Sunday, September 20, 2015

Return to Laurel Hill

This season my bike riding has been focused -  on road riding: commuting on the W&OD, road riding with some local clubs and Meetups, and gravel roads out in Loudon. I've been focusing on my new "adventure" bike for long rides and the old beater for commuting. I haven't touched the mountain bike in the longest time, but I woke up today saying,

"I Want My MTB!"*

I decided to head to Laurel Hill. This is a nice set of mountain bike trails created as part of the reboot of the old Lorton Prison complex. I rode there once before, back in 2013, but really didn't even remember exactly where the place was or what the trail layout was. I spent a bunch of time last night and again this morning looking online for an official park map, but strangely there doesn't seem to be one (I finally found an old one online tonight - not on an official site site but embedded into the com site).

After a little blundering around looking for where I parked last time I wound up parking at the Equestrian Center lot, which turned out to be a great spot to park since it sets at the intersection of a few trails.

I rstarted with the Pasture Trail (this was just the "Yellow Blazed Trail" to me at the time, since I didn't have any kind of map).  The trails at Laurel Hill aren't typical woodsy single track - they're mostly through fairly open meadow. Some of the trails have a deep, narrow gravel-filled groove and riding them is kind of like being a phonograph needle in the groove of a record.* It's weird riding and wobbling along in this rut, but you get used to it.

At the completion of my first loop I stopped to find my bearings and got into a conversation with a guy named Kevin, one of the few other people I ran into on the trails. Kevin is a young dad and mountain biking is his way of getting a little break from the stress of caring for two kids and a big dog. He was waiting for a text back from his wife (he checks in every 45 minutes!) before heading back onto the trails. It was nice to have spoken with him, since we kept running into each other as we each made our way through the park's loops.

I next rode the Dairy Barn Loop ... I don't think I made it onto the Apple Orchard, but again, with no map, I'm not 100% sure where I was. I rode the Workhouse Loop, which is currently interrupted by construction, then rode the Pasture Trail again.
Why Does it Have to Be Snakes?*
At this point I had pretty much exhausted the trails loops accessible from the Equestrian Center (except for the two very technical trails) so I rode out of the lot onto Furnace Road and cut over to the Cross County Trail. My intention was just to cruise on the CCT for a while, but a trailhead for the Giles Run Meadow Trail presented itself. Giles Run is more typical single-track, winding its curvy, undulating way through woods. I wasn't sure if Giles Run was a loop (it turns out it is) and so I did it out and back to a point - I estimate that I rode about half of the loop, so turning around was about the same mileage as completing the loop would have been. I bumped into Kevin on this trail too!

By the time I got back to the Cross County Trail I had been out a few hours so I headed back on the CCT and made for the parking lot, passing through the "barrel bridge" along the way. The barrel bridge is a brick and masonry arch bridge which was constructed by prisoners from the Lorton prison in the 1940's (they made the bricks too!). As everyone knows, this is the only brick and masonry arch bridge in Virginia.

The Barrel Bridge

Loaded the bike, and I was home by noon.

*Denotes dated cultural reference

Monday, September 14, 2015

Tashlich 2015

Here's a quote from RitualWell on what Tashlikh is:

"Tashlikh, meaning "cast away," is a ritual performed on Rosh Hashanah (or during the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) as a physical reminder of the human effort to cast away one's sins. By casting crumbs of bread into the water and reciting the verse from Micah—"cast all our sins into the ocean's depths"—we state our intention to return to our true selves. For many Jews, Rosh Hashanah is a time for reciting many words. Through tashlikh, we use our bodies and actions to do the work of return. Although the rabbinic authorities originally objected to this ritual, Jews stubbornly performed it until it became a "traditional" part of the holiday."

Regular reader of this blog (hi Valerie!) will know that my personal ritual is to perform tashlikh by kayak. In years past I'd put little pieces of bread on the deck of the boat then roll. This year was a little chilly and breezy and so I opted to just toss crumbs from the boat. Unfortunately I left home in a hurry, forgetting to pack any bread crumbs, so I had to stop along the way and get something to use for the ritual. As a result, this year my sins were represented by 7-Eleven multi-grain snack crackers. Say what you will about my sins - they are whole grain and gluten free!

My Sins
While I was out I paddled a little bit up Kane's Creek, which was clogged with hydrilla, then over to Conrad Island where I checked on my Bye, Bye, Birding geocache. I finished a circumnavigation of Belmont Bay then headed in.

On Conrad Island
The turtle pond was quite active on this beautiful day, with lots of turtles and even a snake!

A snake in the turtle pond

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Mt. Vernon Trail Leads to Mt. Vernon

This past Sunday I once again varied from my Sunday morning paddling tradition in favor of the bike. I had planned to go on a Potomac Pedalers ride out in Nokesville but was lazy about driving an hour to get to a ride and a little uncertain about whether I'd be left behind (I'm still slow).

Instead I drove to Columbia Island Marina (as usual), but for trail rather than river access. I headed south down the Mt. Vernon Trail all the way to its terminus at Mt. Vernon. A nice ride, mostly along the river. Lots of little curves and switchbacks and lots of people - made for a slow ride. About 30 miles in all, which is a significant distance for me. I was still a little sore three days later when I rode to work.

All that time adjacent to the river made me want to get on it. Tuesday morning I made a spur of the moment decision to go paddling after work. Threw the boat on the car and had a nice paddle (the usual Columbia Island to Roosevelt Island circuit).