a gathering place for the words, images and momentos of the world of adventures i've adventured, the stories i've wandered through. curriculum bella vita...a resume, of sorts, of the good life.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Learning not to bike to places that start with “Mount”

What better gift for my parents’ anniversary than treating them to the same wondrous adventure that they raised me on: biking to the top of high places.

After two days of DC touring, we hopped onto two rented bikes (~$45 each at the local bike rental joint) and my rusty, squeaky early-summer purchase. Biking to Mount Vernon’s a nice little 15 mile adventure south of the city, almost entirely on paved bike trail. We invited Josh, Amy and little Elena, and set off after the morning rain stopped.

An hour in, about halfway, Amy popped a tire. The mini-adventure of getting it fixed was a nice break on the legs. Moving my heavy, inefficient bike was proving more difficult than I’d anticipated. Josh and I celebrated the crest of the hill, right before Mount Vernon, with a short walk – all the better to enjoy the views.

Luckily, the tour of George Washington’s manor was well worth the trek. You can see, with a view like that, why the man was content to give up public life in DC and return to the country. I wouldn’t mind the same someday.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

South Cornerstone Galore

Word Masteress Emily gave me all the invitation I needed. We can go wherever you’d like, she volunteered, anywhere we go in the city will be new to me, so why don’t we tour around the places you’d like to see?

The South Cornerstone.

Whitney, Katie and I picked the North Cornerstone, back in April, as the most accessible/adventurous cornerstone to target first. With three to go, and knowing full well that East will be tricky and West threatens to be not that interesting, I suggested that Emily and I combine a tour of Old Town Alexandria with a second installment of the Cornerstone Chase. The only problem was that I wasn’t even sure that the South Cornerstone even exists anymore, the maps are a bit ambiguous. But the lady was game enough to agree.

The Old Town’s as delightfully bourgeoisie as a couple of young professionals could hope for. Blocks and blocks of old brick rowhouses gentrified into either charming restaurants, pricey shops or pretty nice places to live. At the river’s edge, we turned south, following a bike trail underneath a sketchy freeway bridge. Strange abandoned vans, mystery stinky trashy bags. Just because we were making jokes doesn’t mean that we didn’t pick up our pace.

The trail led to an underutilized, overgrown park. We walked, optimistically, as far as the park would allow. At the far corner, a historic lighthouse of sorts, trending towards dilapidated. A hunch and a hop over a fence. Emily looked confused.

And there she was, easing into the encroaching Potomac, a cornerstone, framed behind a not-often-used peephole in the seawall ten feet in front of the lighthouse. The South Cornerstone, the very first to be laid down in 1791. (Maybe. The authenticity of the present cornerstone is under dispute.)


Monday, September 6, 2010

Three Ridges Aplenty

My "Hiking Virginia" book is dogearred with great Shenandoah and Blue Ridge hikes, but only one trail earns the title of Virginia’s newest wilderness area: Three Ridges and The Priest in the George Washington National Forest. Jon, Libby and I set out to hike the hills on a perfect Labor Day weekend. Libby and I escorted Jon half of the way to training in Georgia, then rode Amtrak back from Charlottesville on the flip side. Hip hip horray for three-day weekends well spent!

Two-night loop along Appalachian Trail and Mau-Har Trail
13.8 miles, ~4,000’ elevation gains

Southwest of Lovinston, VA, site of Bargey’s 2006 wedding!

ALPs alumni extravaganza:
L.R. Strait
J.D. Mungen
J.R. Jewett

Day 1

2.5 miles
1,000 ft elevation gain

VA56 trailhead north on AT to Harpers Creek shelter

Stead climb led to nice area with lots of campsites and tent pads, very small creek

Day 2

8.0 miles
2,000 ft elevation gain

Up and across ridgeline, down creek valley to Campbell Falls campsite. Long 3 mile, 2,000 foot gain to start the day. First great view at Chimney Rock. Unfortunately no view from peak of Three Ridges at 3,970’. While there are some campsites in the area, you’d have to haul all your water up the mountain. Hanging Rock (below) at 6.8 miles is as good as it gets.

Nice shelter, outhouse, campsites at Maupin Shelter, would make a decent resting spot instead of Campell Falls. Even smaller creek for water purposes.

Campbell Falls is rugged in and out in both directions. The area's neat, but there's not much room for tents. Two was a squeeze, there wouldn't be room for more than one hiking party...and no good back-up areas around. Swimming hole atop a 20 foot waterfall was a treat! Would be great in hot weather, a bit brisk in early September.

Day 3
3.3 miles to trailhead
1,000 ft elevation gain

Quick uphill, then gentle return to river, parking lot. :-)