Posted by Genevieve
Early this week, I found out that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (where I work) has a hiking club (PTO hiking club) and since I prefer to hike with at least one other person this sounded like a great option for some of my training (especially since Meg was not available…boo). So I headed out this morning to meet some co-workers at Little Devil Stairs in Shenandoah National Park – only about 1.5 hours away from DC.
We hit the trails and I was feeling good about it for about 15 minutes until Little Devil Stairs showed its true colors. It started going up, but what was worst (at least for me) was that it was wet and rocky. Still a little nervous when it comes to wet, slippery conditions and rock-hopping…before taking each step, I envision either my knee twisting or losing my balance.
My ACL recovery is going well, but I still need to improve my balance and strength and at this point, I don’t completely trust my brace to save my new knee. It also, didn’t help my confidence seeing other hikers slip on rocks while crossing the many streams. Everyone was okay – I think the only casualties were wet shoes and gatorade swimming. Anyway, I trekked along until Little Devil Stairs turned into little bit bigger and little bit bigger stairs. I had to really slow my pace when it came to these large, rocky steps – its not a problem getting my right leg up to the step, its standing up from that step that’s so difficult. So, I cheated a little bit (at least in terms of my “oh, I can hike my way back to a rehabilitated knee” training) and started only using my “good” left leg for the big stairs. Brilliant, right? This only lasted for a little while due to some serious burning in the left leg.
Once we reached the top, my group took a quick break for some water and snacks. From here a portion of this group opted to take the longer route back to the parking area via Piney Branch Trail. I questioned if I should take this longer route, as I really was feeling it in my knee in the climb up Little Devil Stairs, but the others convinced me that Piney Branch Trail was not nearly as rocky and steep. And they were right. There was only a portion of the 5-miler that was heart-thumping (I might add, the other three guys didn’t seem to have a problem with this portion), but my pace naturally slowed due to some heavy breathing (luckily, others were probably too far away to hear me, but I’m sure that they could see it on my red, sweaty face). Oh and one last note, on the descent, I decided to start using men’s shampoo before hikes, because it seems that my “better” smelling hair (probably some sort of fruity scent) attracts bees, horseflies, wasps or anything that flies. Something buzzed in and around my head for what seemed like 2 miles and needless to say, this didn’t help my psyche (this was also probably written all over my face with an occasional air-thrash and verbal protest). We met the other part of the hiking club at the parking lot, took a group photo and were headed to our cars just as the rain started to come down. I think most thought that this was perfect because they could run and get in their cars and not get wet…I thought this was perfect because I was already wet from all the sweat and the rain was a perfect way to cool down before getting in the car.
Apology – I forgot to take more photos and unfortunately the one I did take is not so good. There were lots of streams, canyons and small waterfalls on the way up Little Devil Stairs and much larger waterfalls and a small Bolen Family cemetery on the Piney Branch Trail/route back to the parking lot (small print disclosure: the waterfalls on Piney Branch Trail were a little difficult to see through the leaves. I can imagine that the views might be better in late fall/winter/early spring).