my local REI store at 7:30 a.m. to board “Teddy”. (See my previous hiking blog post for explanations about “Teddy”and some other details.)

It was a lively group! During the van ride Brain goofed with Paul about the U.S. slang term “splunking” and the sexual meaning. Beth, an avid caver, warned them to be careful where they use the term because to outdoor enthusiasts, “spelunking” refers to a cave rescue due to careless people. Very different meanings! At the start of our hike, Beth and Raquel taught us about the proper use and benefits of trekking poles, botanical life we may see like the wineberry (a favorite of all the instructors, a relative of the raspberry, nonnative to Virginia and safe to forge), and animals to beware of like Copperhead snakes (We came across a Copperhead at one point and I yelled, “Keep it moving people!”). Our fearless leaders were unsure of the condition of the trail given the heavy rainfall days prior. We soon discovered that it was miles and miles of mud ditches! Our major trail connections were washed out with mini rapids. I asked if anyone had swim floaties in their backpack? Raquel just finished telling us a story about the last time she led a hike at Overall Run and how they had to walk crouching down for more than a mile as a survival method amid a thunderstorm. During our hike she said she never saw such “epic streams!” Due to those two incidents Raquel jokingly declared, “this trail is cursed!” Safety was a serious issue given the slippery rocks and rushing waters, so I didn’t take many photos. Teamwork and using the trekking poles were crucial. Never underestimate the power of 1-2 feet deep rapid moving water. When we finally reached our destination Overall Run Falls, know as one of Virginia’s tallest waterfalls, it was a beautiful sight. The cascading falls were to our left and the majestic Massanutten Mountain was to our right. Toward the end of our hike I slipped on rocks, fell on my side and was covered in mud. It looked like half of my body got a fancy spa treatment. Our hike was supposed to be about 5.5 miles, but it ended up being 10 miles due to the rerouting. I was exhausted when I got home from my adventurous day!

To search for REI classes/events in your area go to: https://www.rei.com/learn.html
#
optoutside

Take a Hike

Shenandoah Hiking Series: Little Devils Stairs
Instructors: Nathan and Matt
Classmates: Alison, George, Scott, Jayne, Adriana and Al
Start Time of Hike at Shenandoah National Park: 9:15 a.m.
End Time of Hike at Shenandoah National Park: 1:30 p.m.
Total Miles Covered: 5.5
Weather: Rainy, chilly and super foggy

I received a classes/events email from REI and noticed they had some great hikes planned through their outdoor program. I began hiking in 2013 with my Framily (yes, that’s how my crew spells it), but I missed going on hikes last year because of the freaky weather and moving. So I decided to go for it, and signed up for a class. What’s more fun than an adventurous day of fresh air, education and exercise?! At the time, I didn’t know Mother Nature would drench our area with rain for weeks. REI is hard core and naturally, the class proceeded as scheduled. We met up outside my local REI store at 7:30 a.m. and boarded the pimped out 11-passenger Mercedes van. Way to go REI!

The van, nicknamed “Teddy” by REI staff was new, but the front right corner had a dent in it that I found out was accidentally done by one of their unnamed associates. Nathan and Matt were knowledgeable and entertaining. Everyone had a blast. We learned about various invasive and non-invasive plants. Nathan shared this interesting tip with us … whenever we finish hiking we should always clean the bottoms of our shoes, because while walking through the parks the soles of our shoes get impacted with plant pollen and that’s one way both good and bad plant populations are spread. The more you know! (cue music) Despite the bad weather, it was a very fun day and I was able to take some cool pics. Visit my blog next week for tales and pics from my hiking adventure to Overall Run Falls.

#optoutside

Connected Fitness

I recently downloaded a free app on my phone called Endomondo (by Under Armour, a fitness company that I believe utilizes technology better than any other). The app has more than 50 sports to select from, which is great because I participate in a variety of physical activities to keep things fresh and to challenge my body. I used Endomondo for my cycling adventures and I was curious to see how well it would analyze another sport. I activated the app as soon as my friends and I hit The Bull Run-Occoquan Trail for our first hike of the season. I put my phone in my pocket and let Endomondo do its thing. I was apprehensive about it working properly because service is usually spotty in park areas. During a break I looked at the information available up to that point and it appeared accurate, but I was convinced the true test would be the reveal at the end. Typically, when I’m doing something the route doesn’t vary from what I planned, but on hiking excursions our group sometimes gets distracted and a little lost. Hours later when we completed the hike I eagerly took out my phone to view the data — it was great, ESPECIALLY the map. It highlighted the true route we hiked, including our mini unplanned diversions! I showed the map and data displayed on my screen to everyone in my group and they thought it was awesome. Many of them downloaded the app to their phones. You can keep your fancy and expensive fit devices. I always have my phone on me and I don’t want to wear additional gadgets — the Endomondo app meets all my fitness information needs!

Rock Steady

Ready for our third outdoor challenge, my gym friends and I decided to tackle Whiteoak Canyon, another circuit hiking trail located in Shenandoah National Park. Ambitiously, we chose the Cedar Run/Whiteoak portion, described as “a very strenuous 8.2-mile circuit hike.” Strenuous, we learned was the key word, especially in 88+ degree weather!!!!! We were on the trail at 8:33 a.m. Similar to Old Rag, there were two access points to choose. We started at Lower Whiteoak Falls because it’s the steep, most difficult portion of the trail and we were at our peak energy level. We paused to enjoy the six beautiful waterfalls along the way — the tallest at 86 feet. We saw many people taking dips in the bases of the falls to cool off. About mid-way along the hike we missed a crucial turning point somehow and ended up walking an extra 6 miles on a horse trail. The extra miles may not seem bad, except when you add them to the other 8.2 miles and the hot temperature. I was sweating in places I didn’t know a person could sweat! Seven hours later and 14.2 miles, we finished the hike. On the drive home we stopped at Naughty Girls Donut Shop for a reward (…or two …or three). We ate delectable donuts; strawberry shortcake infused with tequila and s’mores infused with vodka. A great way to end a challenging day!

Backpacks packed again, BUT…

  • hydrating beverages (check)
  • health bar and salty snacks (check)
  • peanut butter sandwich (you don’t want food that can go funky in hours of heat) (check)
  • sunscreen (check)
  • bug spray (check)
  • Band-Aids (check)
  • extra socks (check)
  • hand wipes (check)
  • tissues (check)
  • BENADRYL® (item we discovered we should have packed after Jane slipped, landed on some fungus and had a bad reaction)

Reaching New Heights

My gym friends and I try to come up with new ways to challenge ourselves. After gaining confidence from consistently attending fitness classes and doing a few 5Ks, we decided to attempt tackling Old Rag, a circuit hiking trail in Shenandoah National Park with an elevation of 3,291 feet and a little more than eight miles in length. None of us had ever done the trail before. We headed out early in the morning excited, but slightly weary of the unknown.

Our backpacks were packed…

  • hydrating beverages (check)
  • health bar and salty snacks (check)
  • peanut butter sandwich (you don’t want food that can go funky in hours of heat) (check)
  • sunscreen (check)
  • bug spray (check)
  • Band-Aids (check)
  • extra socks (check)
  • hand wipes (check)
  • tissues (check)

All of our cell phones had no service once we reached Front Royal (Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T), so we had to guess the remainder of our driving route. Fast-forward 45 minutes later when we finally found the parking lot. We hopped out of the car and walked the mile to the starting point of the hike. There are two access points to choose. We took Ridge Trail, which proved to be the best because you start off energized on the side with all the boulders and end worn out on the side that’s a rocky dirt trail. We stopped along the hike to enjoy the beautiful views, recharge with lunch and incorporate a few of the moves we learned in class like crab walk, planks and partner squats. We encountered some personal challenges along the way, but stayed strong in our team mentality of encouraging each other. We successfully completed the hike in a little more than six hours. Exhausted, but proud, we made plans to return and do the hike again in the fall to observe the vivid colors of the season.

Walk this way…

Our crew got together for another fall adventure. We returned to the scene of our first trail excursion at Fountainhead Regional Park. Last time we conquered three miles in about 45 minutes on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail. Determined to push ourselves — we completed a little more than 13 miles this time (not on purpose)!!! Our plan was to walk/run 10 miles — parking one car at a starting point and another at our end destination. However, along the way at around mile marker nine we got a little cocky and veered off the path wandering on to private property where we heard A LOT of gunfire. A definite motivator to find our way back! The hike ended up taking us about four hours — not too shabby given our additional side trip. Now that the government shutdown is over we hope to go back to our plan of tackling Old Rag Mountain.