Beecher Ridge/Haskiell Hollow Loop, Shenandoah National Park

Haskiell Hollow Trail.  This is actually toward the end of the hike.

Haskiell Hollow Trail. This is actually toward the end of the hike.

The Haskiell Hollow hike is a fine example of what Shenandoah National Park holds beyond Skyline Drive.  The downhill portion takes in an overlapping part of the Overall Run Falls loop, so there will be other hikers.  However, taking the Haskiell Hollow Trail back to the top makes for three of the more secluded miles in the northern section of SNP.  The author of a trail book that I’ve been reading brought up the fact that waterfalls and overlooks aren’t part of the journey, but the odds of seeing a bear or two looked pretty good.

On the Matthews Arm Trail

On the Matthews Arm Trail

The hike begins in the lot near the Matthews Arm Campground, and the route follows Traces Nature Trail before turning left onto the Matthews Arm Trail.  For the next .8 miles, an unusual array of wildflowers lined the wide path.  There was a large number of jack-in-the-pulpits, but we arrived too early to see them in bloom.  That was probably the most disappointing part of an otherwise great walk in the woods.

A clearing near the Matthews Arm Trail

A clearing near the Matthews Arm Trail

At the 1.4 mile mark, we took a left onto the Beecher Ridge Trail and entered familiar territory for the next 2.3 miles.  At about the same time last year, we turned right and headed back toward Thompson Hollow at the junction of today’s 3.7 mile mark.  However, on this occasion we took a sharp left and continued on the Beecher Ridge Trail.  Before reaching the Haskiell Hollow trail, we had two significant stream crossings:  the first on East Fork and the second n Moody Creek.  After several days of rain, the water ran knee deep at East Fork, but the “buried” rocks were broken and slime-free, which made for an easy crossing.

This jack-in-the-pulpit wasn

This jack-in-the-pulpit wasn’t quite ready to be photographed.

After meeting the Haskiell Hollow Trail and starting uphill, there was a third crossing of the day–once again on Moody Creek.  From here, the trail is a wide track that heads steadily uphill without switchbacks. Nevertheless, the 1780′ of elevation gain is spread out evenly over three miles, and I don’t recall breathing hard at any point along the way.

Near the end of Haskiell Hollow, we met up with a female turkey that slowly ambled up the trail ahead of us, obviously trying to lead us away from her nest.  I also caught a two second view of a bobcat crossing the trail about fifty feet out.  It was only the second bobcat that I’ve seen in the wild, so it definitely elevated my overall impression of the hike.

East Fork left us wet up to our knees!

East Fork left us wet up to our knees!

At the end of the Haskiell Hollow Trail, yet another left turn starts the final leg of on a service road, and the starting point is about a half-mile away.  At 7.6 miles with a 1789′ elevation gain, this loop is rated as strenuous, but all of the difficulty was evenly distributed, and the overall result was a great hike with numerous opportunities to view wildlife.  It just goes to show that waterfalls and overlooks aren’t essential for a great day in the park.

Moody Creek crossing on the Haskiell Hollow Trail

Moody Creek crossing on the Haskiell Hollow Trail

Belle Grove WMA (Little Orleans, Md.)

The sign at the parking area goes over the rules and regulations.  Don't look for trail maps, though.  You can hike here when hunting isn't in season, but there aren't any real trails.

The sign at the parking area goes over the rules and regulations. Don’t look for trail maps, though. You can hike here when hunting isn’t in season, but there aren’t any real trails.

Belle Grove WMA is a 355 acre tract of land located off of the Orleans exit on I-68.  The parking area is on Turkey Farm Road, which is fitting because the area was once used to raise wild turkeys for re-populating other areas.  The really aren’t any marked trails on this property;  instead, hikers have a dirt access road and game clearings to follow.

A short re-telling of the interesting story behind the Belle Grove Wildlife Management Area

A short re-telling of the interesting story behind the Belle Grove Wildlife Management Area

For a change-of-pace, non-hunters can follow Turkey Farm Road back to the parking lot, completing a narrow loop of 1.4 relatively flat miles.  We chose this short walk because today was an ugly, rainy day, and the late start would have made a longer walk a problem.

This is part of a large game clearing at the top of the ridge

This is part of a large game clearing at the top of the ridge

The interstate is within earshot, and the road that bisects this public land has a considerable amount of traffic:  even when alone, this is not a quiet, secluded walk in the woods.  Nevertheless, the former turkey farm produced an interesting sighting.  About halfway around, a loud beating of wings was followed by a large turkey taking off from the top of a nearby tree.

We didn't explore the "other" side of the road, but Belle Grove has a "gamey" feel to it.  I'm pretty sure that anybody visiting would see something of interest.  Deer are said to be plentiful, as are rabbits and turkey.  There seems to be plenty to eat, so even seeing a bear wouldn't be surprising.

We didn’t explore the “other” side of the road, but Belle Grove has a “gamey” feel to it. I’m pretty sure that anybody visiting would see something of interest. Deer are said to be plentiful, as are rabbits and turkey. There seems to be plenty to eat, so even seeing a bear wouldn’t be surprising.

We live close to Sleepy Creek in West Virginia, so we’re very used to hiking in wildlife management areas.  It’s very well equipped for hikers, but Belle Grove appears to be set up primarily for hunters.  Today, that wasn’t a problem.  We managed to stretch our legs, and seeing a wild turkey taking a long, elevated flight isn’t an everyday occurrence.  That alone made this a good hike on an otherwise bad day.

A nice stretch along Turkey Farm Road!

A nice stretch along Turkey Farm Road!

Theodore Roosevelt Island (Washington, DC)

The first glimpse of the footbridge and the island

The first glimpse of the footbridge and the island

President Roosevelt and a few admirers

President Roosevelt and a few admirers

Theodore Roosevelt Island is an 88.5 acre island located in the Potomac River and is part of Washington, DC.  In the 1930s, it was converted into a memorial to America’s 26th president, and today it’s a part of our national park system.

Looking upstream while crossing the footbridge

Looking upstream while crossing the footbridge

A footbridge leads from the parking area to the island, and once there, a trip around the outer perimeter plus a quick walk to the statue of President Roosevelt yields a hike of a bit over three miles. The animals seen on the island include squirrels, raccoon, and opossums, but the greatest diversity is in the number of birds and wildflowers  available for viewing.  On our journey, we did see a very interesting bird that we couldn’t identify, but the NPS offers an online checklist of the birds that have been spotted there, so it’s a matter of time until we figure it out…maybe.

Under the Roosevelt Bridge looking into Virginia

Under the Roosevelt Bridge looking into Virginia

Graffiti under the bridge

Graffiti under the bridge

Another diverse group on the island is the people who hike there.  We saw everything from a mom and her three year-old to a ranger-lead tour group.  The one thing everybody had in common is that they seemed to be having a good time.

Poison ivy!

Poison ivy!

On a personal note, I’m generally not a fan of urban hiking, but trekking across the boardwalk a few feet away from ducks, geese, and plants that are strange to me is always a good thing–even with numerous tall buildings dominating the skyline.

Taking the boardwalk through the swamp

Taking the boardwalk through the swamp

I’ve both heard and read about Theodore Roosevelt Island for a number of years, and finally getting there was a worthwhile experience.  Walking on crowded trails is something I try to avoid, but afterwards I seem to reflect fondly upon most of them.  If you’re ever in the neighborhood, the island is a great place to visit!

Looking toward Washington, DC

Looking toward Washington, DC

DC, ducks, the Potomac, etc.

DC, ducks, the Potomac, etc.

 

March/April Wildflowers on the C&O Canal Between Mile Markers 71 and 72

Star of Bethlehem.  This plant is highly invasive and--at the moment--outnumbers the dreaded garlic mustard on this section of the towpath.

Star of Bethlehem. This plant is highly invasive and–at the moment–outnumbers the dreaded garlic mustard on this section of the towpath.

This plant is also prevalent along the canal.  It has been around for a number of weeks, and I've noticed it (as a weed) in many yards in our hometown of Martinsburg, WV.

This plant (purple dead nettle)  is also prevalent along the canal. It has been around for a number of weeks, and I’ve noticed it (as a weed) in many yards in our hometown of Martinsburg, WV.

Dutchman's breeches have been around for several weeks and occupy many large patches along the canal and river.

Dutchman’s breeches have been around for several weeks and occupy many large patches along the canal and river.

Blood root grew more sporadically in this area and is already gone.  After a recent hard wind, petals from this flower were scattered.

Blood root grew more sporadically in this area and is already gone. After a recent hard wind, petals from this flower were scattered.

Trout lilies have been around for a bit over a week.  There are several patches of their "mottled" leaves in the area, but the immature single-leaved plants don't  produce a flower.  The mature plants with double leafs produce this interesting looking specimen.

Trout lilies have been around for a bit over a week. There are several patches of their “mottled” leaves in the area, but the immature single-leaf plants don’t produce a flower. The mature plants with double leaves produce this interesting looking specimen.

Virginia bluebells are generally blue, but we did see a single cluster with white flowers.

Virginia bluebells are generally blue, but we did see a single cluster with white flowers.

Bluebells in their more traditional color

Bluebells in their more traditional color

Violets

Violets

Cut-leaf toothwort.  They are fading fast!

Cut-leaf toothwort. They are fading fast!

Golden ragwort

Golden ragwort

White violet

White violet

The grape hyacinth was plentiful early on, but they are going, going, almost gone.

The grape hyacinth was plentiful early on, but they are going, going, almost gone.

Ground ivy

Ground ivy

Garlic mustard is the most-hated invasive plant along the towpath.

Garlic mustard is the most-hated invasive plant along the towpath.

Spring beauties

Spring beauties

And then there's the dandelion.  You would like to forget about it, but it won't let you!

And then there’s the dandelion. You would like to forget about it, but it won’t let you!

 

Cedar Run Falls, Shenandoah National Park

Cedar Run Falls

Cedar Run Falls

Access to Cedar Run Falls is at mile 45.6 on Skyline Drive, directly opposite of the trail to Hawksbill Summit.  The falls are reached by following Cedar Run Trail 1.7 miles down the mountain–and I do mean down!  The first warning was a pair of exhausted hikers struggling up the trail as we descended.  They assured us that seeing the falls was worth the trip, but it did get a little bit confusing:  the descent is so steep that the entire upper end of the stream is one waterfall after another.

Could this be it?

Could this be it?

Fortunately, I have a hiking book downloaded to my Kindle (cellphone app, in this case), and I generally know what’s coming before we get there.  I knew we had to cross Cedar Run to view the waterfall from the other side, and generally stream crossings in spring can be problematic.  However, the stream was running pretty low for late March, and that proved to be good and bad.  The crossing was pretty easy, but the waterfall was less spectacular than it could have been.

All of this raises a big question: was the difficult descent and the 1250′ of elevation gain on the way out a little bit too much bother for a five minute view of a low-running stream rolling down a long cascade?  No, not really.  I would like to make this journey when the water is running a little bit higher, but I was pretty satisfied with the fruits of my labor.

The long view of Cedar Run Falls

The long view of Cedar Run Falls