Well… the year in hiking ended with a fizzle rather than a bang. December has been a complete bust for hitting the trails. In addition to holiday obligations, we had three weekends of snow and/or rain that kept us largely indoors. As I sit here on New Year’s Eve, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect upon my memories from hiking in 2009.
Toughest Hike: It’s a toss-up for this honor; if you can call it an honor. I think both South River Falls and the Doyles River-Jones Run hikes were surprisingly tough. Neither trail was terribly long, but they both had substantial, steep uphill climbing that was unmitigated by switchbacks. If pressed, I’d grant the honor of toughest hike of 2009 to South River Falls. The hike back up from the base of the falls is relentless uphill for a couple miles.
Biggest Letdown: I think the hike to Lewis Spring Falls was my biggest disappointment of the year. The falls were much prettier when I visited a couple years ago. Since 2007, several big trees have fallen across the waterfall and blocked the view. The falls were also substantially smaller than I remembered.
Best Wildlife Encounter
Best Wildlife Encounter: We had many excellent wildlife sightings on our hikes this year, but I’m giving top honors to the Mary’s Rock hike. We spotted bears three times along the trail. We also saw a few species of small mammals (squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits) and several big, impressive bucks. Mt. Rogers and Hawksbill Mountain are runners up in the wildlife category.
Most Photogenic: Hands down, I am giving this title to The Priest. It was not a hike I expected to be photogenic, so taking photos I loved was a pleasant surprise. At the summit, we had gorgeous skies – wispy clouds and high visibility. The mountains were lush and green and the woods were full of spring blossoms.
Favorite Trail of the Year
Trail of the Year: Mt. Rogers! I loved every minute of that hike. Simply said, it was a perfect day and a perfect hike. I’ll never forget climbing up to the summit in thick fog. I can still picture the first wild ponies emerging from the mist. I loved seeing the clouds burn off as we neared the summit. It was a beautiful day that I’ll always remember.
If I had to pick a second favorite hike, that honor would go to our snowshoe trip on the Deer Run Trail in Canaan Valley (WV). We did that hike last January, before we started Virginia Trail Guide. It was my first time on snowshoes and I loved every minute of it.
Whats On Deck for 2010
We’re hoping to do as much hiking in 2010 as we did in 2009. With luck, we’ll have some decent weather and will be able to do some winter hiking in January and February. And if we end up with lots of snow, hopefully we’ll get to share a post about showshoeing.
We’re also hoping to tackle a few longer hikes in Shenandoah National Park, like the Riprap Trail and Overall Run.
We’ve also been tossing around the idea of taking a backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail in the spring. I’ve never been much of a backcountry camper, but I’m willing to give it another try. I think I’d enjoy the challenge.