18 May 2017

Day Hikes around Beagle Gap, Shenandoah National Park


Near prefect conditions will be the way I will remember this day in early April. There was a clear view down to the Shenandoah Valley and you could see back to Charlottesville, VA. This hike was a daughter and Dad day hike and she had asked to keep it shorter than the Doyle River Loop we did back in October.

My plan was to enter the park in the South District and head north only around 5-7 miles which would put us at Beagle Gap. From there we would be able to get in two short day hikes and would not spend a lot of time driving up the Parkway to get to a trail head. 

Beagle Gap sits between Bear Den Mountain and Little Calf Mountain. What's cool about this area that on both side of the Skyline Drive are meadows. This area was part of the Royal Orchard.


Lower Meadow Bear Den Mountain at Bagle Gap



Our first leg of our day hike would take us up to the top of Bear Den Mountain via the Appalachian Trail. This area of the trail is not in Shenandoah National Park, but in the Appalachian Trail Park. At the top of Bear Den Mountain is the location of two radio antenna farms.  

Illegal Camp Fire Site

On our way up there was a side trail that took us to some rocks. As you can see in the picture above some idiot made a illegal camp fire. They did a good job of covering up the spot... But as you can see the small tree did sustain some damage. This was a very bad spot for a camp fire due to all the pine needles. Last year the Rocky Mount Fire took place 16 April 2016 and was the 2nd largest fire in the parks 90 year history which burned 10,326 acres. I am sure that fire was caused by humans.


Family Picnic Site

Back in the mid 90's you could see down in the valley from this location. This spot is just off the AT and the radio towers are behind me. There are about four old tractor seats that at this location which makes a great place for a lunch. The owners of what was the Royal Orchard use to come to this spot for family picnics and to watch fire works.


Steel Table

I don't know how many times you are going to find a half inch steel table in the mountains, but we found one here and we used it to make our lunch. My daughter likes the backpacking meals and she has a fun time helping fix our meal.


Apple Tree Blossom 

The old apple trees are just starting to bloom.


The second leg of our hike takes us up to Little Calf Mountain. Just before getting to this point we met our first thru hiker of the season. He had start out on his hike 10 February and had just entered into the South District of the park. If you have a new PATC map of this section. the trail on the map does not match what is on the ground. This is not a big issue but just something to keep in mind. This also goes with some of the track logs and other online maps. Again not a big issue.

Little Calf Mountain

From Little Calf Mountain I wanted to make our way to Calf Mountain Shelter because I knew there was a spring there and I wanted to use my Sawyer Mini filter to be able to get some mountain spring water. I have to say, the Sawyer Mini is an easy filter system to use. 

Old Spring sign

The spring is in better shape that the sign. Depending on the time of the year and rain fall you will reach water running across the trail. This is not the spring. The spring has a white PVC pipe at the source.

Pictured below is a benchmark for the Appalachian Trail Park. I think by the end of the day we still hiked as far as we did in October... Whether you just hike Bear Den Mountain or Little Calf Mountain, both are get short family hikes that gives you a great place to stop and have lunch. 

Appalachian Trail survey marker

09 May 2017

Post are coming soon

I will be posting up some new content by the end of this week. I have had some issues with my Flickr account. 

12 March 2017

Banff Mountain World Tour 2017

This must be the 5th Banff Mountain World Tour post that I have put on the blog. This was the second year that there was a 3 night showing at the venue I attended. They showed a total of 24 films two of which were special edits for the show.
One of the things I like about the films is that they are about as diverse as the great outdoors. Every heard of canicross, scooterjoring or skijoring? Nither had I and I am not going to tell you what it is. Go to a Banff World Tour and see for yourself.
I am going to leave you with three trailers of the films that I enjoyed the most.
Elk River


Danny MacAskill Wee Day Out
 
The out takes were great!

Doing it Scared

Personally I think this was the best film.
I hope you  are able to catch a showing of the Banff Mountain World Tour and enjoy and be inspired by outdoor films

04 March 2017

Don't Let The Weather Fool You

I don't know if it's a normal cycle or part climate change, but it seems like winter has left Virginia early this year. Well maybe... This week we had a record breaking high of 81 and then in 24 hours the high is 33 degrees cooler. When I got up this morning it was 24 degrees! That is a huge difference.

My point of this post is a reminder for all of us that pursue outdoor activities. Don't let Mother Nature fool you during the months of March and April! This is the time of year that the weather will be nice and then two days later it will be cold again.

I can remember being in the Field for training in the early 90's and it was the first week in April. It had been nice that week and that weekend the weather turned on us, Cold and windy and it had rained Friday night. The guys that stayed the the GP Large tent was up most of the night digging a trench to keep the water from flooding the tent. I had found the best place to set-up my pup tent and had no issues. Late Saturday afternoon the commands started pulling the troops back to the barracks. With the mind set train as you fight I stayed out in the field and woke to a dusting of snow the next morning. Three seasons in one weekend...

Don't get caught being under perpared. Check the weather for the time period that you are going to be gone even if its just a few hours for a day hike or bike ride. Pack that shell and gloves in your pack! Something tells me you might need it.

Be Safe out there!

17 January 2017

Watching the Santos Tour Down Under-Tour Tracker is your Answer

I don't know about you but I find trying to watch any cycling (in the USA) or non-mainstream sports a challenge.  I started to see what was online or to see if there was an app that I could used to follow the race.
I was able to find the Santos Tour Down app by Tour Tracker. This is a free app that you can download from Google Play or itunes (see link below). What do you get for free? You get live coverage such as stats, news (which is like a feed every few mins. You also get a profile map and a course map. The video is delayed and starts at 9:00 p.m. EST
You also get stage details and teams and riders.
I am pleased with that and feel that I get what I am looking for and can enjoy an evening of cycling to end a long day. Last night I was having an issue with the video freezing up. So i figured i would email the app support link. I figured in a day or two the app might get updated to fix the issue. That was not the case at all. I received an email back from Tour Tracker that they also had seen the problem and within 30-45 mins I was watching without issue. During the night the app was updated! I was very surpise with the quick response.
I hope to be able to provide some information in the future of how best to watch cycling. If you have had success with apps or online cycling coverage please leave a remark below
Following the Santos Tour Down Under on Tour Tracker! Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.thetourtracker.tdu iPhone: http://itunes.apple.com/app/id930796407

28 December 2016

The 10 essentials

If you do a search on the 10 essentials you will get more articles on the subject than you could read in a life time. The articles for the most part list the same items.

The Original List :

Map
Compass
Sunglasses and sunscreen
Extra clothing
Headlamp/flashlight
First-aid supplies
Firestarter
Matches
Knife
Extra food

Then down at the bottom of the article they will list other items to carry. It might be listed as nice items to take or something like that.
Then there is;

The Essential System :

Navigation (map & compass)
Sun protection (sunglasses & sunscreen)
Insulation (extra clothing)
Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
First-aid supplies
Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)
Repair kit and tools
Nutrition (extra food)
Hydration (extra water)
Emergency shelter (tent/plastic tube tent/garbage bag)

Which are different words for the same 10 items.

Now if you did that same search but looked at the images tab you will see that folks carry far more than the 10 essentials when they are talking about just the 10 essentials. I don't think a Hatchet and a 8 inch fix blade knife is part of the list. But let’s face it, we just like gear!

So how is my post about the 10 essentials going to be any different than the other 10 thousand other articles out there on the subject?

Mission or activity dictates the gear. I want you to think about the 10 essentials in three parts. 1) System base list 2) Level and 3) Time

Let’s just start with the "Mission or Activity dictates the gear". If you are going out to get a 1 hour mountain bike or road ride, do you need the same gear for 5 hour ride?

Do you need the same gear for a 1 hour hike as you need for a 4 hour day hike?

The answer to both of those questions is Mission or activity dictates the gear. Using the parts 1) System base list  2) Level  and 3) Time

System Base List:

I like the system base list concept because it allows you to be able to adjust the list based on your mission or activity.

You pick and choose items for a essential category. Let’s take the essential category of fire. As a system it let's you take waterproof matches or if you like a mini lighter or maybe a fire kit that has a few matches, a striker and a fuel tab.

Remember mission or activity dictates the gear! If you are on a 1 hour bicycle ride on your local park trails or on the road then you don't need any items for fire. You should leave this essential category out of things to carry. Only carry what you need.

I have given it a lot of thought and I do not understand why either list has sun protection on it. I guess since moutaineers made the 10 essentials list back in the 1930s it was more of a concern. I thought at first that this would be better applied under first aid or should not be on the list at all. Then it hit me! It should be renamed as just protection. In this essential category it would cover sun protection but would also cover insect protection and chafing protection.

It might be a day where the sun is not out but the insects are bad or its black fly season. You would not need sun screen you would need insect repellent. So my system based list is going to change from sun protection to just protection. I guess I could have come up with a better name, but that's what I am going with for now.

LEVEL:

This is more of a military concept for mission essential equipment.  I believe we can adopt this same concept for any of your outdoor pursuits.

Level 1. This is the clothes and equipment worn by the individual. Examples of these items are your hat, jacket, belt, socks and boots. It would also include items from our essential list such as fire essential category (Carrying a lighter in your pocket). You might also carry the navigation essentials on you and not in your pack.

Level  2. This would be items that you would need for your short term activities. By short term I mean from 1 hour to a full day but your are not staying overnight. Examples would be that the items need from the system base list would be carried in a day pack.

Level 3. This would be items that you would need for long term. By long term I mean that you would be staying overnight or multiple days. Examples would be that you would carry these items in a backpack or panniers

In the scope of this post you would only be concerned with level 1 & 2.

When I was in the infantry we would carry our ruck (backpack) on the approach and then we would drop or cache our ruck before moving forward to the objective. I carried a small pack that was called a buttpack. This small pack might have some food, a poncho and some other items that I would need. But one day I got cut off from my main pack for 3 days. I learned from that point to have the items on me that I would need to survive. 

You might not get cut off from your main pack like I did but the point is to have the essentials on you.

Time:

I added time because your essentials will need to change with the amount of time that your mission or activity takes.  This will mostly effect nutrition and hydration.  The longer you are out the more food and water you need to take. Example, on a 1 hour bike ride you might only need to carry one water bottle with you. If you are to ride 5-7 hours then you might need two water bottles or a hydration system and energy bars.  You also might need some cash to stop at a store to purchase more water and food.

I did not want to add pictures to this post because I did not want folks to get wrapped up on the gear in the pictures. I want people to think about the essentials and what you need to have with you to have an successful and safe outing.

I will do a follow on post on the system base list concept and what the  gear would look like for level 1 and level 2 set up.

11 December 2016

Doyles River Loop, Shenandoah National Park

Jones Run Trail
A trip to Shenandoah National Park was well overdue and this was to be a daddy and daughter hike. For one reason or another we have not been able to make the trip. This past October we made it out for a day to catch the fall colors. We might have missed the peak by a couple of days but this trip did not disappoint . 

Are plan was to do the Doyles River Loop. Which is a 6.5 mile loop with about 1400ft of elevation change. You can make a long circuit hike which will put you at almost 8 miles. The trails in Shenandoah National Park are well maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) and my map and guide one this hike was their guidebook Circuit Hikes in Shenandoah National Park 13th edition 1990. The level of detail that the guidebook provides is all I needed to navigate the trail. 

We parked at the trailhead of the Jones River Trail. During the fall color season you want to get to your trailhead by 9:30 or you will find yourself dealing with a full parking lot. The above picture is Jones River Trail just before you get to your first water crossing.


Old growth Tulip Popular
Following the Jones River Trail I was surprised to find old growth Tuip Populars. They are massive and tower the forest floor. We took our lunch just up the trail from where the Jones River and Doyles River Trail meet. 

Doyle River Trail
In the background is Cedar Mountain Elv 3330. This is on Doyles River Trail  about halfway up from Jones River Trail . On both trails you will find a couple of waterfalls and on Jones River you will find a couple of pools to enjoy in the summer time. 

It always seems that I learn about the history of a place after I have been there than to know about it before I go. This hike was no different. The picture below is Browns Gap Road. Construction of the road started in 1805 and was known as Browns Turnpike. During the Civil War this was an important route and was used by Stonewall Jackson to get his troops across the Blue Ridge on many occasions. 

Browns Gap Road goes all the way across the park. I enjoyed this part of the hike so much that I want to go back to hike this road across the park. It is amazing to me that a road that is 216 years old is in such great shape. 

I called it the Rhubarb Highway on our hike because it ran down the side of the trail forever. 

Browns Gap Road

I don't know if it was because I had not hiked it the park for so long or that it was a daddy and me day hike or what. But this hike was one of the most enjoyable that I had been on.