Category Archives: Hiking

Winter Hike Up Loudon Heights

Our first winter in Harpers Ferry was extraordinarily mild.

So much so that this was the only hike I did under winter conditions!

Route on Strava and a short video from the hike.

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Just outside the office window.

 

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Before any hikes could happen, I had fun building a snowman with the boys.

 

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Crossing the Shenandoah River.

 

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The stairs at the start of the climb, on the Appalachian Trail.

 

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Appalachian Trail South.

 

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Definition of winter. Low sun. Cold.

 

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Whoever invented the built-in hood system is a genius!

 

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Typical trail conditions.

 

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Can you spot the white Appalachian Trail blaze on the tree?

 

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My destination for this hike: the park boundary sign.

 

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My favorite little section of trail up near the top of the ridge, dead straight and flat through a tunnel of trees.

 

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Frosty not looking so good a day later 😂

 

If you think it’s beautiful in summer, you should see this place in winter. It’s magical.

Weverton Cliffs with the boys

This was our last hike of 2019.

We squeezed it in during that weird period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

For Lexi and me, it was our second hike up Weverton Cliffs (route description). For the boys, it was their first real mountain climb.

Weverton Cliffs, Md. is the third mountain hike accessible from Harpers Ferry, after Maryland Heights and Loudon Heights. It’s a 9-mile out-and-back from Harpers Ferry — much too far for a 2yo and 4yo — so we opted to start from the car park at the base of the mountain.

The route is part of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a short and easy climb and rewards walkers with some of the best views of this area. It’s well worth doing but I’d avoid weekend afternoons.

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Dominic leading the way up Weverton Cliffs.

 

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Owen walked about a 1/3 of the way and went the rest of the way in the backpack.

 

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He refused to walk but took a lot of convincing to get in the backpack 🤷‍♂️.

 

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At the summit junction, where Weverton Cliffs trail splits off from the Appalachian Trail.

 

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At the top enjoying the splendid views!

 

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Looking upstream of the Potomac River, towards Harpers Ferry.

 

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Owen walked most of the way down.

Old Rag hike (August 2019)

8/15/19: Last week we were on vacation in Castleton, Virginia, with Lexi’s family. It’s close to Shenandoah National Park. When we realized we were only a half hour drive from the trailhead of Old Rag, we took the opportunity to go and climb it.

It’s a 10 mile loop if you start and end at Nethers, with about 2,500ft of height gain. The summit is 3,291ft high and affords magnificent views of the Shenandoah and foothills. The final section along the top ridge is an interesting rock scramble, through crevices, up staircases, past caves, up gullies etc. and makes for quite a sporting ascent.

It’s a super popular hike for those reasons and because it’s close to Washington, D.C..

We left the boys with the grandparents and avoided the weekend crowd by going on a Monday.

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Lexi at one of the lookouts part way up the ascent.

 

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Yours truly at the same lookout.

 

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Can you see why they’re known as the Blue Ridge mountains?

 

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Marker post in Shenandoah NP

 

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Still on the way up despite appearances. The final ridge involves some entertaining scrambling!

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Scrambling up a gully on Ridge Trail

 

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Ridge Trail passes through a tunnel between giant old boulders

 

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Through one of the many narrow rock gaps.

 

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Nearly there!

 

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Obligatory foot shot on the summit of Old Rag.

 

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With Lexi on the summit of Old Rag. So lucky that we get to enjoy these kind of adventures together 🙂

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Summit panorama.

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Pretty much straight up and then straight back down!

 

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It’s a 10 mile loop starting from the parking lot in Nethers.

 

It’s a fantastic hike, and lives up to its marquee status. However, it was popular even on a weekday, so definitely one to avoid on summer weekends.

For more info on Old Rag, check out the: topo on All Trails

Buzzard Hill Appalachian Trail hike

[Editor’s note: this hike took place at the end of August, the week before my and Lexi’s wedding, when everything was extremely hectic. It was the perfect antidote to the stress we were feeling at the time. And now, I’m finally catching up on blogging!]

Length: 9 miles — Height gain: 3,000ft

Known as the “roller coaster”, this section of the Appalachian Trail is an hour drive outside of DC, to the north of Shenandoah NP, and somewhere we had not yet explored.

AT South sign

AT South sign

The trail duly lived up to its name with hardly a flat mile as we climbed and descended all day. Our reward was a stunning lookout from the summit of Buzzard Hill. We gazed out at an endless sea of wooded hills, entirely natural and devoid of man made intrusions.

Hiking south along the AT

Hiking south along the AT

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View from the summit of Buzzard Hill

View from the summit of Buzzard Hill

The team at the summit

The team at the summit

First signs of fall

First signs of fall

This turned out to be one of the harder hikes I’d done in the DC area, on account of the endless up and down. My calves ached for days after this one! The view was one of the best though, so this is definitely going in the memory bank as a great day out.

Check out the hiking guide – information on this site here.

New Zealand Part III – Climbing Black Peak

“Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports. . . all others are games.” – Ernest Hemmingway

Panorama from the summit of Black Peak

Panorama from the summit of Black Peak

Saving the best to last (see part I and part II of our NZ adventures): my brother and I were given carte blanche for the final day of the holiday so we chose a mountain day that would challenge us – Black Peak. It’s a spiky summit, accessible from the road but still far from the madding crowds, and one which would require just shy of 2,000m height gain (and subsequent descent). It would be a big day out.

A photo essay from the final day in the South Island of New Zealand:

Road to Glenorchy, en route to Black Peak

Road from Queenstown to Glenorchy, en route to Black Peak

River crossing

River crossing early in the day – an unexpected but fun obstacle

We were rewarded with one of the best days of walking I’ve had in a long time. The day had everything: perfect weather, a long and challenging route, a mountain summit, historic huts, jaw-dropping scenery and no other people. It was a sublime.

On the slopes of Black Peak

On the slopes of Black Peak

McIntosh's Hut

McIntosh’s Hut

Room with a view

Room with a view

Climbing over the snowfields near the summit

Climbing over the snowfields near the summit

Pete on the summit of Black Peak

Pete on the summit of Black Peak

Black Peak is the pyramidal summit on the R side of skyline

Black Peak is the pyramidal summit on the R side of skyline

Glenorchy valley

Mt Earnslaw, Glenorchy valley

"Look how far we've walked!"

“Look how far we’ve come!”

At last…..water

At last…..water. We ran out a couple of hours before but knew we had a refill at the car. Sweet relief!