North Mountain and Pete’s Cave Hike

We (and by we I mean Jill, Brian, and Bilbo) Hike North Mountain and Pete’s Cave Hike near Lexington VA.  And we learn how to time travel so we can live forever…..

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Teaching our Pug to Mtn Bike….Really!!!

To celebrate “May is Bike Month” we started biking with Bilbo, our Pug.  We love biking and want him to get comfortable on a bike so we can take him more often we we go mountain biking.  Now at first I thought it would be in his best interest to ride with me.  Its not that we do anything too hard.  Its just that i am more confident and stable.  Well, the good news is Jill and Bill were fine.  The bad news is, i went head over heels.

It was just stupid and lazy riding.  I was busy riding ahead on our local trails, Rocktown Trails in Hillandale Park.  Then jumping off and waiting for Jill and Bill to come down the trail.  Anyway, I was riding past Jill and looking at her and leaning over the front wheel and hit a rock dead on.  The front wheel stopped dead, but the back wheel decided to continue on down the trail and I ended up in the middle–upside down.  Several bounces later, up i got.  No breaks just a sore left leg.  Worst part is that the Gopro was OFF!!!

Like our first paddle of the year, Paddling the North Fork where we went over in the first decent white water, over I go in the first real biking of the year.  O well.  Crashing and burning before trips seems to be my habit.  Two years ago I broke my arm in May about 8 days before a planned fourth dive trip to Cozumel.  Then about 8 years ago I hit a deer on my motorcycle and ended up with Fib/Tib break and a blown up foot and ankle just 7 days before a Hawaii trip.  Our daughter is soon to get her wings flying USCG Helicopters and we are traveling to Florida in a few weeks for that so an accident is overdue at this point!.

Back to a biking pug…  We have ridden mtn bikes in Colorado, Maine, Virginia, a few other states out west.  We like biking, and are in one of the best places in the U.S. to mountain bike.  However, it’s rocky and mountainous.  While the “mountains” are not towering, the trails are often steep.  And the single tracks are usually very narrow.  While Jill is fearless on the road bike–she flies down hills that make my legs shake and powers up hills that make me cry–she is a tentative trail rider.

So it’s a challenge to find trails that are at our level and that we can enjoy.  Even more challenging to find trails that we would feel comfortable packing a pug.  Anyway, it was great fun.  Bill has gotten pretty used to it and now enjoys riding.  For those who want to know, we have a Ruffit Dog Carrier (not trying to sell this) that seems to fit our dog pretty well.

Paddling the North Fork of the Shenandoah River

Saturday, we decided to paddle down the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.  We went with friends and shared the car pickup and dropoff.  We got in near 211 just past the Shenandoah Academy and planned on getting out at Meem’s Bottom Covered Bridge.  None of us really knew anything about this section.  But we thought the water is high and normally the north fork is low on water so now is the time.

I like to always have one piece of advice in each blog.  Today, it is never follow a kayaker in a canoe.  We (I) busted our kayak slamming into a rock last year so we took the canoe. Well the kayaker we followed said “go this way, this way” we went that way, went over a foot high drop and slammed nose first into another rock about the size of a volkswagen and half a foot above water line.  Suffice it to say, over we went and out of the boat the humans tumbled.  Jill immediately started looking in the water for Bilbo as I quickly righted the boat.  Well somehow Bilbo was still in the boat wondering why we jumped out–stupid Hoomans.  Lesson, always pick your own line

The river was beautiful.  Unlike the south fork, the banks were almost always straight up and anywhere between 10 and 50 feet tall.  And since the river is pretty narrow, visually (except for a few houses) it felt very much like it must have felt through time immemorial–from the stone age through Jefferson.  But the sounds of civilization always crept over the bank.  Of course, going under roads is normal in this part of the country, but paddling under a majorly busy interstate (I-81) as it was split was a bit surreal.

Another bit of the surreal was when we rounded a bend in the river and saw some junk–a hub cap, tire, even a car door.  But then, rounding the next bend, we see a 100 yard long wall of cars on river left bank.  Not just any cars, but old cars from the 50’s 60’s, 70’s and 80’s stacked on top of each other starting from water right on up to the top.  It seems that these cars are probably part of the river restoration and protection of Chesapeake Bay watershed.  In all likelihood, our tax dollars at work to protect the Bay!!!!  I guess….

The river, itself, was quite enjoyable.  lots of ripples, water was high enough (the Luray gauge was at 4.5 ft), and a few slow sections where you could sit back and just close your eyes and float until you hear the next white water.  The only downside is that all the land is privately owned and the banks were straight up so there were very few places to pull in for a lunch.  We found a spot, avoiding the poison ivy and oak, and ticks.  Got back into the water.  Eventually the Meem’s Bottom Covered Bridge came into view and the adventure was over.  Nice, nice day.

Getting home, we cleaned up and had a few drinks, sat in the hot tub and finally had dinner.  Jill used the flea and tick comb on Bilbo to make sure he didn’t have ticks.  Sat downstairs and read.  Turns out that the only one that was carrying a visitor was me–tick crawling up my leg.  All that after a shower, hot tub, dinner, etc.  Jesus was wrong–“The ticks will inherit the earth”

Hiking Cole Mountain

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Hiking Cole Mountain near Buena Vista–that’s pronounced Byoona Vista, BTW, Virginia is an extraordinary experience.  The fire of November 2016 is long put out.  However, the black ground, lack of fall leaf ground cover and the charred trunks of trees attest to its ferocity.

Yet, I can truly say that it has done a world of good.  The floor of the forest is teaming now with low grass, flowers, and undergrowth.  There are mounds of brand new baby pines poking out of the black charred earth where the pine cone fell.  One sprout will eventually dominate the others and become a towering evergreen.  The amount of flowers is astonishing for this time of year because the thick brush was burnt off leaving space for the more tender plants.  The views through the forest are just as dramatic.  Now that the undergrowth is burnt away, it looks like a set from a movie.

We hiked the route suggested on Hiking Upward (always a go-to source of good info).  Hiking down the “Hotel” trail you get a sense of dark forest–evergreens pine needles.  Ascending, we finally walk into a clearing on a ridge that has several campsites widely spaced.  Hiking Upward calls it one of the” prettiest back country campsites in the Blue Ridge” and we agree.  We then passed another nice camping area on a small creek about .3 miles from the intersection with the AT with a shelter and water.

Once on the AT, we turn back north.  Now the trail heads up to the ridge and–Voilá–you are in a meadow with vistas for mile and miles.  It is said that it is like Scotland or Switzerland.  (Maybe, extended hiking in both of those are on the bucket list!!).

We are trying to get the pug, Bilbo, used to his Ruffit backpack so we can increase our mileage.  We put him in about 10 minutes before a stop for lunch so he can provide some positive reinforcement when we let him out (see picture)  He can hike 7-8 in cool weather but more mileage or heat starts stressing him.

Anyway, we stop for lunch in the meadows, and proceed up and down the AT.  it is a completely different trail.  more like the rocky, steep trails we are used to in this area.  Clearly most folks walk up that, get to the meadows and then return the same way.

They are missing a lot by not doing the clockwise loop suggested by Hiking Upward.  It provides many different ecosystems and a more leisurely upward hike.  This would be a perfect backpacking trip for late Fall through early Spring.  But it would be cold.  Jill was cold today with the high winds and the sun behind the clouds.  Great to pair with the Mt. Pleasant hike the week before.

Keep on Puggin’…..