Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

Hiking weekend with some great trail gals looked like it was finished before it even began. ūüė¶

A spring snowstorm had resulted in the closure of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. I gave Shenandoah National Park every opportunity to reopen Skyline Drive without success. It wouldn’t have mattered as much to me if we weren’t specifically aiming at hiking new Appalachian Trail miles. I seriously considered rescheduling the Air B&B. Lemons.

However, Lola, tried and true hiking friend, talked me down and so here we were at Starbucks in Staunton getting ready to embark on plan B!

Four of us headed out to find the Trimble Mountain Trail in George Washington National Forest. It was a beautiful crisp day with a fabulous blue sky and temps in the 40s. Snow covered the mountains giving them a soulful depth I was not used to seeing and it filled me with enormous joy!

We found the trailhead and set off into the woods breaking the smooth surface of snow. No other footprints preceded ours. It was a special feeling.

It was also exhausting! We climbed up for half the hike the around the ridge and back down steeply for a total of 4 moderately tough miles.

However, It was equally gorgeous! An exhilarating, way to kick off our hiking weekend! Lemonade for all! (Or maybe hot chocolate) Hike on!

AT – VA Gravel Springs Gap to Compton Gap

Did you opt outside for Black Friday?  I headed down to Shenandoah National Park to complete a section of AT with my friend Lola and her daughter.

Slipping out of my house sans Sidekick Pauli always takes a bit of logistical brilliance…so boots and pack were stowed in the car the night before. ¬†I absolutely avoided looking directly at her as I grabbed a grocery bag of food and headed out the door! ¬†No worries for the dog…she will go out with me on Saturday somewhere. ūüôā

The ranger at the north entrance reminded me the gate would close at 5 pm. ¬†No problem, I will be long gone by then! You know unless tragedy occurs, which it won’t, but if it does, hmmm…nope, no tragedy today, period. ¬†I made my sacrifice to the Trail Gods on Wednesday.

What timing! ¬†I pulled into Compton Gap glancing into my rearview…and there was Lola right behind. ¬†Excellent! ¬†And it was now 50 degrees out. ¬†Yay! Weather cooperating. We¬†left my car at Compton Gap, then drove down to our starting point at Gravel Springs Gap in Lola’s minivan.

Now the passenger, I took the opportunity to scan the woods for wildlife (okay, bears) without having to watch the road. ¬†I was pretty happy searching the woods until Lola and daughter saw a bobcat right off the road and I missed it! Ergh! The bobcat disappeared before I could see it. ¬†Life lesson here…don’t go looking so far beyond that you miss what is right in front of you!

Took about 10-15 minutes to reach Gravel Springs Gap and I think the weather had chilled a bit.  However, I warmed up quickly as I headed up South Marshall Mountain, but not enough to shed a layer just yet.  I was just starting to look for a place to break when a great overlook presented itself.  Just off the trail, no extra effort required, thankfully!

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BoobOnARock atop South Marshall Mountain feelin’ like a boss! ūüėÄ

Next up…North Marshall Mountain. ¬†The climb up went quickly and again, we were rewarded with an amazing view back to South Marshall. ¬†I love it when I can look back at where I have hiked as it is such a feeling of accomplishment!

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Looking back at South Marshall Mountain from the overlook on North Marshall. Better than getting a ribbon!

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Coming down North Marshall

The first two climbs¬†of the day had not been as difficult as I had anticipated. ¬†The mist hovered and dipped down as we crossed over both South and North Marshall. ¬†The scent of late fall hung in the air and recent wind storms had littered the path with deep piles of leaves. *crunch, crunch, crunch* ¬†I felt like a kid again kicking in the leaves that came up past the top of my boots. I was brought sharply back to the present when I slipped a little on a rock beneath the leaves! ¬†The humility…let me NOT be the sacrifice to the Trail Gods today, thanks. ūüôā ¬†—the gate closes at 5 pm— haha!

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Descending to Jenkins Gap. When the kid is caught just staring up into the sky, you know the hike is a win. I found myself doing the same many times. Beautiful day!

Reaching Jenkins Gap, it was time for the final climb up to Compton’s Peak , whew! ¬†I stopped a few times to catch my breath! ¬†Do mountains ever really get easier? ¬†I am familiar with this stretch of AT though. ¬†Once we passed the campsite on the left, I knew we were almost to the cut off to the view. ¬†This is a view you have to work for…and even though the trail post says 0.2 miles, it feels like more. ¬†Not a difficult walk down, just rocky, and when you are at the end of your hike, well…tempting to just pass it altogether. ¬†But don’t, worth the extra walk!

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This pic I took of Lola on Compton Peak encapsulates the feeling of the entire hike.

We had the whole park to ourselves for most of the hike, or so it seemed.  Descending to my car at Compton Gap, we now shared the trail with many others who had decided to take a hike on Black Friday.  Welcome, and good-bye! Hike On!