Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Winey Saturday With Friends

Saturday was beautiful. Sunny, cool and very little wind. Five of our close friends loaded up and departed our house at 10 am. We headed for the Three Fox Winery in Delaplane, VA near Sky Meadows State Park for tasting and lunch.
The place was very crowded so we were very glad we got there early.
After lunch we walked to the top of the hill overlooking the facility.
From Three Fox, we loaded up and headed for Delaplane Cellers, just a mile down Route 17.
Only 2 acres under cultivation, the tasting room has been open for two years.

Monday, October 24, 2011

First Aid For The Sole

(Click on any photo to enlarge)
After our first canoe and camping adventure in June, which involved, broken wooden paddles, fish hooks, fingers and forgotten keys, I was excited when my friend John R. wanted to do some hiking in the Shenandoah Mountains. I recommended my favorite hike, Old Rag Mountain. It was a done deal and we headed out early on a beautiful, cool, fall, Monday morning.
We got parked at the lower lot and headed up the road for the upper trail head a half mile away. A fall weekday was perfect for John's introduction to Old Rag's ridge trail and its mile of rock scramble, which can backup in a major queue on the weekends. Except for me having to backtrack 1/4 mile to the upper trail head to retrieve my walking stick, leaning against the Port-a-potty, the first hour was uneventful.

That is until we reached the stretch somewhere near the 2nd or 3rd switchback. I stopped to catch my breath and turned around to check on John, when I heard a crashing in the underbrush. Not 50' back down the trail, a 150-200 lb Black Bear crossed the trail behind us. I yelled "Bear" and was very mad that I didn't catch him with my Nikon D40 as he crossed. John only caught a glimpse. Smokey wasn't in a big hurry so we had 2-3 minutes to watch him just off the trail.

The Old Rag ridge rock scramble begins after the trails merges into this open venue overlooking the valley below. It's a great place for a breather, snack and a few photos.
From here the scramble begins. Up, down, over, under and through.
By now our, my legs were starting to get tired.
And then it happened. "Oh, man." John said. "What now John? Is there blood?", I asked, as I turned around to see John holding up his right boot. The sole of his right, 15 year old leather Vasque boot had completely separated.

To the rescue. Out comes the Nalgene bottle wrapped with Duck Tape. It doesn't take long to wrap two 3' foot pieces to hold the sole in place. I say to John as I wrap. "I'm just glad there was no blood involved on this one."
We took a break for lunch at 1:00pm, about 20 minutes short of the summit as we both were running out of juice.
Our lunch view

The required summit sign post photo.
The return trip down the saddle trail and Wheatly Hollow fire road can be tedious at time but it is still a beautiful walk in the woods.

Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), an all volunteer organization, does an amazing job on trail maintenance.
The fire road
Old Rag from below.
The start of the last 1/2 mile of paved road leading to the lower parking lot. 7 hours round trip. 9.4 miles. Three apples. 2 Clif Bars. 1 Nalgene of water. 1 Nalgene of Gatorade. 1 Cream Cheese and jelly sandwich on Wholewheat. 2400' feet of climbing and 2400' of gliding. All in a days play for a couple of almost old guys who cherished every moment and every cramp.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My First Bike Overnight Ride

Connecting with and reading has been the catalysis for me to hit the road to a nearby private campsite for my first overnighter. I was making due by using my old, 1995 Performance M505 MTB with 26x1.5 road tires because I knew my Trek 1000, with its 700x25 tires wasn’t suitable for carrying the extra weight. I was surprised how well my Topeak rear rack and MTX TrunkBag DX worked for this first go around. Totally unsuitable in wet weather, the TrunkBag with its dropdown side panniers was plenty large enough for an overnighter.

Tropical storm Lee hit Virginia hard and drenched my first set of plans back in September, so last Friday was the first opportunity to load up and head out. I am a moderately experienced backpacker so I already have the kit necessary for this inaugural foray into bike touring. MSR Stove, Big Agnes air mattress, North Face Rock 22 tent and a 20 degree North Face synthetic bag, rounds out my basic list of equipment. I debated on just using a sheet and fleece liner for sleeping but was glad to have the bag as it got down to the upper 40s that night.  The sleeping bag went into a waterproof paddling bag which made it much easier to “lash” on top of the rear bag with the tent.

Fredericksburg, VA is a pretty busy place with traffic, especially on a Friday afternoon.  Leaving from home, crossing through town and its main shopping area, I knew the first half of the trip was going to be the most challenging. I also knew I had to face this hill on River Road at Motts Run. I am not too proud to report that my 60 year old legs weren’t up to the task and I had to walk the second half.

As beautiful as River road is to drive, there is no shoulder and the roadway is quite narrow. Being just outside of town it is also a few busy commuting road on Friday afternoon. I was very relieved to make the turn onto Spotswood Furnace Road and take a break.

The second half of my 28 mile journey took me down quiet back roads and I only had one, close dog encounter. A quick spray in the face from my water bottle stopped him in his tracks with that dumb look on his face of, “What did I do to deserve that? This is my road.”

The campground was nearly deserted when I arrived so I had my pick of sites in a wonderful pine forest. It didn’t take long to get the tent set up and have my Red Beans and Rice dinner ready. Just before dark I took a short walk down to the Rappahannock River which was running close to flood stage.

Saturday dawned clear and cool, but very windy. My luck was holding as it was out of the Northwest, which put it at my back on the way home.

Most of my riding miles are done on my Trek 1000. The M505 MTB has a longer top tube and lower handle bars. It also has a seat that is healthier for more standing than sitting.  When everything was said and done, my first overnighter was well worth the tingle in my hands and a few tender spots here and there.  I know now that there will be longer tours in my future and a new bike to go along with me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Thump.... "Rock, Jay!!" Two Days On The River.

News flash:  Two almost old guys, Jay and John, prove the rule of threes theory.

You know the rule, s..t happen in threes.
(Click on any image to enlarge)

By 9am we had dropped my truck at Motts Run ramp and we were ready to launch into the Rapidan River at Ely's Ford for our two day fish and float. Day one was a 6 mile run to the confluence of the Rapidan and the Rappahannock were we would camp for the night.

I was a bit concerned that we packed to heavy, having never actually done an over night trip where I was carrying everything in the canoe. But comparing everyone else launching that morning with their 40 quart coolers full of beer, 8-man tents and lawn chairs, I knew we were in pretty good shape. (note the crew behind us in the photo below)

John struck first and boated the first fish of the trip. Being the good and well paid guide that I was, I wasn't disappointed.... until he caught his 4th and I wasn't even on the board yet.

And then at about the 2nd hour, the first of the rule of threes came into play.
But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. I forgot to tell you the last thing John said to me as we loaded the canoe. "Should we bring the extra paddle Jay?". "No, we won't need it. I've never broken a paddle before".

That's right, rule number one. Bring an extra paddle. I had just got finished pushing us off a rock while steering through a rapid, I took a heavy stroke and SNAP, one of John's beautiful, wooden, Canadian paddles broke in half. John tried to make me feel better by saying it was over 30 years old, BUT.

This is a view looking back through Todd's Ford Ledge, I would guess a class 2 rapid and the biggest we saw during the whole trip. By then I had smoothed off the broken handle of the paddle and John was doing his best to help me steer the front end of our loaded canoe.

And then the second rule of threes hit us. Sorry folks. No photos because it involved blood and fish hooks. From the front of the boat I hear,
"Oh, darn".
"You ok John?", I asked.
"I just hooked myself".
"How bad John"?
"Two fingers and I can't see the barbs. We may have to head for the emergency room Jay".
"That's a long paddle, John, with fish hooks in the fingers", I said.
So out goes the anchor and I climbed into about 3 feet of water to go up front and take a look.
Bottom line... it took about 20 minutes with two different pliers to get the hooks cut apart and extracted from John's thumb and middle finger. He was a real trooper, knew his tetanus shot was up to date and went right back to fishing.
(Click on any image to enlarge)

Later that afternoon, "Sorry John, my guiding fee is non-refundable". I had just landed a 12" small mouth bass, the big fish of the day. He caught more on Saturday, but my last one was bigger.

We had a great river-side campsite with two other groups. One was a Scout Troop from Nokesville, VA. I warned John he was in for a real treat, camping near 14 Boy Scouts. We lucked out. Saturday was their 2nd night out and after 2 days of paddling, the camp was quiet pretty early.

After dinner of freeze dried Mountain House Lasagna with sauce, John tried his luck from the bank.

(Click on any image to enlarge)

This photo is looking down river from our campsite through the "Rock Garden". Something we had to start with on Sunday morning. It involved getting out and pushing a couple of time but in general we felt pretty good since most of the canoes were walking through this section.

My Sunday started better than expected with the big fish of the trip, a 13"er. By then John had lost his two Rapala minnows and was struggling to find a menu the Rappahannock fish preferred. Mimicking John's success on Saturday with his Rapalas, I switched to a 1/8 oz. black, lead-head jig with a 3" Gulp silver and black minnow.

The Rappahannock has some amazing history tied with 18th century westward expansion. I think this photo shows the remains of Scott's guide lock at the upper end of what was a canal.
One of our pull off points to stretch our legs

We stopped for lunch about 90 minutes above our take out point at Mott's Run. It was a beautiful overcast, not to hot day.
The third rule of threes hit me as we sat on a log by the river and finished our Peanut & Jelly bagles.
"Oh, C..p John!".
"What's wrong Jay", John asks?
"My truck keys are sitting in the cup holder, in your van... back at Ely's Ford".
"Are you sure"?
"Positive", I groaned.
"I guess you can call Valerie and have her bring an extra set to Mott's", John says, smiling.
"Do I have to? I won't live that one down for a while"?

Yes, the rule of threes is alive and well on another Chamberlain adventure.
I am just very glad John was a willing partner, doesn't bleed very much and has a high threshold for pain.

William Penn summed it up pretty well in this quote:
“A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.”

I hope this is just the first of many more paddling adventure with my friend John.