In Carvins Cove Preserve, up the Hi-Dee-Hoe Trail to Brushy Mountain Trail to Carvins Cove overlook and back. About 7 miles.
We'd planned for something longer, but with no sitter for puppy Cookie, the five-month-old lab/boxer/pest mix, we opted to make this day's walk both shorter and also Cookie's first genuine walk in the woods.
The Carvins Cove trail system, with its ski-style signage for the bikers, is nothing less than a terrific near-urban resource, and on this summer-like day, there were ample members of all three user populations – cyclists, horse riders and hikers – out and about on the land. We went in from the Va. 311 side, where you have to stop for your hall pass ($2 per day or $20 per year) at the Just The Right Gear bicycle shop before you park in the lot along Bennett Springs Road.
The Hi-Dee-Hoe begins innocently enough, crossing a feeder stream and meandering briefly in the woods before heading up the mountain with a series of climbs and switchbacks, tightening to steeper gradations as you near the top – to the extent that the trail carries a black diamond and a caution on the map about climbs. Still, the puppy, The Day Hiker and I made the climb – a mile and a half or a little more? – with relative ease, with Cookie pausing for quick snowcones at spots on northern faces as we neared the top.
The Brushy Mountain Trail into which the Hi-Dee-Hoe Ts is a wide old forest road that at this pre-leaf, pre-weed time of year looks like a dirt-track thoroughfare compared to a traditional trail. The three walkers could spread out every which way across it, save for the occasional meeting of cyclists or other hikers. One such meeting included the presence of a seven-month-old puppy; attraction and play were immediate and the older dog got the first take-down in the brief wrestlin match there in the dust.
We ate lunch on a knob with a semi-view down onto Carvins Cove, which continues to be seriously tan-rimmed in the ongoing drought. The dog did some preliminary sniffing, scouting and woofing as if to secure the space and after we ate, there ensued an uncharacteristic hour: The dog, just a puppy, and the big kids, both mildly under the weather at the start, all lay down on the woods floor and took a nap, another factor in which may well have been the first shirt-sleeve day in many months.
We joked that the puppy's bones might turn to jello before we got back down, with this walk about double her previous single-walk distance. But Cookie had more energy than even The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All on the easy, if long-for-its-mileage return walk.
March 7, 2009