Monday, July 30, 2012

the trails project

we are lucky enough to live thirty minutes from the magnificent blue ridge mountains.  in the eleven years we've been here, we've driven its roads, but rarely ventured into the wilderness from the car and/or lookouts.

that all changed this summer.  after i quit my job, i craved wide open space.  i needed to increase my physical activity and spend more time away from the interwebs.  i needed challenge and fresh air.  i was inspired by the story in wild.  we made up our minds to do one hike each weekend. 

sunday was hike two: fallingwater cascades near the peaks of otter.  on the map it looked like the second-easiest loop (last weekend, we did the johnson's farm loop which included a pleasant surprise at the summit:  an actual 19th century virginia farm, complete with current garden.). 

thirty-four hundred feet sounds easy enough, right?  well, fallingwater was 3400 feet straight down into a gorge then straight back up. 

even though simon, a corgi, has super short legs, he is the best hiker. 

i got my bright purple shoes because they were the most comfortable.  they flawlessly carried me through a three hour hike with absolutely no blisters.  they helped tremendously with wet-boulder-hopping (more on that later).  they are actually trail running shoes, lighter than hiking shoes.  plus if i get lost, rangers will have no problem spotting me.

not the most glamorous picnic:  water, granola bars, nuts and bug spray.  maybe next weekend i'll put some effort into it.  total plug for burt's bees insect repellent:  it works! 

corgi butt.

halfway down, you reach the waterfall, which traverses the trail at the bottom of the loop.  because it's late summer, the falls are a wee bit trickly.  i can't wait to come back in spring to see them in all their glory.  also the trail is lined with a thousand ancient rhododendron bushes.  i am imagining how gorgeous they are in bloom.  although they may make my purple shoes more difficult to spot in an air rescue. 

the great part about the summer falls is that you can go off trail and onto the rocks and water in parts.

my trail buddies.

so at the bottom of the hike, the lower bridge that crosses the falls and loops you back up to the trailhead was washed out.  we were getting ready to backtrack when two hikers came bounding across the falls from the broken bridge.  they told us that once you made it across the falls (fall being the resonating word), the trail was in good shape back to the trailhead. 

for some crazy reason, i decided that i wanted to try to cross the rocks and falls under the washed-out bridge instead of coming back the way we came. lately, i have been choosing risk when given the option.   and quite frankly, coming back the way i came is getting old.  this was a big deal for me.  i'm not very outdoorsy or athletic and there was some rock hopping involved.  i watched ken and simon make their way and i followed in their steps with a weird brand of tentative courage.   i was really proud of myself when my purple shoes set down safely on the trail on the other side of the falls.

after two hikes i find myself wanting more.  i love the challenge and the nature and the isolation.  i love the sound the trail makes under my feet and the big silence of the sky.  ken's been crazy-talking about the appalachian trail for years.  all of sudden, it's not sounding so crazy.