How did I want to spend the day of my milestone birthday? Well, I happened to have the day off, and Ted was home from college for Thanksgiving break and so the question almost answered itself: out for a hike (with some geocaching, of course) with my favorite hiking partner followed by dinner with the whole family.
Before Thanksgiving break I had scoped out some new hikes between Arlington and JMU, figuring that I might actually drive down and pick Ted up and then go hiking on the way home. As it happened it didn't work out that way as I had to run to NY to help out my dad, whose house was significantly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. We decided to stick with one of the hikes we had researched, even though it meant driving about half way back to JMU - a little crazy given that Ted had just come from there.
Our destination was Signal Knob, an area at the very north end of the George Washington National Forest. This area is close to but distinct from Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.That particular trail offers two possible loop hikes, but both were pretty long. I figured that we might give out and do a shorter out-and-back hike given that I'm recovering from a badly sprained ankle and that Ted's only exercise since leaving for school has been twelve ounce lifts.
The Signal Knob trails have a very rocky tread and so I was glad, with my weak ankle, that I had worn my hiking boots. At the trail head we passed a bench with a set of car keys on it, along with a note - someone else had found the keys along the trail and had brought them back to the lot. Given that the lot was nearly deserted, whoever's keys they were had clearly found another way home (of course the trail system is served by a number of parking areas, and so the good Samaritan may not have brought the keys to the right lot).
We continued up the mountain. It's a pretty trail with a number of good views along the way. I started out dressed for the cool morning. As we hiked I warmed up and shed some layers.
We took a break at Buzzard Point to look for a geocache. Unfortunately the GPS location was bouncing around something awful and so we eventually gave up despite logs saying it was an "easy find". We hiked through a few more switchbacks, each of which presented a nice view, until we finally reached a point where we had to make a decision. Hike any further and we were pretty much committed to doing the whole loop.
|The last of this year's Fall foliage|
We bumped into them again as we puzzled over the best route to the other geocache on our list. We had noticed on the way in that along the trail we had gotten within 250 feet of it, but that those final 250 feet appeared to be a pretty vertical rock scramble. Again, our cacher friends pointed in the general direction (yes, we had to take on the rock scramble) and Ted and I headed on up while they continued down the mountain.
After getting to the right location, finding the cache was easy; it was a large ammo can in plain sight. We took a break to catch our breath and enjoy the view, then headed back down.
On the way home we made our usual stop at the Gainesville WaWa market for soft pretzels and drinks (coffee in my case, a mammoth soda in his). It was a really nice day over all and it was really great to get a chance to spend some time with Ted.
By the way, overall my birthday celebration included:
- A dinner party at our house with friends
- Hiking with Ted
- A kayaking outing at Mason Neck
- Dinner out at Mad Fox with Valerie and the boys
- This hike
- Dinner with Henry, Colleen and my dad at Picket Fence in Brooklyn
- I also sort of include a Thanksgiving weekend jam with Bob C.'s crew, Thanksgiving dinner out, and going to see the Klezmatics next weekend.