Monday, October 17, 2011

Great Falls in the Fall

As promised, I returned to Great Falls Park over the weekend to spend some more time there.  This time, with guest hiker Hawi, I completed almost all of Hike 32: Riverbend Park and Great Falls Park from 60 Hikes.  The book says this hike is 9.8 miles - but I think we accidentally got onto one of the 'shorter option' trails and also, we didn't do the shorter section down by the Falls.  However - with the powers of my hike with Matt, combined with Saturday's hike with Hawi, I can say I have completed the whole thing - From Riverbend to Great Falls.
The Map from 60 Hikes

I remember being confused by the above map when Matt and I did this hike earlier in the year because we had walked around the Falls and other than a 1.5 or 2 mile hike at the Southern end of the Falls - there didn't seem to be much else.  Well - look West little hikers.  Or North.  Whatever - I don't do directions.  Essentially though, while Matt and I had stood at the Falls and turned right, Hawi and I took a left.  And that has made all the difference. (Ha - a little Frost trail humor, if you will).

Hawi and I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day to hike.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky, it was a crisp 70 degrees and the Fall leaves were all shades of orange and yellow.  We walked up the river and I was like - phew - this is hiking.  If you look at the map - We started around 9:55 AM at the 3rd "P" from the bottom and walked up and around back down to the Mather Gorge and then back to the car.  We were done around 1:15.  Including our brief picnic for lunch.  60 Hikes says we reached an elevation of 2200 feet!  Most of the hike was leisurely up the river, through the woods, and back to the park parking lot.  But - Hawi and I were sweating by the end and we had our out of breath moments from heading uphill.

There are 2 significant stories that came from Saturday's adventure.  1 - I learned how to read a map.  Seriously, they paint on the trees and sometimes you feel totally lost.  I'm pretty sure that when we were supposed to be on the red trail, we were accidentally on the orange trail (cutting our hike a tad shorter) but like a Last of the Mohican I was all over those tree markers leading the way.  2 - We had some snake run-ins and I still hate nature.

Where we started.

Good thing I made my horse wait back at the car.

Hawi and Me at Riverbend Park Nature Center

I'm not sure we ever made it to the Bootlegger Trail - we diverted to the Highlands Trail


Fall Leaves!

Follow the Orange Tree Road

And we made it back to the Falls!!!

Those people are standing on the Maryland side of the park....I was standing in VA looking at MD!

The Snake Story:

We saw TWO of these Black Rat Snakes while trekking the trail.  This guy was the first one we saw.  And we aren't even the ones who saw it - we were walking with a park volunteer briefly while he helped us find the trail from the Riverbend Nature Center and he alerted us to this guy.  I would have just kept walking on...oblivious...until I stepped on it.  Yuck.  Well Hawi and I freaked out and I'm pretty sure that said-volunteer was beyond annoyed that neither of us would cross the path with this snake on it.  In our defense - it didn't help that the guy told us the snake might be poisonous.  I kept picturing the snake striking faster than my human legs could get away, like they show on the Discovery Channel.  In the end - the volunteer stood in front of the snake and we crossed behind him.  

We had a chance to redeem ourselves later in the day when we saw the second of this harmless snake in the parking lot on the way back to the car.  I don't know what this snake was doing, but he was right in the middle of the parking lot entrance.  2 cars saw mine and Hawi's reactions and figured out that they shouldn't drive over the snake.  The third car threw caution to the wind and ran right over it.  Rude - we are in his house.  We decided that our good nature deed of the day would be to go find a park ranger.  I explained that the snake seemed to still be alive but it's tail was all crinkled and it wasn't moving.  The park ranger radio'd (or fake-radio'd - who knows) her boss.  We'll never know if that little guy made it - but I can sleep at night knowing I'm not a killer of God's creatures.

That guy that ran over it certainly can't say the same.

1 comment:

  1. April and I were at Great Falls 2 weekends ago. Luckily, we did not spot any snakes! Beautiful park - hope to go again in the spring. Maybe it will be an I Like Angry Hike combo post?