Monday, November 5, 2007

A trip back East

I spent the past 2 weeks back on the East Coast: 4 days in Virginia, 8 in Vermont and New Hampshire visiting family, friends, and my old stomping grounds.

The skies were clear as we flew into Dulles on October 29, providing views of pretty--though perhaps less spectacular than usual due to drought--fall foliage over West Virginia and Virginia. I knew I would have to get out of the metro area and head for the mountains at least once. This year's never-ending summer and high temps on the East Coast seemed to have finally broken after a hefty dose of much-needed rainfall. Indeed, the weather was perfect for running all week. :)

While in Virginia, I got in 3 good runs: the first, a quick 8 miler on the paved Mt. Vernon Trail; the second, 4 hours on the fun, meandering trails of Prince William Forest; and best of all, on Halloween Day, the Browntown Loop in the Shenandoah Mountains. This loop starts on the east side of Shenandoah National Park and is accessed by cruising bucolic country roads the last few miles, a welcome sight for me after going completely and utterly the WRONG way on I-95 upon leaving the hotel in Alexandria, necessitating the, uh... scenic route through DC morning rush hour traffic, adding an extra hour to my anticipated drive time. Gosh, what fun! But I digress...

The Browntown Loop traverses SNP by first climbing the Jordan River, Mt. Marshall, and Bluff Trails, crosses the Appalachian Trail and tops out on Skyline Drive before the payoff: a gently switchbacked cruise down the Browntown Trail and country roads into the tiny hamlet of Browntown and its general store. Here I downed a Coke and refilled my bottles before reclimbing the ridge via Jenkins Gap and descending back to the car. I later found out that the "official" Browntown Loop ascends Lands Run Gap further north, so I cut the loop short by a few miles.
All told I did somewhere around 17-18 miles. The day was a beauty, and I had the entire loop to myself.

The next day I flew to Vermont and had a nice weeklong visit with family and friends. Hurricane Noel stayed far enough south and east of New Hampshire's White Mountains, such that on Saturday 5 nutty friends and I were able to complete the Pemi Loop, 31.5 rough miles with over 9,000 ft. of climbing, including 8 of NH's 4000 footers--Mts. Flume, Liberty, Lincoln, Lafayette, Garfield, South Twin, Bond, and Bondcliff. This was my 6th or 7th time around the Pemigewasset Wilderness, one of my favorite long hikes in the Whites. (The above photograph is of Franconia Ridge looking south.)

The following day 4 of us negotiated Ice Gulch in the Northern Whites. Ice Gulch is a boulder-filled ravine similar to its more famous neighbor to the east, the AT's "most difficult mile," Mahoosuc Notch, and one must employ similar bodily maneuvers in order to traverse its length. The gulch was so named because ice can usually be found deep in the rocks year round. It was a real treat to hike with buddies Michelle and Dave (AT thru-hikers, Class of '05), who are planning to thru-hike the PCT next year!


Unknown said...

Hey Sue, glad you are enjoying the eastern fall. Hope hurricane what noel didn't rain on your parade.

long weekend for us and i am looking forward to some trails this weekend...if the hip will carry me that far.


Billy said...

hey sue,

sounds like you had a great trip back east. what are your plans for next year? happy holidays!!!

billy woodstock simpson

Unknown said...

Hey Sue,
Wish we could have seen you while you were here. I am surprised that Franconia Ridge wasn't snow covered already! It probably is now - even Monadnock way down here has snow.
(love the cow photo! I think I remember that barn from our trip up that direction!)