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!

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Gnats. Lots of ’em.

Posted by Meg

We haven’t had an organized team hike for a few weeks. On off weekends, Genevieve and I usually meet up for our own trail day. For the most part, we’ve been lucky with the trails we’ve picked for non-team hike days. But yesterday’s hike was not a good one.

About 2 miles in, we both looked at each other and said that if we were not training for the Xtreme Hike for CF, we would turn back to our cars and drive the 2.5 hours home, by ourselves, to our respective cities.

But we find ourselves just seven weeks away from the finale 31-mile hike day, so we trekked along for another 11 miles. We did not take a single picture. We were just trying to get finished. Here’s why it sucked:

  • Rain. It rained for the first few hours. Our pruny, water-logged feet squished along in our soggy shoes for 13 miles.
  • Snakes. Unknowingly, Genevieve’s trekking pole nearly speared what looked like a timber rattler that was hanging out on the trail. That’s the kind of stuff that causes nightmares.
  • Overgrowth. The more interesting part of the hike was overgrown — like 3 and 4 foot-high overgrowth. After spotting the snake earlier, we chickened out and did not make it up to the overlook.
  • Gnats. Clouds of them followed us for 6 hours. At points, it was difficult to open our eyes as they were flying right into them. (And into our mouths.)

But enough with the negativity. On a positive side, 13 miles was not too tough, which makes us happy to see our training progress. And all of this is for a cause much more significant than a crappy hiking day.

Our fundraising is also seeing great progress — We’re about halfway to our $5,000 goal! Thank you to all who have contributed and are cheering us along. If you haven’t yet, we hope you’ll consider contributing to help us reach our goal.

  • To donate to Genevieve’s page, go here.
  • To donate to Meg’s page, go here.
  • Should you wish to write us a combined check, shoot us a note at hikingforcff@gmail.com, and we’ll send you our mailing address.

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.

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!

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!

afterhike_mtpleasant

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

 

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).