Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thornton River Hike

Had a lovely night at Matthew’s Arm! It was dark and quiet and chilly!  A nice change from the Wal-Mart! :-)

The great part about camping in the park is that I can get an early start on my hike!  I was up by 7 and on the trail by 9!  It was a chilly morning and I was kinda wishing I’d brought my fleece pants to put on over my shorts when I was eating breakfast!  It was comfortable as long as I was moving, but sitting at the picnic table eating it was really cold!

I checked out of the campground and moved the van over to the Elkwallow Wayside.  They had some nice parallel parking spots just perfect for Roxy!  I got the rest of my stuff together and headed out. 

The 1st mile was uphill and it was nice because it warmed me up!  I was moving at a good pace and the first few miles just flew by! I was 1/2 way though the hike and it was only 11:15! When you estimate hiking times you assume a 2 mph hour pace and then add an hour for each 1,000 feet of elevation change.  This hike was 10.6 miles and had 1,100 ft of elevation change so it should take about 6 hours to hike.  I’m usually a slow hiker so I figured it would take me at least 6 hours, probably more like 7 or 8 to finish the hike.  You can imagine my surprise when I was back at the van at 2:30!  10 miles, 1,100 feet, in 5 1/2 hours! WOW! I didn’t even feel like I was hiking super fast, it didn’t tire me out like I expected it to. 

While this hike was rated as “strenuous” in my guide book, I will say that it was A LOT easier than some of the shorter hikes Dad and I did in the Adirondacks!  1,000 feet of elevation change over 10 miles is a lot different than 1,000 feet over 2.5 miles!  And, interestingly enough those short steep climbs took almost as much time as my 10 mile loop!

The 1st half of the hike I saw no one! I had the woods all to myself!  I could tell that I was the 1st one to come down the trail too because of all the spider webs! Luckily the sun was hitting them just right so they glistened and I could see them in time to swing my hiking stick at them!  Walking into a spider web is never fun – you have to get that invisible web off you and then you always wonder if the spider might be crawling on you!

Just passed the halfway point in the hike I crossed the Thornton River for the 1st time.  I decided that it was a good place to stop for a rest and to eat snack so I puleed up a log and sat by the edge of the river.  The river was almost dry, mostly just a bed of rocks, but it was still a pretty spot in the quiet peaceful woods!

Not long after I sat down another hiker came up the trail.  He was wearing a fanny pack and had a large stick, almost more of a branch, stuck in the waist band of the fanny pack.  The stick was about 5 feet long and sticking out in front of him.  It looked rather dumb and I was wondering what purpose the stick was serving.  It was too flimsy to be a hiking stick, and it looked like he’d clearly put it there on purpose.  I was wishing I could have gotten a picture of him but there was no way to do it discreetly.  As he headed up the trail I was glad I’d stopped so he could pass me, now I wouldn’t walk into any more spider webs, he’d break through them 1st.  And that’s when it hit me what the stick was for!  It was sticking out just enough in front of him that it would hit the web before his face did!  Genius! 

A few minutes after “Spider Web Stick” Man passed me a group of about 15 Asian Women came along.  They were in the middle of crossing the creek when the rest of the group – the 15 Asian men, came along.  They were all yakking with each other in their language, although a few did say “Hi” to me.  One even peeked in my backpack and declared my carrots, sugar snap peas and hummus healthy. (Thanks, I was unsure until I got your approval!) I was sitting on a log, mostly in the middle of the trail so I was suddenly surrounded by a huge crowd of folks all speaking in a language that I didn’t understand.  One minute I was enjoying a quiet morning by a peaceful river and the next I’d been transported to a busy park in Tokyo or something.  It was a little “Twilight Zone”.  The large group had finally passed me by and I was planning on sitting there a bit longer to put more space between us, but I could sit hear them so I looked over my shoulder and discovered they’d stopped for lunch a few feet from where I was sitting.  I quickly threw the rest of my carrots in my backpack and started hauling ass up the hill to get away from them.  I never encountered them again!

Quickly I arrived at Skyline Dr and then the harder part of the trail started.  Hiking is 95% mental and 5% physical (or something like that), and that’s what happened after Skyline Dr.  There was a spur trail up to the AT, and in my head “spur trail” = “easy”.  Ummmmm…no.  The spur trail was steeper than the trail up out of the Thornton Hollow!  And it was longer than I expected!  Also, I had in my head that once I hit the AT I was almost done.  Again, not quite, it was still 2.6 miles.  And, most of those 2.6 miles were downhill. 

I’d hiked this section before and I knew how grueling that downhill was but I didn’t remember until I was about 1/2 way through it.  The last time I hiked that section I’d done an 11 mile day hike (and I was not in the physical condition to handle that) and I had crappy boots.  It was during that downhill that I seriously considered taking off my boots since I was pretty sure walking on the trail barefoot would have been less painful.  And then I saw a bear!  My 1st “on the trail” bear!  So it was an exciting day!

Today however, there were no bears along the trail and my feet weren’t hurting as bad, but my legs were! I ended up pulling out my phone and playing a little Dave Matthews Band to cheer me along.  I didn’t use my headphones, just the external speaker and dropped the phone in my pocket. I didn’t see any other hikers so I didn’t disturb their enjoyment. 

I was really excited when I got back to the RV at 2:30!  A big hike like that in just 5 1/2 hours is HUGE for me!

The RV was sitting in the sun so was hot, hot, hot.  Just because I could I decided to take a shower!  So fun to just be able to shower where ever, when ever! 

Once I was cleaned up I started driving home.  I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I needed time at home this weekend. 

I got home around 6 and quickly unloaded and took the RV back to Holly Acres, dumped (I filled the tank this trip!  I’m pretty sure I put in a lot more water than I needed to (for the toilet chemical) after the last dump), and was home by 7:00! 

It was a great quickie trip & hike! Looking forward to more fall camping in the coming weeks! :-)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Matthew’s Arm

When Dad and I were hiking in the Adirondacks I realized that I needed to start including more elevation gain & loss in my workout routine so decided to try and do a hike that included at least a 1,000 ft of elevation change at least once a month.  I figured I could Septembers hike in this weekend since I already had the RV out for Back to School Night. 

I left school a bit late and had some traffic to deal with, but that was ok because I was stopping at the farm to get my CSA stuff.  Leigh had told me that he puts the boxes of stuff “by where you turn off the paved road on to the farm driveway”.  When you go to the farm you turn off a paved road onto a dirt road and then from the dirt road on the farm driveway.  So was Leigh calling the dirt road the farm driveway or was he calling the dirt road the paved road?  This could go either way.  I found a place to park the van off the paved road and decided to head in on foot – it’s about a mile back to the farm.  I was almost to the farm when I encountered Leigh heading out in the farm van to put the shares out and go to Manassas for the pick up.  He offered me a ride back to the real paved road – I accepted mostly because I wanted to get the CSA stuff quick and get to the park.  I’m so glad I did!  It’s clear that Leigh drives this road in his truck regularly…I’m pretty sure he hit 40 mph – on a one lane narrow dirt road – and I know we caught air at least once!  It was like a 2 min roller coaster!  When we got to the paved road he pulled the shares out and I got my stuff and was on my way!

It was after 6 before I got to Matthew’s Arm but I was lucky enough to get the last spot in the “wifi” area! There’s a handful of spots at the top of the mountain that have great cell reception!  Turns out I got the site right out from under someone else who was trying to claim it!  1st come, 1st served! 

It looked like it might be hard to back in but somehow I just put it in reverse and cut the wheel and popped it right in on the 1st try!  I was amazed with myself!

By the time I went down to register and pay and walked back it was almost 7:00 – generator hours end at 7 and I needed to microwave my dinner!!!!  I pretty much ran up the hill, getting back at 6:55!  I managed to get dinner heated and the generator off by 7:01! I had a partial back up plan – I’d gotten eggs at the farm and I could have made scrambled eggs – I even had an onion, a green pepper and some potatoes all of which I could have cooked up on the stove, but I didn’t have any oil or seasonings.  Gotta keep that stuff in my “always gets packed” basket.

By the time I was done with dinner it was dark!  Gets dark early these days! I like it because it gets dark closer to my bedtime! I did get in a walk around the campground before chores, blogging and now reading!

Tomorrow I’m planning a 10.6 mile hike in Thornton Hollow – which is advertised to be some of the best bear country in the park!

Back to School Night: RV Style

This is my 11th year teaching and since I live so far away from my school I’ve never been able to go home between school and an evening event. Until now. :-)

Thursday I drove my RV to school with plans to stay at the Chantilly Wal-Mart, just minutes from school!

After school I ran out to get propane and Noodles & Company for dinner and then came back to school in hopes of grabbing a level parking spot in the lot.  Usually when I drive the RV to school I park on the street away from the main parking areas but it’s not level so I turn the fridge off.  Tonight however I wanted to get the fridge going since the blue ice in the cooler was thawing. 

There were a bunch of level spots available when I got back and somehow, miraculously, I was able to shoehorn the RV into one of them!  These spots were painted on before the days of SUVs and big cars! I frequently have a hard time getting my Saturn VUE into just one spot so getting the RV in felt like an achievement!  I was worried about it being tight for the person who parked next to me but luckily a friend of mine (who’s parents have a RoadTrek) came along soon and parked next to me! :-)

In between showing off the RV to the kids playing on the playground and teachers returning for Back to School night I was able to eat my dinner, do a little Facebooking, listen to the new Dave Matthews Band Album and get my bed ready and other “chores”.  It was a nice break from school!

It was so nice to not be watching the clock worrying about getting home super late (the event ended at 8:30, which is what time I usually go to bed and it’s at least a 45 min drive home!).   Left school at 8:35 and I was at Wal-Mart in bed (with my book and my phone!) by 8:45! YAY!

The Wal-Mart wasn’t bad…it was more the airplanes that kept me up than anything else.  I shoulda been able to predict that – Dulles is a few miles away and sometimes the planes rattle the trailer at school! It wasn’t my best night of sleep, but it was way better than the night in Allentown back in July! :-)

It was so nice to sleep in a full hour from when I get up at home! I got all ready for school and had an 8 minute commute!

Now I’m kinda looking forward to evening events at school! :-)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Propane Tank Needs to be filled too ya know…

Last weekend I spent some time loading and packing Roxy for this week’s adventures.  I was especially concerned about getting everything I thought I might need because I’d pretty much completely unloaded it when I got back from the Adirondacks.  I took a bunch of stuff over and got it put away, I even took Roxy out for a “joyride” to fill up the fuel tank so I wouldn’t have to do that after school Wed.  I thought I was prepared as humanly possible and all I’d have to do Wed night was fill the fresh water tank and pack the food and the last minute stuff .

Wednesday evening I, of course left school late, and was feeling crunched for time when I finally got home around 6:00.  I got the RV leveled and started turning things on – the propane then the battery.  When I connected the battery I randomly decided to check the tank levels and noticed that the propane tank was registering E, as in empty. WHAT?!?!!

I was pretty sure I’d had a partial tank of propane when I put it away so I was kinda worried that maybe there was a leak.  However, the more I thought about it I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d checked the propane levels.  But, I was still convinced that there’d be *some* when I put it in storage. 

I attempted to light the stove and it wouldn’t light. grrr…

I wasn’t sure what to do – take it to get propane?  Take it to get serviced?  Try to go camping without propane? (which means no coffee, no shower, no generator, no fridge…all the comforts of home…without propane this is just a vehicle!).  I called Professor Pleasure-Way (aka My Dad). 

We talked about possibilities and random propane leaks that spring up while RVs are in storage are rare so that seemed like an unlikely option.  As we talked we realized that I’d spent 23 days/nights using the RV since it’s last propane fill.  All but maybe 5 of those nights were dry camping meaning the fridge ran exclusively on propane and I used the generator.  Ummmm…yeah…the tank is empty…you used it all!!!!!  DUH!

I got the RV all packed up, put my food for the weekend in a cooler and went to get propane after school Thurs at the UHaul in Chantilly!  I learned a lot about how the system works and I’m not sure it was filled properly the last time…  I’m not sure what’s correct and what’s not, I think I need to do some research on propane systems so I can be more educated about how it works so I know if they are doing it right!  Propane is so important to RVing, but it’s also dangerous so I want it done right!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I Couldn’t Help Myself…

When I was shopping for my RV I was thinking I’d end up buying an older model that would come to me with many miles on it and be rather beat up.  I decided that I’d cover the whole thing with stickers from places I’d been or with fun sayings, kinda like an old suitcase.  When I bought Roxy and she was basically brand new I decided that my sticker plan would have to wait a few years until she is more beat up. 

But then I saw this, on Cafe Press:












I just had to have it and I had to put it on Roxy!



I hope that folks who see it get a chuckle, and they see the irony! :-)

I also hope that this isn’t the start of a very slippery slope! :-)