Isn’t Nature Wonderful

I always say I’m not a nature person, but today I discovered so many beautiful things as we were hiking along that I just had to keep stopping to take pictures.

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The way the sun beam was shining on the damp leaves,

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and catching the spider webs.

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Or the macaroni looking fungus,

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and the early onset of fall colors.

We had a lovely 5 1/2 hours in the Forest without meeting a single soul.  I wonder if that had something to do with the fact that we had thundershowers?

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We had some heavy rains already this week, so the dam was flowing, creek crossings were challenging, but the view was still awesome.

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We were about a third of the way down when the rain came.  This time we were prepared. After getting caught in the rain last week, we purchased some rain ponchos and got to break them in today.

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By the way, check out those fungi!!!

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Incredible, right?

Once we made it back to the car and changed into dry clothes, the sun came out.  So we decided to drive across the river to get a view of where we had just been.

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Yes, we were on the top of that mountain, right under the power line.

Here’s how I have changed since I started hiking:

  • I now appreciate nature (not the bugs, but definitely the plants)
  • I’m no longer afraid of heights (I still have great respect for them though)
  • I am no longer hesitant crossing creeks
  • After a long challenging hike, I start thinking about doing it again

And last, but far from least:

I’ve found something that JG and I both love to do, and what a great way to spend our time together!!

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Makes you all want to visit Southwest Virginia, doesn’t it?

Adventures in the Wild

What an exciting hike today!  So many things happened, where to start.  We got on the trail early, 9:00 a.m. (hey, that’s early for a Saturday).  We were at Mill Creek Falls in the town of Narrows, VA, about 50 minutes from home.

Starting out, we were the only car in the parking lot and we did not meet another hiker until we were about half way down.  I had tried this hike before, but it was after heavy rains and the creek crossings were such, that we turned around.  Today, it was fairly easy taking the 3 creek crossings.  However, this hike turned out to be a lot more than I bargained for – it was rocky, steep and at times narrow.DSCN6002

On the way up we ran into what we think was bear scat.  Not being experts on scat, we could be wrong.  And, since it didn’t look especially fresh (no steam rising) we were not too worried about it.

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Just before we reached the top we heard voices coming toward us and looked up to see about 10 people riding horseback down the trail.  We were both shocked, that was about the last thing we expected to see.  I assume they went down a different trail than we had just come up, because some of those rocks were not easy to negotiate.

We made it to the top after a little over 2 hours and were delighted with the view of the town below.

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We sat, enjoyed the view, and ate our sandwiches while resting our tired legs.  We were right under a power line.

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It was really nice to have the whole mountain top to ourselves.

Downhill is always a challenge for me, but we packed up and headed back down.

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This doesn’t really capture how steep it was, but it does show the rocks which were loose and not just a little slippery.

As JG went off to check out a waterfall – I parked my hiking stick against a tree and got my water out for a much needed drink.  You know how sometimes you see something out of the corner of your eye and you want to stop it but you know you can’t?  Well, my stick had fallen and was starting to get away from me and all I could do was watch and scream “NOOOOOO!”  But it was too late.  Even though I could see where it landed, I knew I could not retrieve it without endangering myself.  JG said “At least it was your stick and not you!”  So I started thinking – at least it was my stick and not my cell, at least it was my stick and not my car keys, etc., you get the picture.  Stick is gone, I was sad.

We continued on, and all of a sudden we heard dogs barking.  About eight dogs came out of the woods and were going crazy.  They were hunting dogs and had GPS trackers on, and were not at all interested in us.  Then (not being a country gal) I started thinking they were out there to track some escaped convict or something!

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We soon encountered some fellow hikers who explained that they were coon dogs in training.  Whew!

Anyway, we continued down the rocky trail.

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As we approached the parking lot, about 5 big trucks with kennels arrived, some were already filled with dogs.  We talked with the owners and they told us that the dogs had just tracked a bear from the top of the mountain, half way down and had him treed. Wait, what?!  We were just up there!  The dogs were just training, so they planned to call the dogs in and let the bear go.

You never know what’s going to happen on just an ordinary hike.

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As we packed up the car, we took a picture of where we had just been – Yes the highest peak in the background – what an incredible day!

P.S. that’s JG’s stick in the trunk – he has promised to buy me a new one tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

New Discovery

Sometimes, being the leader of a group can present some challenges.  Last year I was encouraged to start a hiking group for women.  Beginning with just a few friends, my list has grown to about 16 names as more women hear about the group and want to be included.  Not everyone on the list has been able to hike, but that is the beauty of having such a list.  Having the company of one or two others, prevents me from getting lost in the wilderness (have I mentioned I am a terrible map reader?)

One of the challenges I face, is where to go.  Where we go is determined by who is coming with me.  There are some places that I am comfortable going with just one other person. But sometimes, when I know it is a trail with not much traffic, I like to have more bodies. Or if someone has just hiked a trail with me, I look for some place they haven’t been.

If I’m going to a new place, I try to research it as much as possible ahead of time, looking at maps (which is usually Greek to me) and trying to determine how best not to get lost.

Today I lucked out on two fronts.  First, after starting with five women who expressed an interest, and ending up with two who could actually go, we went to one of those places where we were about the only ones on the trail.  There was one other car in the parking lot, but we didn’t see anyone on the trails.

And, secondly, I discovered a new place to hike!   A place I had never heard of, until I saw it on Facebook under: “10 hikes you didn’t know existed.”

Less than an hour away from home, we were treated to a splendid hike that rendered . . .009

some spectacular waterfalls,

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a dam,

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greenery,

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a slightly scary bridge,

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and one show off!

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Mill Creek Trails just on the edge of Narrows, VA proved to be a wonderful discovery. There are several trails with all levels of difficulty.  So of course we must go back.

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And these brave ladies trusted me to take them to a place I had never been.

Let the fall hiking begin!