Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Shenandoah National Park

SNP Collage
Shenandoah National Park is a beautiful park if you're in the mid-atlantic region.  A road called Skyline Drive runs from the North end of the park to the South along the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The Appalachian Trail also runs directly through the park.  In addition to the drive with over 75 overlooks, there are 500 miles of hiking trails and 4 campgrounds.  One of the most popular times of year to visit is when the leaves change in the Fall.

This past fall, I reserved a campsite way in advance for the peak weekend.  During this weekend, every year, Skyline Drive is inundated the entire length with families, photographers, and tourists.  Armed with cameras, packed into vans and SUVs to save on the per car entrance fee, they take over!

But if you show up friday night and camp out, you beat the crowds to the punch!  We camped at Matthew's Arm, which is the furthest north campground in the park.  On top of avoiding the traffic, you are also guaranteed a parking spot at your camping site.

The campground has a trail that connects to the popular Tuscarora Overall Run Trail, that provides views of several waterfalls.  One of the falls is 93 feet tall and stunning as it cuts through the fall colors.

I would like to embarass myself a bit now and share my experience of trying to sleep outside in October in the mountains.  It's cold!  I wasn't quite prepared.  I had my tent and sleeping bag and lots of layers, but I forgot my air matress, which would have lifted me off the cold ground.  So instead of bothering my other friends in their tents and trying to spoon... I ran to my car in the middle of the night and slept on my passenger seat laid out flat, snuggled in my bag.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to sleep in my car... I thought it would be uncomfortable, but I passed out.  I think after shivering for two hours, I was exhausted.

OK, spare me the lecture... I learned my lesson.

Enjoy the pictures from our hikes and drive along Skyline.

Smart People have campers...

Going down the trail.  Down the mountain!

Creek crossing

The fall foliage and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.
One of the waterfalls

Overlook from the trail

Hikers enjoying the vista
Last look before heading back to campsite.

To warm our feet after a long day of hiking.

From a Skyline Drive overlook

Skyline Drive view

Hiking in the Fall - wear layers and enjoy the colors!

For more information, visit:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Agricultural History Farm Park: Spring Edition

As I went for my daily walk the other day, I noticed signs of spring!  It's still February, but the flowers are blooming and I even saw a bee!  Such a mild winter in Maryland this year... Enjoy the pictures:

My Dad and his dog Sammy

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

C&O Canal: Billy Goat Trail, Section C, Carderock

Billy Goat Trail, Section A is one of the most popular hiking trails in the DC area.  But this post is about Billy Goat Trail, Section C which I like equally as much.  The closest parking lot for this trail is 2 miles from the beltway at the Carderock Recreational Area on the C&O Canal.  Here are some pictures from my recent hike:

Billy Goat Trail - Follow the blue markers

Learned how to climb with ropes when I was younger here.

Views of a quiet side stream of the Potomac River

Follow the markers!

Beautiful overlooks all along the trail.

The sweeping current of the Potomac River

Rushing rapids

Rapids in the Potomac River provide beautiful background sound while hiking!

Woodpecker - I had to super zoom to get this!  Disclaimer: I am not a bird watcher.

Tidewater pond

The DC Beltway!

Me :o)

Unofficial east end of Billy Goat Trail, see the Beltway down the towpath.

Lock 14 just north of the Beltway

Lucky Lock 13 is under the Beltway!  All the times I've driven over it and didn't know...

Official East End of Billy Goat Trail, Section C.  I followed the trail further to an unofficial exit along a creek.

Monday, February 6, 2012

C&O Canal: Swains Lock to Great Falls

Growing up in the Washington, DC area has given me the pleasure of a lifetime of memories at the C&O Canal.  This canal is 185 miles long and it starts in Georgetown and goes all the way along the Potomac River west through Maryland.  

I've learned how to canoe, bicycle, and rock climb along the different section of the C&O Canal's towpath.  I would love to eventually share information on all the different sections of the canal.  There is so much history to see and experience in addition to all the different sporting activities you can do along the towpath.  

Here are a couple winter time pictures I took walking along the section from Swains Lock to Great Falls.  There are nice opportunities to view the Potomac River along this section.  Swains Lock has free parking and is around 2 miles from Great Falls where the parking costs money.  So if you're a walker and you want to see the falls for free, park here and hoof it!

Lots of Ducks!

Duck Bums!
An odd patch of bamboo... ??

Bald Eagle
Rocks along the canal

Thanks for reading!  If you have a National Parks Passport Book, then you should visit the Great Falls Visitor Center for a stamp.  

For more information about visiting the C&O Canal:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Catoctin Mountain Park

I recently went hiking with some friends at Catoctin Mountain Park in Thurmont, Maryland.  I had never been before, but had always thought about going as I would drive by the entrance on my way to Cunningham Falls.  It was MLK Day weekend, so entrance to National Parks was free, but it looked like the park doesn't charge for entrance anyways.  Also, just as an FYI, they close the park road during the winter so you can only park at the Visitor Center and hike up the trails from there.

So we started at the Visitor Center and hiked up, up, up to the Thurmont Vista.  The vista is like 600 feet up the mountain with a beautiful view of Thurmont, MD.  During the summer you can drive up the mountain and park closer to the vista, which would allow you to avoid the 600 foot, one mile climb.

Here are my pictures from the hike:

Mossy Green Hillside

Enhanced Hillside

Trail to Thurmont Vista

Snack Break at the Vista

View from the Thurmont Vista


Me and the Vista

Hiking Girls

Summit! LOL

Trail options

Sun and Shadows on the Mountain

Greenery in the Winter