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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Hiking the Appalachian Trail in the G. Richard Thompson WMA

 Hi!  Dave here.  Normally, my blog entries are written in the first person plural, since they are about adventures we both have.  However, one aspect of this adventure applies just to me, and it is easier to tell the whole story in the first person singular.  Without further ado, the story:

Today is September 24, 2020.  Twelve days ago, on a hike with Kathy and young William, I slipped on a section of wet trail with flat rocks.  My feet flew up as quickly as if I had been walking on ice.  I landed hard (luckily on my glutteus, without any harm), but to break my fall, I instinctively caught myself with my left arm and hand, and the strain and shock of landing that way strained every muscle, ligament and tendon from my shoulder to my thumb.  

Everything is slowly recovering without permanent injury, but one unexpected result of that initial shock was that my body's resistance fell substantially while it devoted its energies to repairing the injuries.  Until a couple years ago, whenever my resistance has fallen too far, I succumb to a strange allergic reaction that was caused by my walking bare-legged through hogweed, way back in 2012 in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  When the reaction is triggered, I suffer 24-36 hours of severe fever and chills.  When those have finished, my left leg, which was the leg that swept through the hogweed. swells with edema and becomes blotchy with fierce red patches.  My leg's skin reacts to the red patches as if it were sunbured:  it itches and burns.  Normally the edema and rash last for 1-2 weeks.  Nothing can be done for the fever -- which in the case 12 days ago, reached 104F -- other than to take typical fever-reducing over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen; nothing can be done for the leg swelling and rash other than to soothe it with aloe vera, and to wear compression stockings which help reduce the leg symptoms.

I had thought the allergic leg rash and fever had finally passed out of my system, because I had not experienced it for almost 3 years.  So, when I suddenly fell to a 104F fever, all of the possibilities -- other than the allergic rash -- crossed my mind.  The fever and chills continued into the next day, and I decided that I should be tested for Covid-19.  Before the test result came back (it was negative), the fever disappeared and the leg rash appeared.  It appeared clear that this was my old allergic reaction, and not the dreaded coronavirus.

I took about 9 days, until yesterday, for my body to recover from all of these plagues.  While still not quite 100%, my arm is fully functional and improving rapidly.  The leg rash, while I still feel it, can deal with longer hikes.  So Kathy and I decided to jump on this opportunity to take another hike on the Appalachian Trail here in Northern Virginia.  We will be moving up to Gettysburg this Sunday, and this would be our last chance to explore the A.T. in this area.

There is a section of the Appalachian Trail that we have not hiked, stretching between the Manassas Gap Shelter, on the south end, and the northern border of the G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area on the north end.  We've hiked both sides of Trumbo Hollow to the south, and we've hiked the Sky Meadow section to the north, but this would be new.

We got to the trailhead late this morning:

We picked this section partly because it gives views of Lake Thompson.  In the photos, the lake looked like this --

-- but today, at any rate, it looked like this:

An historically 10-acre lake appears to have shrunk to barely more than a pond.  The road to parking for the lake had been gated and now operates mainly as a footpath, so we assume that the lake is barely holding its own.  Still it was pretty, as you can see from this detail of boulders and grasses along the shoreline, and it reminded us of some of the glacial tarns we have seen above treeline:

Our plan was to hike at least three miles south, past the lake and up to the Appalachian Trail, and then as far south as made sense until we found an acceptable picnic spot.  Immediately after passing the pond, we started a steep climb, which, after about a mile, brought us to the edge of a large farm and a vineyard:

From the fenceline, we had expansive views to the northeast --

-- and the southeast, down the Blue Ridge where the Appalachian Trail threads its way toward Georgia:

It is just early Fall, and we are starting to see the first hints of color in the leaves along the trail:

Not many leaves have fallen, but enough to tell us that Winter is coming.  This was one of the first colored leaves we spotted --

-- and these two perhaps the most colorful:

Yet, while the leaf colors were diverting, fall blossoms still had some things to show us, such as this multi-hued beauty:

As we neared our final approach to the Appalachian Trail, we saw the ruins of an old cabin alongside the trail.  Nothing is left but the metal skin and roof.  It hulks there, like the spirit of an old homesteader still tending his land long after it has become overgrown and unfarmable:

At about 2.5 miles, we reached our junction with the Appalachian Trail.  What an anticlimax!  There was no sign to announce the A.T., nor a sign on the A.T. naming the trail we climbed.  We only knew our old friend from the friendly, ubiquitous white blazes appearing along the trail as it crossed our approach trail -- one side heading north, the other south:

About a half mile south on the Appalachian Trail, we found a junction with the Tricot Trail, which, according to Kathy's GPS, led to a nearby cell or communications tower.  We recognized, however, that the trail was also a formal approach trial for the A.T., because it was blazed in the standard blue of an A.T. side trail.  With conveniently positioned logs and suitably cut stumps, this was the perfect place to stop for lunch before turning around.

As I sat eating my PB&J sandwich, I looked down at my hiking boots:

These are new hiking boots, which I bought this last week.  After recovering from my fall, I realized that my slip on the flat wet rock was caused mostly by the worn tread on my hiking boots.  I decided I needed new hiking boots, and I did some research to find boots with the most slip-resistant tread.  While I was at it, I also thought that it was time to try some new technology and experiment with lighter weight boots to prepare for our training for some future backpacks.  These passed all the tests!  They are light as a feather, waterproof, and ultra-slip resistant.  As a bonus, they also perform much better on loose pebbles and stones than my old hiking boots did.

I jabbered on about all this to Kathy as we returned down the trail.  Kathy got one of her favorite types of hikes -- all downhill after lunch.  We enjoyed the beautiful early Fall air and spent more time enjoying the scenery, as we knew our way back.

Approaching the lake, we saw two fishermen trying their luck after work.  We felt we had already caught our limit for the day, and were happy with it.

The Mouse That Went To The Moon - Part I

The Mouse That Went To The Moon
by William H. Scranton 
Logistical support provided by David and Kathleen Scranton 

One day there was a mouse that went to the moon.  He wasn’t supposed to go to the moon, but there he was, on the moon. Nobody knew how he got on to the moon, in fact, nobody even knew he was on the moon.

One day there was a mouse who lived in a hole in a Rocket ship. He was surprised one day when he felt rumbling under his feet. He rushed to his window,and saw the ground getting smaller and smaller.

He also saw red hot flames shooting out from under the rocket ship. “I wonder why there are flames shooting from the bottom of my house?” "Why does the Earth look so small?"

[Ed.: Before the author left, he added this photo but did not have time to explain it.  We understand that this is a photo of the mouse on the moon.  But clarification and further details will have to come from the author when he publishes Part 2.]


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Exploring the Trails of Lake Fairfax Park

 Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Hi Blog!

After an action packed, fun filled weekend with William, we took Monday off to sleep in, clean the rig and rest our weary bones. Tuesday morning dawned bright and chilly (50F). The smoke from the wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington has reached all the way over to the East Coast. The morning sky was hazy and the sun glowed a strange peach color. Our hearts go out to our family and friends who are dealing with much worse conditions out west. We are doing what we can to support the Go Fund Me campaign that is feeding the fireman and the Red Cross, who are sheltering the displaced. All we can do now is hope the weather changes and this nightmare ends.

After taking in the morning news, all we really wanted to do was crawl back under the covers and hide, but nature called to us and we had to answer. Lake Fairfax Park, where we are camped, is over 476 acres, 18 of which is Lake Fairfax. There are 26 separate multi-use trails. It isn't often we get to start a six mile hike right from our rig, but here we could. 

First, we needed a better map, so our first stop was the Visitor Center. With map in hand, we set out to find the North Boundary Trail. The trail was a bit overgrown in this section, which made it a perfect grazing ground for a flock of geese resting on their way south.

Lake Fairfax is formed by a dam on Colvin Run. A spillway lets part of Colvin Run continue on its journey to the Potomac River. A small bridge allowed us to cross the run.

On the other side of Colvin Run, the North Boundary Trail became easier to follow as it joined the Rails to River Trail.

The Hunter Mill Bypass is an old farm road. The wide woods road made it easy to walk side-by-side.

There are a number of old farm buildings in the park being left to return to nature. The pastures are now being used as cricket fields.

During our trek, we hiked on every conceivable surface from grass fields to gravel roads, bridle baths to mountain bike single tracks.

As we followed the South Side Trail, we found ourselves next to huge "Yuppie estate" properties. The development was so new, several of the houses were not even occupied yet. Each lot had their own entrance gate to the park. 

It just wouldn't be a good hike if we didn't run into some fun guys along the way.

After four miles, we decided to find a spot to rest and recharge. Nothing is better than a yummy veggie wrap and warm sunshine for lunch.

As we began our hike north along the Rails to River Trail, we found ourselves following Colvin Run, only this time it was heading toward Lake Fairfax.

In order to explore more of the west side of the park, we left the Rails to River Trail and picked up the Bentana Park Connector.

This connector trail took us right along the stream bank.

After a leisurely stroll along the stream, we found ourselves back at Lake Fairfax. We found a short-cut to the campground and finished our hike of just under 6 miles.

It may be a few days before we blog again. We have to take Baxter to the vet to have his eye checked. So far, he seems to be recovering nicely. The vet will let us know if he has any infection left. On Thursday, we move back to Bull Run Regional Park. Then, on Friday, it is another weekend of adventure with William. 

Until then, stay safe my friends.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Paddling Lake Fairfax With William

 Chapter 2 of the Adventures of William at Fairfax Lake!

Sunday dawned as Saturday had -- with William and the cats setting the pace.  They all needed their exercise.  We took Ruby and Baxter out for a walk, then accompanied William back to the skate park for some more scootering.  It wasn't long before the water called to us, and we got our kayaks and gear loaded onto the Jeep to take it to the shore of Lake Fairfax, where William wasted no time getting into action:

We weren't sure how experienced William was with paddling, but it turned out that he had been expertly taught by his Daddy.  David started out with William, and right away was eating William's wake:

The two boys took a paddle across the lake to the orange rubber buoy in the distance, then paddled back --

-- where they showed off their approach skills to Kathy --

-- and William brought his kayak safely to shore:

Then it was Kathy's turn to paddle out with William.  You can see their departure was smooth, from this video of William and Kathy as they set out on their part of the adventure.

Those two paddled all the way around the lake!  On the far shore, William spotted SIX turtles sunning themselves on a log, but -- alas -- they had no camera to memorialize their encounter.  They returned, happy but tired:

Even so, William wanted to paddle under a bridge to the boat dock.  Kathy could barely keep up with him on that maneuver as well.

Finally, William's arms grew tired, so he and Kathy landed their kayaks victoriously:

We celebrated our paddling by treating ourselves to some Subway sandwiches for lunch, which we ate (picnic-style again) back in a shady part of the park.

As a change of pace, we filled our afternoon with games of Potato Pirates and Ticket to Ride.  Kathy and William split the victories, with David claiming also-ran honors.

Before we knew it, Sunday was done, and it was time for us to take William home.  He got a chance to see his place with their furniture in place, including his beautiful new bunkbed!  As we said goodbye to him, the three of us convinced Mommy and Daddy to let us do it again next weekend.

Stay tuned!

A Hike With William Around Lake Fairfax

Camp Sharktooth officially ended when the school year started.  William is now distance learning, which includes sitting at his work desk next to Daddy's work desk.  But we got another weekend with William while his parents finished moving into their new home.  We picked our grandson up on Friday evening, September 11, 2020, and started the weekend the right way:  with pizza and a movie!

Before the movie, we had lots of banter, including a long discussion about the percussion instruments NaiNai (Kathy) has gathered in her travels.  She told him all about the ugly stick she discovered and learned to play in Newfoundland.  She also let him try out her neck washboard, which she learned to play at Betty's RV Park in Abbeville, Louisiana, and at Buck and Johnny's in nearby Breaux Bridge, thanks to our good RV friend Barb Forsman:

Saturday dawned a little early, with William and the cats all excited to see what adventures the day would hold.  After breakfast, we took William over to the skate park adjacent to our campground in Lake Fairfax Park:

William hasn't done much fancy scootering yet, so he stayed away from the jumps and rails, but he did get comfortable with the ups and downs, as you can see in this video of William taking a run around the skate park.

The big event of the day was a hike around Lake Fairfax, with a picnic lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!  The trail is well marked and well used, but there weren't too many others on the trail when we started out Saturday morning.  Here, Kathy and William enjoy the view from one of the bridges over inlet streams to the lake:

At another stream, David and William climbed down close to the water, where William spied some fish swimming in one of the deeper pools.

From time to time, the trail gave us open views of the lake.  Here, we spotted a large group taking kayak lessons on our end of the lake:

Everyone knows that David likes to take photos of fun guys, and William, being in the know, spotted this huge mushroom, which we measured by William's hand size to demonstrate how big it was:

The lake shore was also graced with waterlilies, making us think of the Monet paintings we enjoyed so much on our visit to Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris a couple years ago:

It wasn't long before we had completed our circuit of the lake.  We stopped for our picnic lunch, and then crossed the dam at the bottom of the lake.

Our dinner Saturday night was to be corn-on-the-cob and burgers grilled over an open campfire, followed by. . . What else? . . . S'Mores!  But while David was setting up the campfire, Kathy and William assembled the parts for Kickball Croquet, whose course they laid out behind our RV.  Here, they are inflating the kickballs:

Below, William demonstrates his natural skill at Kickball Croquet.  He won all three matches against us!

How can words possibly describe a delicious dinner cooked over a campfire?

All in all, Saturday proved an adventurous day.  We all fell into bed, tired, but ready to recharge for Sunday's adventures.