Monday, December 29, 2008

Expanding the Vision

My (SMG guide Chad) grandfather Allan Simpson is a lifelong conservationist, and at ninety years of age he has proven he is in it for the long run. In the 1960s he worked as an editor of the Canton Repository newspaper in Canton, Ohio, where he wrote a weekly column aimed at drumming up support for the preservation of the Ohio and Erie Canalway. Working with the help of Ohio congressman Ralph Regula a park was created and has since expanded to span 110 miles in northeastern Ohio. At SMG we our proud of our conservationist ideals and look with admiration to those who led the way for so many years.

This sign features my grandfather alongside Ralph Regula and can be seen at the Everett Bridge on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath. (Click on the picture to enlarge it and read what it says.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Take a double dose of a day hike, on ice, by way of a swift run, follow with a visual side of a mid-winter violet. Don't forget a good nights sleep, a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

High Mountain Coral

Between the Sunday morning early church service and the "special family lunch" at 1 p.m. little bro and I decided there was just enough time. My bet was that the freezing mist and frigid temps on Marys Rock might amount to something special. I was right, but by the time we had it together and made our way to the trailhead it was 11:15, so we would be pushing time. No matter, we like a good challenge, and we were off!
Every step crackled as we beat feet in our push for the summit two miles upward. We were aware that one slip on the ice- covered trail would at least spell a tardy lunch ticket. We moved quickly but cautiously. Crunching upward we were much more concerned about the heavy laden tree branch/land mines that hung snow-encrusted above our heads. In the late pre-park days, the untimely demise of the Old Rag community pastor was brought on by a falling branch and I have taken note. Not wanting to follow suit, Bret and I listened for the gunshot crack of an overhead branch with each cold breeze that cut through the dormant forest.
A foggy wind had battled its way through these same trees the night before, evidenced by every twig, tree, and blade of grass we passed along the trail. Nature's war had been waged in the black of night when the violent and oppressive wind attempted to massacre the seemingly defenseless snow by pushing it into the valley where it would surely be melted by daybreak. Millions of tiny wind beaten snow particles were pushed down the mountain, but they had a plan. Searching for solace the particles sped up to whip around the obstacles blocking their paths and in doing so created wind eddies on the calm lee sides of the obstructions. Some slight particles were swirled back around and caught spinning in the relative warmth. These desperate particles eventually found another weary chip of wood or stone or snow on which to cling in the shelter of the obstacles. The night wind whipped and the fog fought down the mountain as more particles clung on in the building shelters. The cold wind blew furiously in the early morning light but the harder it pushed the more the tiny draftees joined the ranks. Armies soon backed every brave wind warrior holding the front lines and the shelters grew longer.
By the time we arrived the fog and wind's front lines had retreated down the mountain and now lingered over Sperryville. Trillions of tiny snow soldiers still held their positions flagged out behind their forest protectors as they held the high ground. Save for a few cold slaps in the face from the bitter, defeated wind, Bret and I were permitted to take pictures of the pure white war zone.
By the time we reached Marys Rock we were on track to be late for lunch but well loaded with pictures of the high mountain which now looked to me more like an undersea coral cliff where instead of tiny life fighting the tides, snow had here defeated the wind.
Stomachs growling, and throwing most caution to the stiff mountain wind, we ran back down the trail. Caution now behind us we possibly even exceeded the thirty-five mph speed limit as we drove down the mountain. We were twenty-three minutes late, which meant we were right on time; the food was just coming out of the oven!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Misty Mountain Hikes

These days Shenandoah has been too wet to climb rock, too warm to climb ice and at times too foggy to see your hand in front of your face. Lucky for hikers it's very often the company, not the contrast that makes for a great hike. And when the fog rolls back and the mountains come out it can be even more memorable!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings

In our first fifteen years of business SMG/Teamlink have been blessed by many, many things. The opportunities and abilities to educate, conserve, and give back in and to the areas we love have been incredible. Spectacular trips have become the norm, and with the early onset of winter temperatures we were able to put the icing on the turkey!

Although we do not guide any ice climbing trips professionally I couldn't resist taking the family out for a little ice adventure in a cold corner of Shenandoah. The trip was blessed with no wind, many safe first time climbs, and family memories.

SNP has always been blessed with good gear climbing and the chance to climb a tower like this tucked into the woods of SNP is always a blessing.

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