Hike 37, It’s the Humidity, Not the Heat

Shewee! Do you see that sheen on my shoulders and forehead? This is some serious sweat’n weather. It probably isn’t even over 90 degrees, but the humidity is out of control. I took this last dog free day to get in one more hike on a path that doesn’t allow dogs. Today I hiked the Fox Hollow Trail in the Shenandoah National Park.

I have repeatedly glanced at this trail on the map wondering what its appeal is, and why dogs aren’t allowed. It’s a short short at just a little over a mile. I picked it up from the Dickey Ridge parking lot at mile marker 5. It turns out that this was once someone’s home. There is an old well and a family cemetery. My guess is dogs are not welcome because they want to minimize the disruption to the property and the land.

As I said, this trail is short, so I continued walking to the Signal Knob Overlook on the Snead Farm Loop to increase the mileage. If you love traversing lands that were once worked by man, discovering all of the little relics left behind, you will love the Fox Hollow Loop. And if you want to make it a challenge, throw in the Snead Farm Loop for a great overlook and an old foundation and farm. You can’t go wrong here, but you might sweat like you’ve never sweat before.  The humid Virginia summers can be even more brutal when you hike at a moderate pace in what feels like a humidor. I’m certainly not in the desert anymore.

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Naturific Reflectioning

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve had a good hike. The last one was 7 miles of fun in the sun. Then I got sick, which really slowed me down. Today I got back into the swing of things with 6 miles on the AT. I’m trying to connect two sections I’ve done recently, and I got pretty close. It felt great to back out there huffing and puffing up a mountain.

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As usual, I spent most of my time watching my step. A little after a mile of walking the outer perimeter of the National Zoological Park Breading Center (eerily like Jurassic Park) I turned a switchback and came upon the above down tree. I had an instant connection and had to stop. Something about the smooth ripple of its trunk struck me. I placed my hand on it as I noticed the thin lines that made up a pattern. I admired the skewed rings of its life and wondered what had caused it to grow so far off from center. I imagined what it may have seen in its lifetime. I felt my breath pumping through my chest. I felt connected to the earth and to myself.

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In that moment of reflection I realized how lucky I am. I am free to grow in which ever direction I please. My happiness is tied only to me and the trees.

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Straight Off of Compton Peak

I am an avid hiker, finding myself on a trail three or more times a week. Until this year, I never thought to track my mileage. To keep myself focused on that goal, I joined in the #52hikechallnge. I’m counting my bigger weekend hikes toward this goal.

This weekend I hiked with a friend to Compton Peak on the AT in the Shenandoah National Park. We went a little beyond the overlook, and, because we have both lost our minds, we set up camp. Somehow we decided we both wanted to try winter camping. Daytime temps in town were forecast for the 40s. Nighttime was to be in the low 30s. We thought those were good temps to get us started. What happens in town is not always what is happening on the Drive. It got very cold and windy that night. It was likely in the teens. I did a lot of hiking back and forth to keep warm, which turned my 3rd hike of 52 from a short 1.5 mile hike into a 5 mile hike. I also did a lot of reflecting. It’s so easy to get lost in thought when social media, television and the distractions of the day to day, aren’t available.

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So I thought and thought, and admired the sunset, and experienced the ground freeze beneath my feet, and we conversed about life, and I thought some more. I felt my body change as the temperature dropped. I went numb, readjusted clothing and position, felt the blood flow return, and got lost in thought again. We poured water into a pot to boil so we could make dinner, and ice crystals instantly formed. It was cold, and it was exciting, and I felt a little bad ass.

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Sleeping was a challenge. There was a tarp below the tent as one barrier, a sleeping pad, and down mummy bag. I climbed into my bag with all of my clothes, socks, coat, gloves and hat. I stayed pretty warm, except for my feet. Oh my god my feet! The tent was vented at the head and foot, and a major draft was coming in at the foot. I didn’t develop frostbite, but the chill made it difficult to get a decent amount of sleep. I awoke off and on throughout the night. The dog offered us some extra warmth, but the poor thing was shivering too. We emerged an hour after sunrise to discover that it hadn’t warmed up all that much. But within an hour the sleeping bags were packed up, we were drinking coffee, and I was feeling toasty.

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We got word from my folks that snow was heading our way, finished packing and headed back down the trail. The snow began as we reached the overlook where this photo was taken. After the featured photo above, I laid down on that rock and, feeling downright warm in my skin, watched the snowfall with an overwhelming feeling of happiness. This park has become my playground, my escape, and my studio for meditation.