Hiking Fest ’15

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Hiking Raven Rock in 2014 after climbing 1530 ft to the top of the 2nd peak. This trail defeated me last year, but I'll finish it this summer.

Hiking Raven Rock in 2014 after climbing 1,530 ft. to the top of the 2nd peak. This trail defeated me last year, but I’ll finish it this summer.

Spring starts tomorrow! So of course we’re expecting snow. Despite winter’s last grasp, I thought it was time to plan some day hikes for me and the hubby. Turning to my trusty Hiking Virginia guide, I’ve picked out 10 initial hikes (we’re so doing more than 10 this year!) that meet our agreed upon criteria.

Hiking Criteria
My hubby made some demands for these day hikes so that we BOTH enjoy these outings.

1. “Cannot be One Of Your Crazy-Ass Intense Hikes”
Translation: My husband recently kick-started his workout routine, so no trails so tough he can’t walk the next day. Fair enough. Only one trail listed rates as difficult (mwahahaha!).

2. We Need To Have Fun
This is the easiest of the criteria to fill. Hiking is just plain awesome. There’s so much to enjoy – encountering animals, climbing a mountain, discovering swimming holes, or picnicking at waterfalls.

I’ve only had one bad hiking experience…and it wasn’t the trail. It happened when I weighed 300+ pounds. My back was killing me and got worse with each step. We blazed a trail for just 40 minutes before I waved the white flag of surrender and sadly turned around to go home. Never again!

3. Fishing!
Ever the angler, my hubby loves fishing. He plans to downsize the gear to just the basics for easy carrying during the hikes.

4. Start With Day Hikes, Overnight Later
The 10 hikes listed are just day hikes, so not too much gear. Doing an overnight takes more planning and equipment (tent, sleeping bag, stove, water pump, food, etc.). While we enjoy fatpacking (or backpacking for you skinny folk), we want to ease into hiking season. We’re planning a few weekend hiking excursions in West Virginia.

Hiking Fest ’15: 10 Trails; 10 Days
1. North Fork Moormans River – A short hike (just under 3.2 miles), this trail features great opportunities for fishing and swimming. And if the water is flowing, the trail includes two waterfalls.

2. Old Rag One of the more popular hikes in the mid-Atlantic region. This is the most difficult of the trails we’re attempting. In Shenandoah National Park, this 7.4-mile loop features lots of panoramic views and challenging rock scrambles with narrow passages, hand over hand climbing and a going through a small cave.

3. Ravens Rock Last year, this one defeated me on a very, very hot and humid summer day. This time I’ll get to the top! Although this rocky trail is just 5.5 miles, it includes 3 tough ascents.

4. Trout Trail A trail loaded with stream crossings and a good size lake means a backpack loaded with fishing gear! This 7.4-mile loop lies within Virginia’s Appomattox-Buckingham Forest, features blooming mountain laurel and crossing a gorge near Holiday Lake Dam.

5. Hazel Mountain — While not as difficult as Old Rag, this 10.8-mile loop does feature steep grades on the return leg. But the payoff for the climb is a great waterfall at the top of Hazel River.

6. Overall Run — Another trail in Shenandoah National Park, this 6-mile loop features stream crossings and a climb to the top of the tallest waterfall in the park. This is one we need to do by May – the waterfall turns into a trickle in the summer and is pretty nonexistent in the fall.

7. Stephens Trail – This 8.5 mile loop features a hike along the Massanutten Mountain ridge, offering great views of the Shenandoah Valley. Kennedy Peak is the focal point of the hike and I’m looking forward to climbing it’s lookout tower for an even better view.

8. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge – Of all the hikes, I’m looking forward to this one the most. I visited Chincoteague Island with some friends when I first moved to the DC area. We rented a house for a week. Unfortunately we didn’t see the famous wild Pony Swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island. However, this beach trail leads you to an overlook where you can see the ponies. Sweet! Also millions of migrating birds stop over the refuge during their travels. So a little bird watching to boot!

9. False Cape State Park/Back Bay Wildlife Refuge Located near Virginia Beach, this 14+mile trail showcases one of the state’s many barrier islands and lagoon ecosystems. Perfect for fishing and birdwatching, the hike’s trail follows the shoreline through dunes into oak forests and salt marshes.

10. Prince William Forest Park Of the parks listed, this one is closest to home. This park features 37 miles of trails. We’re doing a simple 6-mile circuit with lots of water crossings and time to relax while fishing.

Looking at my list, 4 of the first 6 listed are in the Shenandoah National Park. We’re only an hour drive away from this gorgeous park, love to hike, yet we don’t visit often enough. I’m hoping to change that this summer.

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