Our Top Ten Favorite Hikes – 2nd Anniversary

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Stone Mountain Trail

We have crossed another milestone.  Two years ago today, on March 1, 2012, we embarked on our new lifestyle of living on the road.  One of our many goals was to continue to exercise and be active.  Building on what I began last year, and to commemorate our 2nd year of full timing, I have compiled our new set of favorite hike/walk trails.  This top ten list covers the trails we explored between March 1, 2013 and Feb 28, 2014.  It does not include the dozens of beach walks we took while on the east coast.  Although we love long walks on the beach, they tend to be fairly similar and we decided not to try to rate them.

Our criteria has remained the same, and that is: (1) the trail had an awesome reward at the end (2) the trail was well-maintained and (3) the experience along the way was memorable.  These trails were fairly short, and some even overlapped each other – unlike the ones we blazed out West.

Below are our top ten favorite hiking/walking experiences.  Clicking on the name of the trail will take you to a website that describes it further.  The “Click related post here” link will take you to our posting that included the hike/walk.

1. Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail – Acadia National Park, Maine

Click related post here.

Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail

Going down Cadillac Mountain

2. Buck Hollow Trail – Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Click related post here.

3. Combined Trails at Schoodic Peninsula – Acadia National Park, Maine

(Anvil Trail, Adler Trail, East Trail and  Schoodic Mountain Summit)

Click related post here.

 

4. Sleeping Beauty Trail – Lake George, New York

Click related post here.

Sleeping beauty trail, Lake George

Sleeping Beauty summit

At the Sleeping Beauty summit – what can we say?

5. Overlapping Trails at Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

(Allegheny Trail, Yellow Birch Trail, Elakala Trail, Red Spruce Trail, Balanced Rock Trail and Lindy Point Overlook)

Click related post here.

6. Overlapping Trails at Stone Mountain Park – Atlanta, Georgia

( Walk-Up Trail with connections to Cherokee Trail, Nature Garden Trail and  Songbird Habitat Trail)

Click related post here.

7. Overlapping trails of Cavendish Duneland Trail and Homestead Trail – PEI National Park, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Click related post here.

Cavendish Duneland Trail

Cavendish Duneland Trail

Homestead Trail PEI

Homestead Trail

8. Niagara Gorge Trail – Niagara, New York

Click related post here.

Whirlpool Bridges, Niagara

Upper Great Gorge Hike

Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike

Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike

9. Black Ridge/Rock Castle Gorge Trail – Blue Ridge Mountains, VA

Click related post here.

10. Lake Monroe Conservation Area – Osteen, Florida

Click related post here.

Lake Monroe Conservation Area

How about you?  Do you have a favorite hiking trail to share with us and our friends who might be there one day?

Next up:  Our Top Seven Favorite Bike Rides – 2nd Anniversary Post

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Oh no! not another history lesson?

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Colonial Williamsburg

wpid18679-2013-10-25-VA-1170984.jpgContinuing southward after that mind-numbing stop at the nation’s capital, we drove less than 200 miles and parked Betsy in Williamsburg, VA.  One of our rules is to try not to drive more than 200 miles to our next destination (the only exception was when we were in Alaska).  Following that rule, we will have a sloooow southward migration to Florida, making several stops before we finally vegetate for the winter (haven’t done that yet!).

As you may know, my posts can be tinged with a bit of history from time to time.  As we’ve traveled through the eastern states this year, we’ve really gotten hooked on the history spanning from before the American Revolution through the Civil War years.  I’ll try not to bore…

Williamsburg brick bridge

After getting Betsy parked and set up, our first visit was to Colonial Williamsburg.  From the visitor center, we followed the path across a footbridge back into 1774, walking under thick double brick bridges and following the trail taking us to the historic town.

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg is billed as the largest living history museum in Virginia, a restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest and most populous outpost of empire in the New World.  When you enter the historic town you are brought back into the time when life was simple, yet still under control of the monarchs in Great Britain.

Colonial Williamsburg

Which way to the eighteenth century?  Wow, do I look out of place or what?

The historic area is 301 acres of restored, reconstructed and refurnished historic buildings.  We tried not to compare this with our stop at Louisbourg in Canada, which was also a reconstruction.  But Colonial Williamsburg is older by 100 years, and Louisbourg was a fortress, not a colony.

Colonial Williamsburg

Steve told me this is how they used to “cruise for chicks” back in the 1700’s

To complete Virginia’s historic triangle, we went from Williamsburg – via the scenic Colonial Parkway – to Yorktown Battlefield, and then on to Jamestown.  Once again the documentary we saw several months ago – “America: The Story of Us,” – was coming to life in front of us.  The documentary began the story from the successful English settlement of Jamestown, beginning in 1607.  And here we were, walking through and experiencing the actual location of America’s first permanent English colony – established by a group of 104 men and boys on May 13, 1607.  They actually  landed on the shores of the James River 13 years before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts

We found the Voorhees Archaearium very interesting, as we perused the many archaeological remains of the old James Fort.  Too bad photography was not allowed inside the museum, for there were centuries-old “skeletal remains” that told a fascinating story and have been featured on the History Channel.

At the Yorktown Battlefield, we learned about the defeat of the British by the joint American and French forces led by Gen. George Washington.  After viewing the 16-minute film, we walked behind the British defensive earthworks, then drove the self-guided seven mile battlefield tour.  We stopped at the “surrender field”, where some of the spoils of war captured by Allied forces were displayed.

Surrender Field

Display of the trophies of war

The inscription on each of the mounted trophies of British brass guns, howitzers and mortars read “SURRENDERED BY THE CAPITULATION OF YORKTOWN OCT 19, 1781”.

Surrendered BY the CAPITULATION of YORKTOWN, Oct 19,1781

Inscription found on surrendered British weapons

On that date, British troops lay down their weapons following the surrender.  Yorktown is remembered as the place where the British surrendered to General Washington, ending the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War.  It also remained in Union control during most of the Civil War.

Surrender Field, Battlefield Yorktown

It’s hard to imagine thousands of British soldiers laying down their weapons on this field, as many thousands of Allied soldiers looked on.

I haven’t even mentioned just how significant the state of Virginia is, for I’m skipping many details learned during our historical exploration.  But if you like history or are a history buff, I’d say visiting here is definitely worth your time.  Virginia is where it all began in 1607!

Colonial Williamsburg

About an hour’s drive from Williamsburg is Norfolk, where my childhood friends Kathy and Janice live.  Good food and lots of laughter ensued as we reminisced our childhood days.  As the girls were yacking away in our dialect, the boys, Edwin and Steve enjoyed their own exploration.

Moalboal

Janice, Kathy and I

Since Edwin had access to Norfolk Navy Base, Steve was excited to get a personal tour of the docks and other areas.

Navy Submarine

Submarine at Norfolk

Floating Hospital

Floating hospital, and there are bigger ones than this!

George W Bush Air Carrier

The George H. W. Bush aircraft carrier was in town

Finally, they made a stop at the excellent Douglas MacArthur Memorial Museum.

Gen MacArthur

Inside the MacArthur Memorial

MacArthurs Tomb

The bodies of  MacArthur and his wife were interred here in Norfolk, the home town of the general’s mother.

Gen MacArthur

After this final stop in Virginia, we are finally done with our history lessons!  Since I did not learn much American history in school, our escapades have been very enlightening and I think it’s sticking in my brain much better than if I had to read about it in books.

So, beginning with our next stop, our slow trek to Florida will be along the Atlantic coast – which means lot of beautiful beaches!  If the weather holds, that is.

Next up:  The Outer banks of North Carolina

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Meandering along Skyline Drive – Northern VA

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Skyline Drive

Driving through the state of Virginia, we learned quickly that it is not only steeped with history but also rich in natural beauty.  This was very evident as we drove north along country roads to our next destination.  We were  graced with the green lushness of the countryside dotted with wildflowers, the beautiful farms and the small charming towns.  Our last stop in Virginia was at Luray in scenic Page County.

wpid13291-2013-06-22-VA-1000716.jpg

On our first day at Shenandoah National Park we headed south and were met with heavy fog at the higher elevations.  We drove slowly, but because we were unfamiliar with the curves of Skyline Drive we turned around as soon as we saw a safe place to do so.  We did not intend to leave the park empty-handed; instead we looked for a place where we could wait out the fog.  We learned later on that it was at Mile 35 near the Pinnacles Overlook where we made our u-turn.

Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles.  At its southern end it joins the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we were a few days ago.  Unlike the Blue Ridge Parkway where most of the scenic overlooks have overgrown trees blocking the view, Skyline Drive has beautiful and plentiful overlooks.

Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah Valley viewed from Stony Man Overlook

Once we got back below the fog, we stumbled onto a gorgeous hiking trail, Buck Hollow.  This is the  3-mile portion of a longer trail, and it’s pretty much a constant descent and rather steep in several sections.  We were paralleling the Buck Hollow stream and at some points made a few rock-hops across the water.  The constant descent going in let us know we’d get a good workout on the way back.  Steve saw a black bear cub, but it smelled him quickly and ran away.  This is really bear and deer country.

We saw these colorful critters and some mushrooms or fungi.

The fog had lifted after our hike , so we continued on to the highest point of the park at the Skyland area.  We stopped first at the Stony Man overlook and took a picture of Stony mountain, where we could follow a trail that led to Stony Man Summit.

Stony Man Overlook

Stony Man Overlook, viewed from the summit…

Stony Man summit

…and Stony Man summit viewed from the overlook

The trail to the summit was an easy 1.6 mile hike, ending with excellent panoramic views.  Unfortunately, some patches of fog were still there and partially obscured our view on this day.

Stony Man Summit

We made it to the Stony Man Summit

The next day was sunny, and we wanted to make use of our 7-day, $15 entrance fee.  This time we headed north and pulled off at many of the over 75 scenic overlooks to see the views.  We went almost all the way to the north entrance and stopped at Mile 5, the Dicky Ridge Visitor Center.

On this drive we met some of the frequent visitors cruising along Skyline, motorcyclists of all shapes and kinds and colors.  It was wonderful to see the wildflowers blooming and wild animals running away from us as we cruised along.

Skyline Drive

Bikers of all colors, brands and sizes

Blooming Wildflowers

Blooming wildflowers along overlooks

There are over 500 hiking trails to explore in the park, and on this day we tackled the Compton Peak Trail, a steady elevation increase of about 835 feet to the summit of Compton Mountain.  There were some steep spots, but the 2.4 mile hike was fairly easy.  At the summit were two side trails, one leading to broad mountain views…

Compton Peak

A pose at Compton Peak

…and the other to an interesting rocky outcrop with columnar joints.

Columnar Joints at Compton Mountain

Looking up at the rocky columnar joints

And along the way we saw more interesting mushrooms or fungi.

There are many more hiking trails and miles for us to explore along the Skyline Drive, we’ll just have to come back to experience more of the Shenandoah National Park.

Finally during this stop, we took a quick side trip for a tour of the Route 11 brand potato chip factory.  We had never heard of the wheat and gluten-free Route 11 brand of chips until Steve stumbled on it while searching for an RV park in Luray.  The Mama Zumma’s flavor, packed with Habanero pepper seasoning, set our mouths on fire and had us grabbing for a cold beer.  Several flavors of these yummy chips are sold at Whole Foods and other stores.

Our base camp was at Outlanders River Camp and we chose it for its proximity to the Shenandoah National Park.  We loved it, for we were surrounded by beautiful greenery and all of the nearby mountains.  You can see Steve’s review here, if you’re interested.

Outlanders River Camp

Panoramic view of Outlanders River Camp

And when the sun came out we enjoyed it to the fullest, with a campfire – even on a hot and humid day.

Outlanders River Camp

Enjoying the sunset

And these lovely duckies were fun to watch!

Ducks

These guys were checking us out as we approached on our evening walk

Green Bee

Green bee – see the ant looking at him?

Next up:  Blackwater beauty, WV

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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – Thomas Jefferson

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Appomattox Court House

 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….an excerpt of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson.

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson’s most enduring monument.  We were reminded of that and learned much more history at Monticello.

Monticello, “Little Mountain”, is a remarkable house and one of America’s most famous.  This  was the home of Thomas Jefferson, the third US President.  He designed and redesigned and built and rebuilt  his home over a period of more than forty years.  The 35-minute house tour allowed us to see the inside areas filled with ingenious devices and mementos of this brainy revered founding father.  We were extra attentive, as no photography is allowed on the house tour.  Hearing the docent tell stories about this amazing man took us back over 200 years.  What struck me the most was the polygraph that he invented and used.  It is a copying machine with two pens, where when he writes with one pen, the other made an exact copy – very ingenious!  He started his day at 3AM, writing letters for the next fours hours.  His eloquence in writing prompted John Adams, the second President of the US, to ask Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence.  And of course the issue about his dalliance with Sally Hemings, an enslaved lady’s maid, was asked and confirmed – TJ was the father of her children.

The house tour was a little rushed, but if you are a history buff and admire architecture you will love it.

Monticello

Little Mountain – Monticello

We took the time to check out the basement, which used to be the hub of “dependencies”, activities where slaves performed their daily household work unseen and unnoticed by guests.

On the grounds we joined the Slavery at Monticello Tour, at the Mulberry Row.  Since the structures no longer exist, we listened and imagined the guide’s many stories about activities and life at Mulberry Row.  This street was populated by more than 20 dwellings, the center of work and domestic life for dozens of people — free whites, free blacks, indentured servants, and enslaved people.  Some of the buildings are due to be rebuilt within the next year or so.

Mulberry Row

Mulberry Row

Thomas Jefferson's Vegetable Garden

Dubbed “Revolutionary Vegetable Garden”, this is where TJ did some farming/agriculture experimentation.

Jeffersons Grave

Jefferson’s grave

The visitor center holds various exhibits that required some time and attention to go through.  Below is an illustration of the development and ongoing influence of his core ideas about liberty, on a wall of 21 flat -panel LCD screens and seven interactive touch screens.  I even learned that some sayings my mom used to teach me were actually written by Thomas Jefferson, such as ” Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

Boisterous sea of liberty

The next day we stumbled onto yet another historical place, the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park.  Little did we know that we had just closed the loop on the Confederacy Trail from Montgomery, AL where the first salvo to cecede from the Union began, to Appomattox Court House, VA where the civil war ended and the nation became one again.

On April 9, 1865 Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his men to Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all United States forces.  We walked the old country lane where these events took place and in the solitude imagined the activities of those April days in 1865.

Appomattox Court House

Appomattox County Jail

But the best part of this stop was visiting my cousins Vellie and Phebe.  We visited Phebe and Dan at their home in Lynchburg, VA where they showed us their organic garden and served up a delicious meal.

Harry and Vellie Hall gave us a tour of their B&B and Boutique at Diamond Hill Retreat in the city of Charlotte Court house, VA.  It was great to see them again!

Our three-day stay at Paradise Island RV Park was packed with historical lessons and reconnecting with cousins.  We didn’t like this RV park much, so it was fortunate that we spent very little time here – Steve’s review is here.

Upnext:  Skyline Drive in Virginia!

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More of the Blue Ridge Parkway – onward through Virginia!

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Blue Ridge Parkway

We were happy that we made it to Meadows of Dan in Virginia just before the onslaught of pounding rain for the next couple of days.  Then, after just one sunny day as a reprieve, along came a severe weather warning.  Our park host knocked at the door to make sure we had heard the warning and gotten ourselves ready by 3PM for what was to come.  We were fortunate that the brunt of the storm passed to the north and we had only a short but strong storm blow through.  Roanoke and points north did not fare so well.

When the winds and the rain decided to give us a break we ventured out once more to the Blue Ridge Parkway on the Virginia end, marked “B” on the map below.  The “B” covers milepost 154 to milepost 213.  We covered the “A” section during our stay in North Carolina, covered in our previous post.  There are so many places to pause along the Parkway…and on this stop our base camp was at Meadows of Dan, a small mountain town.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway – Americas favorite scenic drive!

Driving along the Parkway is not just about the built-in distractions – mountains, clouds, flowers and the curves – but also about the wines, area music and the hiking trails.  And so much more!

The music.

At milepost 213 is the Blue Ridge Music Center, dedicated to continuing and keeping alive some of the richest traditions of mountain music and dance.  Inside is an interactive exhibit “The Roots of American Music” that tells the compelling story of the region’s rich musical heritage.

Blue Ride Music Center

Blue Ridge Music Center

We listened to some old time music, mountain music and bluegrass tunes at one of the hotspots along “The  Crooked Road” in Floyd, VA.  Here we witnessed young and old alike jamming along the streets, showcasing the area’s musical heritage passed down through generations.  We enjoyed watching and listening to unfamiliar but beautiful music, which is what the locals provide all along Main Street on Friday nights during the summer months.  It was a very cool way to spend the evening after a nice dinner at a local winery.

The wine and chocolates

We missed the wineries in NC, so we visited two along the Parkway and took the time to taste local Virginia wines.  The husband and wife team at Villa Appalaccia Winery and Vineyards specializes in “italian inspired” Virginia wines.  We liked their wines so much that Steve came out with a few bottles in a box (gee, that’s never happened before!).  Then after a strenuous afternoon of wine tasting we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Chateau Morrisette paired with their yummy Chardonnay.  This winery was a bit more commercialized, and we found their wines to be just okay.  But wow, what a restaurant!

Some of you may know that chocolate is one of my life’s pleasures.  When we stumbled upon Nancy Candy Co., a local candy factory in the small mountain town of Meadows of Dan, I got in and out with my own bundle of sweetness!  Wine and chocolate – what more can I say?

The hikes.

With the abundance of hiking trails along the Parkway, we made sure to hit a couple along our route.  While following the Black Ridge/Rock Castle Gorge Trail, we came atop rolling hills and meadows that just forced me to put on the hat of Maria and sing …”The hills are alive …”  Steve took cover, but managed to get the photo below as he ran away.

Rock Castle Gorge Trail

The hills are alive…

We also tackled the Smart View Loop, where Steve saw a young black bear.  Unfortunately, it took off like a bullet before we could even aim the camera.

Despite a forecast of rain and fog we still trekked onto the Flat Top Trail.  This trail makes a fairly steep and constant ascent, and even though it was only about 2 miles one-way, it was one of the most exhausting we have taken.  Coupled with fog and a driving rain that started on our way back to the car and soaked us completely, not one of our most comfortable hikes.

At the Fairy State Park we hit four moderate trails; the Beach trail, Little Mountain Falls trail, Oak Hickory Trail and Stuarts Knob trail that led us to Little Waterfall, a ridge overlook and a beach overlook and very green trail.

And of course, the beautiful scenery…

As you can see, we only explored a sliver of the 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  One can make the odyssey while experiencing many worthwhile attractions along the way, beginning at Mile 0 in Virginia and ending at mile 469 at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

Mabry Mill

Mabry Mill

Blue Ridge Parkway

Farm along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Several styles of very old fencing meander along the Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Yet another farm along the Parkway

We really liked the Meadows of Dan Campground, for it was quiet and the meadows were sooo green.  Click here if you’d like to read Steve’s review.

Meadows of Dan, VA

Meadows of Dan Campground, almost all to ourselves!

And lastly, a gorgeous sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Sunset at Blue Ridge Mountains

Gorgeous Sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains

Next up:  A visit to Monticello!

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