March 23, 2013

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So The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All is most gracious about building a trip around the Virginia Festival of the Book (where I read from my story collection "Finding Grace" Buy the book at!) and going to see live music by people we'd never seen (Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin were terrific, and even more so because they were all enthralled with being newly engaged!).

But hey, take Gail up onto Skyline Drive where the temperature is falling through the 30s as we drive north, try to talk her into doing the 9.8-mile hike instead of a 6.4 or some such, and she is not so gracious.

"Why didn't I at least bring my heavy pants?! It's too cold for this?!"

The some-version-of-this for nearly all our winter hikes has at last spawned a theory as to why it occurs.

I have come to the conclusion, all gender bias aside, that it is gender-based: I think it is a predilection of the one gender to step outside and experience said outside in two very immediate ways:

1. As if they were naked.

2. As if they will not move, but instead stand stock-still in the wind and cold until they perish.

Whereas many males, prone to be tough guys since age 4, tend to project a half mile into the future when:

1. The walking will have warmed the body to a comfortable level.

2. There won't be a need to stop and remove 12 items, including several top layers, one set of gloves, a scarf or two and maybe one layer of ear protection.

But alas, on this hike, soon after we reached the point where The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All had indeed reverted to her identity and was stretching the distance between us with every stride, we came to . . .

 . . . the un-rock-hoppable stream!

We scouted upstream and down, we started out on this rock and that, we considered fallen trees and just-too-wide spots. But the good healthy flow of the stream through Cold Spring Hollow along the Riprap Trail was just so strong and so wide that the only possible solutions were:

1. Turn back after maybe two miles.

2. Take off the shoes and socks, roll up the pants, take the deepest of breaths and wade on in to the cold, crystal-clear flow that was nowhere more than a foot and a half deep.

The Day Hiker's suggestion that we turn back was easy enough to turn away, as it seemed sort of obligatory and half-hearted.

Her wailing anguish as she stepped into the water, not so much.

Yes, it was cold. Yes, some of the rocks had the tell-tale green of don't-step-on-me. But the sort of involuntary calls of I-can't-do-this and get-me-out-of-here were a little strong even for she who doth, in these situations, clearly protest too much. Not to mention her sudden conviction that snakes were about to come out from under the rocks and attack!

This from a veteran hiker with many years' of experience in and around streams. Who, nonetheless, suddenly became 9 years old before regaining her senses and coming on across the flow.

Cold and stream-ford aside, this is one terrific hike, with perhaps its only downside being a starting point along the ridge line, assuring descent first and ascent to finish. Among the many upsides: beautiful streams, great views down onto the Great Valley of Virginia, climbs that are generally mild, and a finish along a few miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Wildcat, Riprap, Appalachian Trail loop from Skyline Drive MP 92.1 (Wildcat Ridge parking area)


March 23, 2013

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