Mt. Pleasant CFF Team Hike

View from the Top

View from the Top

Posted by Meg

Yesterday I learned that Mt. Pleasant wasn’t just a suburb of Charleston, SC and that the proper pronunciation of  Buena Vista is “Bew-na Vista” (and not “Bwain-a Vista”). Although I’ve lived in Virginia for 9 years, I am still learning things about my state every week. Hiking all over the place this summer is providing lots of these opportunities.

We had our first team training hike this weekend. Seven Xtreme hikers and our guide gathered 9:30 on Saturday at Mount Pleasant in the George Washington Forest. It was  awesome to finally meet some of the other participants taking this “journey” with Genevieve and me. We came from all over the state — Northern Virginia, Lynchburg, Richmond, Va Beach.

The hike was about a six mile loop and provided some amazing views. Lots of ups-and-downs in the shaded woods brought us to two different overlooks, allowing views for miles.

This is a great trail that I’d definitely recommend to anyone wanting to do a half-day hike. Legs are sore today, but not too bad. Next team hike is July 13th. Woo. Go team!


First team hike


Trail Maps Can Be Misleading

Stream in the Prince William Forest

Prince William Forest

Posted by Meg

We should probably explain that we actually don’t live in the same area. Meg lives in Richmond, while Genevieve currently lives in Northern Virginia (though, she is from Richmond, and Meg is hoping desperately that she will decide to move back). Thus, the two of us have to plan our hiking “meet-ups” accordingly.

Last Saturday, we planned a hike together in the Prince William Forest. It is actually only one of a few hiking spots off of I-95, in between NoVA and RVA. The trail guide indicated it was 7 miles, which is right along the lines of where we should be in our weekend training.

Wildlife in the Prince William Forest

We found a few froggies. But luckily missed the rattlesnake that the group in front of us warned us about.

The hike was lovely — a relatively cool summer morning was enhanced by a path that included a lot of shade. The hike did not include scenic views, but you did get a lot of opportunities to walk along streams. It was also fairly quiet, considering we were just off of 95, near Quantico. (If you’re familiar with DC traffic, you know it can be terrible right about there.)

The one qualm we would have about the experience is the way the trails were marked. Now, we are relatively novice when it comes to all of this trail map stuff, but two trails in the same forest were marked “blue” — one was a slightly lighter shade of blue. We did not realize it at the time, so leave it to us to continue onto the WRONG “blue” trail. Yep. We got lost. And our hike was cut short. (We’d like to say it was cut by only by a mile, but looking back at the map now, it could’ve been more.)

Also, we learned the importance of properly fitting hiking boots. Meg got a terrible blister, and had to turn her hiking boots into clogs before it was all over. Quite the fashion statement.

Hiking "clogs"

Hiking “clogs”

We’d do this trail again, but would pay closer attention to the map.

Dodging Bikers

Posted by Meg

Our first “cousin hike” was along Buttermilk Trail on a Wednesday evening after work. We crossed over the bridge to Belle Isle and hopped on the trail. Soon, we found ourselves in the woods, dodging flocks of mountain bikers. As we jumped off the trail to let the bikers pass, we realized we should also be dodging all of the poison ivy along the sides of the trail.

View from Buttermilk Trail

View from Buttermilk Trail

Despite the bike traffic, it was enjoyable to find ourselves in the woods, but still be in the middle of the Richmond. (Very convenient for those of us working downtown.) Although we only finished a portion of the whole trail, we were able to take in great views of  the James River and downtown.

All in all, it’s definitely a trail we’ll try again, but will give ourselves more time to get through all 6 miles next time.

View of Downtown RVA

Downtown RVA


Snakes, Shrieks and Sights at Great Falls Park

Posted by Genevieve

Second time to Great Falls but went a different route this time and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Instead of waiting in line to go in the main entrance of Great Falls State Park, a great hiking-friendly buddy, Stephanie, and I started at the Difficult Run parking lot and headed out Difficult Run Trail towards the Potomac River.  The trail first parallels a creek, which gave me a chance to take a quick break and snap a photo.

Creek view from Difficult Run - watch out for water snakes!

Creek view from Difficult Run – watch out for water snakes!

Unfortunately, while I was moving to get the best angle for the picture, I stepped on a rock in the creek and unbeknownst to me dislodged someone’s home.  While zooming in, I saw a splash in the water in my periphery, but just assumed it was a small friendly fish.  Right before clicking the photo, a high-toned, loud shriek sounded behind me, so I turned my head to look at my hysterical friend.  This was followed by something like “there’s a snake next to you”.  All I’m thinking at this point is “great, I’m chilling here on rocks, which is not the preferred terrain for my new knee, and I am unable to run”.  Regardless, I attempt to run, which really just looks like an old lady who left her walker at home mixed with a gangster limp.  I never saw the snake but you couldn’t tell by my shrieks and hobbling.  This is a good point to let you know one of the best parts of this trail: very few people.  So we both saved face and just laughed at each other.  However, for the next (at least) half hour, we frantically scanned the trail ahead of us for possible snakes.

As we approached the Potomac River, we veered off onto River Trail.  This trail led us to high views of the Potomac River.  We carefully peered over ledges to check out paddle boarders in the river and rock climbers on the coastline cliffs.  Soon, we started seeing many more park visitors…we knew we were getting closer to the falls.

View of Great Falls on the Potomac River from the Virginia side.

View of Great Falls on the Potomac River from the Virginia side.

In hindsight, I will never go to Great Falls any other way.  Hiking up to the falls through the less traveled trails and then at the mid-point of the hike, you reach the beautiful great falls and then head back (mostly downhill) through the forest (Old Carriage Road, Swamp Trail or Matildaville Trail).  Once you exit the trail on Georgetown Pike, you just need to remember which way to turn because you are only about 0.2 miles from the Difficult Run Parking Lot.

Training Doesn’t Stop on Vacation

Posted by Genevieve

At the last minute, my husband and I decided to meet his Mom in Acadia National Park for a long weekend during her more extended trip along the Maine coast.  Since my training had already started for the big 31-mile hike in September, I secretly decided that I would push some trails into their schedule (muahahaha!).  But what a wonderful place to hit the trails and explore such a diverse environment.

Pink granite to blue sea to sand beach to green forest

Pink granite to blue sea to sand beach to green forest

Acadia in a nut shell is located on a small island (Mount Desert Island) and connects mountains to seas, rocky cliffs to forests and sandy beaches to ponds.  In some ways, it reminds me of the California coasts with the mountains and rocky coastline.  Though California has some spans of crystal blue water (Caribbean-style) that might be prettier than that of Maine, Acadia’s pink granite rocky coastline are out of this world.

After much debate in the car, we decided on a relatively easy hike (Ocean Path: 4 miles round-trip; it’s possible that we only did 3 miles because someone was a little antsy to get back to park loop road before the weather turned) that was along the coast and passed many of the hot-spots of Acadia NP.  The hike started at one of the few sand beaches in Acadia NP.  We stalled here for a while because there was talk of whale sightings (this started by overhearing a ranger talking to someone outside the bathrooms which then lead us to spread the word to others that were at the viewpoint who had massive telescopes for such an opportunity).  After squinting our eyes and zooming in as far as we could with our cameras, we gave up and trekked on.  I’ll have to check a whale sighting off my list another time.

Not the most ideal scenario for a wobbly knee.

Not the most ideal scenario for a wobbly knee.

Now that it’s been a couple of weeks since this hike, I don’t really remember if it was strenuous or not.  I think even if it was, we didn’t notice it because there was so much to look at that we had never seen before.  Also, we may have taken lots of photo breaks, but who could blame us.  Other Ocean Path viewpoints include: Thunder hole, Otter Cliffs, Dorr and Cadilac Mountains.

Before it started raining too much, we checked out wonderland trail, which turned into a wet disaster.  Wonderland trail is an almost completely flat trail through the forest and ends at a picturesque pebble beach.

A little rainy and cloudy, but sill a great view at the end of Wonderland Trail.

A little rainy and cloudy, but sill a great view at the end of Wonderland Trail.


First Hike After ACL Surgery

Posted by Genevieve

Just when I thought my recovery was going well, I had a post-op (ACL reconstruction) Dr.’s appointment, which ended in diminished confidence.  I am now required to wear a new “fancy” brace during any activity for the next year, which includes training for this Xtreme hike in the hottest, most humid months of the year.  Joy!  I’m trying to think positively and tell myself that this ugly, stinking, hot brace will protect my new knee and I guess that is important.

Closest trails to DC - Potomac Overlook Regional Park

Closest trails to DC – Potomac Overlook Regional Park

So, to test out the new brace, I headed out to Potomac Overlook Regional Park  in Arlington, which has some easy nature trails near DC (trails: Blue Jay Way > Marcey Creek > Red Maple Trail > White Oak Way > Tree of Heaven Trail).

I’m not sure exactly how many miles I hiked (best guess is 3 miles), but the good news was that my knee held up, in general, so the training continues.  I was a little sore at the end, but I made it!  One thing I noticed that I suppose will improve with time, was hesitation going downhill.  For some reason my brain told my right leg to second guess every step when there was a “nearby” rock a few feet below.

Just a few comments on Potomac Overlook Regional Park: Pros – very close to DC, nicely marked shady trails with lots of educational signs (e.g.,  I learned about microbursts, which are a very localized column of sinking air, producing damaged divergent and straightline winds at the surface that are similar to, but distinguishable from tornadoes; a microburst occurred in this area in July ’11) and  Cons – the difficulty level does not vary – only easy trails; limited amount of trails.  One additional comment: although there aren’t too many trails (in terms of distance) within the park, some of the park’s trails lead to trails outside the boundary of the park such as Military Road, Donaldson Run Trail and Potomac Heritage Trail).