After arguing with myself for a bit about whether it was worth an hour drive each way and $3.60 for a gallon of gas, I decided the trails needed to be hiked. And I needed to get far enough away from the city that I couldn't hear the highway or the helicopters or the airport traffic. I packed up my Camelbak and headed west to Sky Meadow State Park in Paris, VA, about 50 miles outside the beltway. It was a perfect day for it - temps in the low 70's, no humidity to speak of and a light breeze blowing. We had a lot of rain and warmer weather last week and all of a sudden everything exploded into luscious green. No more the tiny timid buds on the trees. And not the brown-gray green of mid-summer when all the plants are gasping in the stifling heat. This was a fierce bright green, almost glowing in the sunlight. I did an 8 mile loop that included part of the Appalachian Trail. I've lived in Virginia for 3 and a half years now and this is the first time I've been on the AT.
The hike was all uphill for the first two miles, with this view on the left:
Then it headed into the trees. This was less a forest and more woodlands dotted along the hills. Even as green as it was today, it's still a far cry from the rainforested hikes of Oahu. The rolling trails are totally different from the island trails we hiked - those were muddy narrow footpaths carving along steep ravines and over wrinkled ridges to overlook sheer cliffs above the ocean. Virginia's trails are gentle by comparison:
The sky was so blue, though, and not a cloud to be seen.
After coming out of the wooded AT, the hike went along several miles of rolling hills where the long blue-green grass actually looked like water as the wind blew through it. The pastures overlooked a pretty farmland vista.
The best view was seen almost at the end of the hike from Piedmont Overlook. Virginia's mountains are like bumps on the landscape.
The trail cut straight across the meadows to the parking lot and visitor's center hidden in the crop of trees on the bottom right.
There were a fair number of people on the trails. At one point a woman and a man came up behind me and I thought they would pass me so I kept to the side. But the trail was going uphill and I guess it was too strenuous for them to gain enough ground to get around without me stopping or slowing considerably. I could hear the woman huffing and puffing right behind me and I could tell my conditioning was much better than hers by my comparatively long, measured breathing, so I strode out instead of letting them by. I could tell she was trying to keep up with me because as I sped up, she stayed close enough that I could hear her breathing. I kept my strides strong; we were still going uphill and had been for quite some time. Eventually they slowed and stopped altogether to take a rest. Success! Later on they caught up to me again and the woman was chattering on, so I stopped to let them pass, preferring to be with myself and the trees.
Even with my Gecko GPS, I also got a bit off track and ended up following the wrong trail at one point, adding a little more than a mile to my total. I was discouraged, but was not to be deterred! Although it's a good thing I figured it out or I'd have hiked right into the next state on the AT.
Now I'm recharged and ready to face the week!