15-Miler: Halfway There!

Posted by Genevieve.

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Meg and I started our trek early in the morning by car…leaving at 4:30 a.m. prompts 5 hour energies, which results in a chatty Genevieve (sorry, Meg. I have no control of it, but I will remind you that you supplied the stimulant).  Before hitting the trails, we met lots of new Xtreme hikers, which had various connections to CFF and also, learned strategies to defend yourself against bears including:

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oh so cute and cuddly.

Bear spray

Bear spray

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The Great Outdoors with John Candy

(1a) the use of bear spray, (2a) avoiding eye contact (I imagine this would be impossible), (3a) make yourself look BIG. Oh and get this, if the bear gets too close (as if he might be interested in eating you), (4a) you should clock ‘em in the nose…apparently this is the Achilles heel of the bear.  My inexperienced comments of what I would do if I encountered a bear on the trail: (1b) my mind would go blank and I would forget that there is something called bear mace, (2b) my eyes would be bulging out of my head…specifically, I would be rudely staring directly at the BIG bear, (3b) my defective knees would be trembling so much that I would in reality become smaller as I shrink to the ground and (4b) if the BIG bear approached me, I would cry, pee in my pants and close my eyes (in any order)…meaning there would be no jab to the BIG bear’s nose.  Needless to say, Meg and I have talked about bears a lot in the past couple of months.  In my mind, they are becoming less cute and cuddly.

Selfie/Photo Bomb: Apparently the energy bar kicked in.

Selfie/Photo Bomb: Apparently the energy bar kicked in.

I'm still smiling: this must have been before the poop-color energy bar I ate.

I’m still smiling: this must have been before the poop-color energy bar I ate.

As we increase our mileage, we are also increasing our time on the trail.  This has led to some re-occurring conversations.  One of which is trail food.  Some of the shorter hikes we have done have consisted of only energy bars…boring.  However, every time I go to the grocery store, I find a new and improved energy bar and somehow get excited about them again.  For example, I envisioned a lovely snack on the trail that tasted like Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.  I made myself eat this because I didn’t want to waste it but I will warn you, it tastes like it looks.

BEWARE: this does not taste like Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.  It tastes exactly like it looks.

BEWARE: this does not taste like Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. It tastes exactly like it looks.

As for the scenery, there was one big climb that sure did knock the wind out of you, but it was so worth it when you got to the top.

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Torrey Ridge

The second half of the hike was downhill, which is easier on the heart rate, but boy, did the ankles and knees feel shaky and weak.  But important thing is we made it to the end in one piece and with a little energy to spare.  This was a 15-miler which means we are about halfway to our goal: 31-miles in one day!!!

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Cousins!!!!

Practically in West Virginia

Posted by Meg

Looking west towards our sister state

Looking west towards our sister state

Sunday was another cousin hiking adventure. We met outside of Woodstock, VA, a small little town that borders West Virginia. We hiked a circuit known as Little Schloss, a solid 13.5 miles with a variety of terrains and great views of both Virginia and West Virginia. You know, West Virginia gets a bad rap. It’s actually a really beautiful state.

Our view on Little Sluice Mountain Trail at the beginning of the hike.

Our view on Little Sluice Mountain Trail at the beginning of the hike.

As with any other cousin hike, the two of us got lost. Even before we started out, we got lost finding the trail head. The coordinates listed on Hiking Upward were wrong, so we spent an hour driving along random gravel roads in the George Washington Forest until we found the brilliant purple blazes.

When you're lost in the woods, finding this sign of life is not totally comforting.

When you’re lost in the woods, finding this sign of life is not totally comforting.

Then when we were actually on the trail, we got lost. Several times. It required two maps and a GPS iPhone app to ensure we stayed on track. This proves that as much as we joke about it, we still don’t qualify as “mountain women.” We do better on team hikes when someone else is managing the map, and all we have to do is gab and move our legs in the direction of the rest group!

We’re exactly one month out to the big day. Mileage is going to keep going up these next few weekends. Our next team hike is in two weeks in Roanoke, so this coming weekend, Genevieve and I need to figure out another hike to do. Maybe this time we should acquaint ourselves with the map before we actually get on the trail!

The Countdown to the CFF Xtreme Hike is 2 Months: Hiking Guide Corey Subjects Us to an Overnight Trail in One Day

Posted by Genevieve.

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Xtreme Hike - Training Hike #3 at Three Ridges near Wintergreen.

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Xtreme Hike – Training Hike #3 at Three Ridges near Wintergreen.

After barely waking up, grabbing a quick energy bar for breakfast and meeting up with the rest of the clan at the Three Ridges parking lot (near Wintergreen), our group headed out to the 13.5 mile Three Ridges loop trail around 7 am (yawn!).

Three Ridges Loop

Three Ridges Loop

We quickly found out that we should probably have eased into the hike because the trail goes straight up for a while and it seemed like our bodies were not quite prepared as many hikers immediately felt ill.  But no fear, we slowed down for a bit and were good to go.  Oh and just in time to lighten the mood, we passed our first hikers of the day.  One carried a hula hoop.  As many of us have discussed books like A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson while hiking, we are now hoping that someone will write a book about their experience hula hooping the AT (any takers?).  After a quick break at a camping site, we kept trekking upwards to reach the overlook, which was unfortunately a bit foggy.

Three Ridges5 - meg and i at overlook

Must be early into the hike because we are still all smiles!

However, a great spot to sit down a grab a snack (Genevieve eats the 2nd energy bar of the day…this started a trend that Genevieve was not so happy with…see glorious meal after hike below).

We made it to the overlook, but thought the hardest part was over...we were wrong.

We made it to the overlook, but thought the hardest part was over…we were wrong.  Obviously posing, we really don’t hike like this.

The rain started, which prompted all hikers to either cover bags and bodies with waterproofing or scurry to the woods which sheltered you a little bit.

All smiles with Quacker Jack that is along for the journey with a CFF Xtreme Hiker.

All smiles with Quacker Jack, who is along for the journey with a CFF Xtreme Hiker.

As the old saying goes, what goes up, must come down and this became our reality for the next couple of hours.  We quickly found out that it was not the best part of the trail to find wet.  Not only was it a steep decline, but it was extremely rocky.  I might add that these rocks weren’t nice.  They were loose, wet, mossy, scary, ankle-turning rocks, but with our new purchase of hiking poles, we managed.  At the bottom, we refueled (Genevieve ate a 3rd energy bar…Genevieve starts to complain and inquire what everyone else brought), refilled water and rested the muscles for a little bit.

Genevieve reaches the AT shelter pit-stop.

Genevieve reaches the AT shelter pit-stop.

Just one more creek to cross before a pit-stop at an AT shelter.

Just one more creek to cross before a pit-stop at an AT shelter.

Meg reaches the AT shelter pit-stop.

Meg reaches the AT shelter pit-stop.

Three Ridges3 - at AT shelterAt this point we are a little over halfway, but I think all of us will remember this particular portion of the hike the most.  It was straight up for what seemed like forever.  We passed multiple waterfalls, none of which I have any photos of, well because, I was tired and not thinking.  This was the part of the hike that our dear hiking guide warned us about.  He warned us that inevitably we would start cursing him for subjecting us to such a trail.  Our dear guide was exactly right.  Lots of grunting going on for the next few miles.  We made it to our last pit-stop (ugh. Genevieve split the 4th energy bar with Meg) and there was a decision to be made (not that any of us could find energy to think).  We could take a short-cut down the fire road or complete the hike with the last part – 1.5 miles that we started with.  If you remember this 1.5 mile portion was the trail that produced some queasiness.  With Meg leading the group in optimism (Go Cousin!), most of us decided to finish the hike even if our bodies were rejecting the idea.

We finished the hike a little bit before 4pm. That’s right, we hiked for nearly 9 hours. Sigh!  So, we rewarded ourselves at Bold Rock Hard Cider that so appropriately was located just down the road from the trailhead.  But the best reward was an actual meal!  Although those energy bars are easy and light to pack, they just shouldn’t replace meals.   So Meg, Todd and I headed to Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub, which was also appropriately located near the trail.  With a selection of brews, fried pickles, jumbo soft pretzels, burgers, pastas and wings, we fared well.  Nothing like a big meal after a big hike and the best part is its absolutely guilt-free!

I believe we were all felt extremely challenged by this hike, but at the end, oh so, satisfied and accomplished.

Potomac Scrambler

Posted by Meg

As Genevieve mentioned, we went all out last weekend and took over-achieving to a new level. Literally.

Katie, Meg and Genevieve, Trail Section A

Katie, Meg and Genevieve, Trail Section A

Our Sunday adventure was at Billy Goat Trail, a well-known hike on the Potomac River in Maryland and an easy drive from the Northern Virginia area. (That is, if you don’t get all turned around on the George Washington Memorial Parkway first!)

Katie ran up the side of the cliff so fast I could barely get her picture.

Katie ran up the side of the cliff so fast I could barely get her picture.

The trail consisted of three parts (A, B, C), connected by a 4-mile stretch along the C&O Canal. You can also access the Maryland Great Falls overlooks from the same parking lot. When you combine it all together, it was about a 10-mile stretch of walking, climbing, squatting, ducking, stretching, cursing, and laughing.

Genevieve and I met one of my college friends, Katie, for the day. We didn’t know what we were getting into, so we appreciated her adventurous attitude and willingness to kick our butt up the side of the rock formations along the river.

By now, you may have figured out that Billy Goat Trail entailed more than just typical hiking, at least for the ‘A’ loop. In fact, it was more like rock climbing. As soon as I entered the path, it became quite obvious to me why the trail got its name. We literally were like Billy Goats as we conquered the boulders, one by one.

The best way to illustrate our journey is through photos. Words won’t do it justice. So enjoy these photos. And get yourself out there. It’s a thrill and a hike well worth it.

Trekking along

Trekking along

One of the big climbs.

One of the big climbs.

By the way, loops ‘B’ and ‘C’ were much milder in comparison to ‘A.’ You’ll still see pretty views of the water, but the trails are a lot less rugged and fairly standard. Make sure you stop off at the Great Falls overlooks after the hike. Unreal!

View from Great Falls at the very end of our hike

View from Great Falls.

New Adventure: Hiking Two Days in a Row

Posted by Genevieve.

In an attempt to increase our mileage, Meg and I decided to hike all weekend: one hike on Saturday and one on Sunday.  On Saturday, Meg and I met in Haymarket, VA at Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve to set out on a 7.2 mile hike.  As we left the parking lot and headed towards the starting point, we passed a tour bus and wondered how crowded these trails might be.  We attempted to follow the hiking upward route and headed straight up to the overlook.  As we approached the old mill that can be seen from the trail, I was about ready for a quick break, but Meg and I looked up and saw the tour bus on a break as the guide informed them about the mill.  So unfortunately we have no picture of the mill because we felt like it might be a good time to scurry passed them.

Enjoying the overlook before the tour bus group reaches the top.

Enjoying the overlook before the tour bus group reaches the top.

We continued up and were mostly silent as we were dripping and panting, but we were moving!  My thoughts mainly consisted of: “why am I hiking in the hottest month of the year – I am not very smart”.  Anyway, we made it to the top where we took a short break, but shorter than we might have wanted because soon the tour bus group approached the top.  As most of you probably know, I tend to voice my opinion about things (things = anything) and on top of that, I am not always quiet about them.  So turning to Meg, I think I said something like “Well, that’s the end of our peaceful break overlooking the mountains” (add big roll of the eyes).  And at that point, I met another person who apparently likes to voice his opinion.  After he chuckled, he looked right at us, and said something like “hope you weren’t really trying to enjoy the overlook”…and then 25-35 people trampled passed us.

We left the overlook and attempted to follow the selected route.  I say attempted because the next few trails seemed to be the road less traveled.  After passing through countless cobwebs, the trail would randomly end.  So we would turn around and try another trail and once again the trail would just end.  At this point, the goal was to get in a certain amount of miles and it really didn’t matter to us what trail it was on, so we just starting taking turns and seeing where it would lead us (this probably isn’t suggested, but for the most part all of these trails led to the parking lot, so we didn’t worry about getting lost).  Moral of the story: (1) Meg and I felt good about our hike, (2) we both need to work on our reactions to spider webs (wish I had a video to share with you; it was quite entertaining to say the least), (3) hiking poles have many uses, one of which is destroying spider webs prior to walking through them (we look kind-of funny swinging the poles out in front of us, but not as funny as walking through webs) and (4) we feel like we have checked this hike off the list and will probably not come back.

A few things I’ve learned so far

Posted by Meg

Second Team Hike - Dobie Mountain

Second Team Hike – Dobie Mountain

We’ve now had our second CFF team hike. Our group has grown to 26, and I am so happy with the sense of comradery and enthusiasm around doing this to raise money and awareness for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

I’m starting to keep a running list of things I’ve learned during training so far:

* Blue Ridge Mountain Sports is a fantastic resource, both for equipment and knowledgeable staff.  That is where our hiking guide and leader is from of course.

* It is fun to have a coach again. Getting emails reminding me I need to train (and then feeling guilty when I don’t) is motivating.

* Trail people stink. Seriously. Hold your nose. (I guess I would too if I hadn’t showered for several weeks.)

* Through hikers are also not ashamed. Last weekend, we ran into a couple on the trail wearing nothing but their underwear.

* Trekking poles look dorky, but they are actually very useful. Same with camelpak-style backpacks. You know. The type that hold water.

* Notice I didn’t call it a back-pack with a water bladder. Bladder. That word is weird.

* Hills suck. I don’t know what is worse. The lack of ability to inhale going up. Or, the shakiness in the legs coming down.

* There is something incredibly liberating about your cell phone not having any service when you are in the woods.

* A visit to a local brewery is a great reward after a hike. Might I suggest Blue Mountain or Blue Mountain’s Barrel House if you’re ever in the area.

More upcoming hiking this weekend. We’ll keep this list going. Thanks again to everyone for the ongoing support!

Little Devil Stairs Were a Little Bigger Than I Anticipated

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.

On the way up the Little Devil Stairs

On the way up the Little Devil Stairs

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).

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!

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First team hike