Whether to weather the weather

Being the leader of a women’s hiking group means you have to make decisions:  where to go, where to meet, and when to call off a hike due to weather.  After carefully checking the weather for several days, I thought today would be a good hiking day – only 20% chance of rain and temps in the 40’s.  So when I woke up this morning and heard rain falling, I jumped out of bed to check my local weather.  Whew!  It’s scheduled to stop around 8:00 a.m. and then be clear until evening.  So I sent out an email that the hike was on!

My group of seven, dwindled down to four.  Great, we all fit in one car!  But, about half way there, it began pouring, with the windshield wipers getting a great workout.  Plan B was to drive around the park and then go out for lunch.  What luck though, as we pulled into the park it cleared up.  And these brave women were off!

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Though I’ve been to Hungry Mother a gazillion times, this was only my third climb to Molly’s Knob.  It is a fairly steep, steady climb to the top, so we took several breaks along the way.  Including this lookout of where we were headed, that’s Molly’s Knob.

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The last half mile is the steepest – I guess you have to earn your view on this one.

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It was not a great day for picture taking, but the view was really worth the climb.  Just look at these happy faces.

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After a long rest, we headed back down.  We immediately picked up a strong wind, a little rain, even a piece of ice fell from somewhere, but that only lasted a few minutes and then it was pleasant.  We stopped at the lookout again and this time saw patches of blue sky.

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I checked three different weather sources this morning, one of them actually mentioned freezing rain, but I knew if I could just get one more person to go with me, that I really wanted to go today!  So glad we didn’t have to cancel.

As Sir Ranulph Fiennes says:

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

 

 

First Day Hike

For the past few years, the state parks in Virginia have been hosting a “First Day Hike” challenging people to come out and hike on January 1st.  While we have done a couple of hikes at our own Claytor Lake, we decided to start off the new year with a hike at Hungry Mother.

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Located just an hour away in Marion, we decided to spend New Year’s Eve there in our favorite downtown hotel.  There a lots of fun bars/restaurants in the area, including a very nice one located in the hotel.  So off we went with thoughts of fine dining and partying without having to go outside (it was about 10 degrees).  As we pulled up in front of the hotel, we got quite a shock looking into the windows of an empty restaurant.  We discovered that 90% of the town is closed on Sunday!!!  What??!!  Okay, a normal Sunday maybe, but this was NEW YEAR’s EVE!!!

After a small tantrum and a few cuss words, we realized there was nothing we could do about it.  So instead of dressing up, we just hit the two places that were open and made the best of it.

 

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The sun beamed in our window around 7:30 and gave us hope that it would warm up for our hike.  Ha!  Mother Nature laughed at that idea.  When we arrived at Hungry Mother, it was 14 degrees (F) -10 (C)!  The lake was frozen, snow flurries were in the air, a pretty steady wind was blowing, but we ignored it all and off we went.

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This place is beautiful all year round.  Even the dead rhododendron was pretty in its own way.

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The original plan was to hike the 6 mile Lake Trail, but we modified that plan for the weather and ended up doing a 2.5 mile loop combo of the Lake trail and the CCC trail.  Believe me that was plenty.

What an exhilarating way to start the new year!  I hope you all had a great “first day” too!

Hungry Mother (are you sick of hearing about it yet?)

After losing my hiking stick on my last hike, we drove to Hungry Mother State Park to purchase a new one (that’s where I got the first one and I wanted one just like it).  While we were there, we asked if our favorite cabin (#9) was available anytime in August and discovered it was indeed free the 21st – 23rd.  So we booked it as soon as we got home. We didn’t realize until later that the 21st was the solar eclipse, but what better place to view it than our favorite spot in Southwest Virginia.

We knew it was only going to be a partial eclipse (90% they said).  We found a secluded bench by the lake and proceeded to watch from start to finish, with proper glasses of course.  Sorry, no pictures, we wanted to just enjoy the moment.  The two most remarkable things (other than watching the sliver move around) was the drop in temperature, and how it remained so daylight.  I guess it was like having cloud cover, but it was different too, and I’m glad we got to experience it.

The next morning we went for a hike and lo and behold, we discovered there was one trail we had not yet tried.

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A little over a mile long, the Stone Lick Trail connects to the Clyburn Trail which we have been on, but we can now say we have hiked all possible trails at this park.  This was just over 4 miles total, but a great way to spend the morning and enjoy this great overlook.

 

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Breaking in my new stick was easy and I was happy to be fully equipped again – at least temporarily.

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I already had the Hungry Mother medallions nailed on.

It seems that somewhere on the way down, the rubber tip had fallen off the end of my stick.  This important grip, keeps the stick from sliding (and consequently, me from slipping).  So I traced steps back a ways before giving up.  First time use, I was going to the front office to demand a refund!  Or at least file a complaint.

When we got to the office, a very nice Park Attendant was sympathetic but not very optimistic.  She suggested I look at the other sticks to see where it was made and possibly write to the company.  I checked them out, and as I turned around to ask her for something to write on, she had two rubber tips in her hand!  She said “I don’t know where these came from, but is this what you need?”  YES!  I greedily took one from her, thanked her, and vowed to triple glue it on.

That afternoon, we rented a tandem kayak and paddled all over the lake.  Then we jumped in the water and swam for a while before retreating to the cabin.

If you follow me, you know I love coming here and that it always makes me happy.  Here is why I think Hungry Mother is the best State Park in Virginia:

  • It’s a beautiful, small lake that does not allow any speed boats;
  • It’s truly a state park as there are no private homes on the lake;
  • It offers a great variety of hiking, and mountain biking trails;
  • The people who work there, truly love the park.

And it doesn’t hurt that it’s only an hour away, so I can go anytime I wish.

Here’s just a few pics from our cabin and the hike.

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Oh yeah, and this little guy decided to join us on our porch.

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JG took the frog photo, I didn’t stick around long enough to be hospitable.  This nature-phobe was safely indoors!

 

 

Revisiting my Happy Place

As many know, Hungry Mother State Park is my favorite place in Southwest Virginia.  I’m pretty sure I have been on every trail there, as well as kayaked across the entire lake, and on occasion have rented their cabins.  Not to mention the many times I’ve written about it and shared pictures.

When it is 75 degrees, sunny with a cool breeze and low humidity – it seems pretty natural that a hike is in order, especially since my body is in pretty good shape (at the moment).  And, since it is only an hour away. . .

 

We hiked about 8 miles – including going to Molly’s Knob which I have only done once before because it is kind of steep.

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But we made it. . .

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And there were some very nice people up there who offered to take our picture.

We ended up walking much further than we had planned, mostly because it was a beautiful day and we had nothing to do that couldn’t wait until tomorrow.

While uphill takes the wind out of me, downhill can be downright painful, so I slipped on my knee brace before heading down to the lake level.

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As we were about to cross the dam on the way back to our parking lot, we were treated to this lovely site of a mother duck and her babies.

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Such a great park!  Do you have a favorite place that you like to visit frequently?

 

 

 

Back to Nature

It’s been a very depressing week.  I tried comfort food, beer, and spending time with like minded friends.  While these things all helped; today I got back out in nature where I felt peace and serenity again.  Heading to my favorite hiking spot (Hungry Mother State Park), with my favorite hiking partner (my husband, who has been recovering from shoulder surgery for the last two months) I was finally able to put the anger and grief I felt after the election, aside while we enjoyed a peaceful hike around the lake.

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It was a beautiful day – cool and sunny.

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The ducks were enjoying a swim.

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The leaves were everywhere adding color to the floor of the trail.

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And it just felt right to be back in the woods.

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While I was walking, I decided the best thing I can do to move forward, is to vow to be kind to everyone, fight for what I believe is right (women’s rights, LGBT rights, minorities and our environment) and not let a bully in Washington stop me from living.

Let the Sun Shine!

As I picked up my friends this morning (in the heavy fog that has become a standard morning fare) to head down the highway for a hike, I had this feeling that it was going to be a beautiful day!  I woke up with excessive energy and anticipation of returning to my favorite park – Hungry Mother.  In fact, I showed up early to all three pick up points, and ended up having to wait a little bit at each spot.  But once we headed down the road, my enthusiasm had spread to the others.

And indeed, it was a beautiful day by the time we arrived at our destination.

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The trails at the park are so well maintained, it is always a joy to hike here.  I did startle my friends a couple of times – once when a little snake crossed my path.  That paved the way for my jumpiness, which came out when I heard and saw something tumble in the brush, causing me to scream and leap into the person in front of me.

But it was all worth the effort when we arrived at the view:

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Today is Yom Kipur – a day of Atonement.  We discussed this holiday as we sat looking at this view.  My Jewish friend could not elaborate much on the holiday, so I came home and looked it up.  Quite interesting.  And what a beautiful setting for the discussion.  Fortunately, my friend did not participate in the traditional fasting, so we enjoyed a delightful lunch at the Wooden Pickle in downtown Marion before heading home.

B-day, Wedding, and the Joy of Hiking

In three short weeks, my only child is getting married!  The planning (which began 2 years ago when they got engaged) is done and everyone is ready for a June wedding!  She turned 27 last month, and yesterday came home to have a belated birthday celebration.

After a lovely dinner last night, followed by wedding chatter until midnight, we all got a good night’s sleep so we could go for a relaxing hike today.  This was the first time my daughter had been to our favorite state park – Hungry Mother.

My husband and I go to Hungry Mother several times a year, either to hike, stay in a cabin, kayak on the lake, or just enjoy the town nearby.  I was very excited to share this park with her and we had the perfect weather for it.

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We took a trail that was fairly new to me and enjoyed a fantastic view of the highest peak in the park – Molly’s Knob.

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I have been to the top of Molly’s Knob, which offers the best view in the park, but this scene is not too bad either.

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I regret that it took me so long to discover hiking, but I’m glad Lori is enjoying it at a much younger age.

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What a great way to celebrate her birthday, her upcoming wedding, and life!