Monday, October 31, 2011

Legends Of The Fall

Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness and they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, or they become legends. -One Stab - Legends of the Fall

It was a fall that came early. After late summers' saturating rains it brought early snows. It was the fall I met the famous Warren Doyle on the AT as he was working on his seventeenth through hike. It was the fall we shared a snack and a clifftop sunset with the seeker Freebird who has hiked many long distance trails following his years as a pro windsurfer. It was the fall where my greatest fear was that I was losing my fear of the magnificent Black Bear I seemed to be surrounded by. A fall of great leaves, trips and tips. One of first ascents on boulders and the smell of foliage mingled with woodsmoke. The fall where Almost Alpine made us movie stars at Seneca Rocks. A fall to remember, one that will not be easily forgotten.

Looking south from the summit of Marys Rock after sunset with Freebird.

No matter how mellow I perceive myself, I left the house stressed. Minutiae of the everyday getting to me and I hadn't even eaten. Cold cereal or a run? I hit the trail, after all it wasn't raining yet. The first uphill was agonizingly slow. The heavy breathing made me aware of the sweet smell of leaf decay. Frost crunched while smoke filtered fog-like through the remaining color in the trees. Picking up the pace I surprised some squirrels who went skittering of and up the nearest trunk. Then I saw the first bear standing frozen to my left. In return I too froze, but within seconds he was running off into the woods and I again headed up the trail. I thought about how different bear had been from the mother and three cubs I'd seen several times close to here. That bear family seemed to want nothing but to ignore me and continue about their daily routine. And just like that, there they were! Mother and two cubs on the ground while a third climbed a nearby tree.

I have never been accused of being overly smart, so it should come as no surprise that although I was alone in the woods with four bear I could not help but stand and watch for a couple minutes.

The two cubs on the ground walked casually onto a downed tree and seemingly just as casually from the downed tree onto and up a close by vertical limbless trunk. In awe I watched as one cub began to lounge in the y of the tree trunk split. Then with me gawking from a distance the loungers' sibling climbed the overhanging and featureless outside of the right hand branch. Now fifty feet up the free-soloing cub decided that the left hand branch looked more appealing. He leaned to the left, and leaped...

Five feet sideways! Effortlessly catching the other side of the y above his siblings head and continuing upwards. Ropeless and fearless that cub (and his 5.16 dyno) put some perspective my climbing career.

As I began to walk on I heard another rustling. I peered unbelieving at yet another two cubs in the distance!

Thirty minutes later I reached the halfway point of the run and looked out on an incredible view, complete with a vulture gliding on the updrafts in the distance. The down hill half of the run seemed to glide by like the bird and I did not again see the bear family. Maybe it was what they call a runners high, but the trail seemed to pass as a cool fall breeze and for a moment it felt like everything was right in the world; and I hadn't even eaten breakfast yet.

Sun early snow and an Oak.

A bear from a different day considers a climb, instead, she came down and continued rooting around the ground for grubs and nuts.

A classic Seneca 5.9 Unrelenting Verticality

A legendary local free-soloists also on some unrelenting verticality, but I don't think he's named or graded the route.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Catch A Leaf

Are you ready for the best trail running game ever?

Its called ...
Here's how the game works.
On a windy day in the fall go out for a run, any pace you want,
When the leaves come blowing down, don't change your pace, just reach out and ...
CATCH A LEAF - this makes you a winner

Game can also be played walking.
But it's not as much fun.

You can also play using the shutter of a camera rather than your hand.
Also much less fun.

You can play in a Big Meadow.
But there's way less trees to drop leaves.

is a fun alternative game if you are the one who happens to be flying through the air.

other fun alternatives include,
Don't Fall On Your Face (while trying to catch a leaf)
Catch A Sunset
Find Your Way Out Before Dark (without a map or Light) - this may result in unforseen consequences.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Peak Bagging

Peak color that is. Get up in elevation around here and somewhere around 3500ft you'll cross over into peak leaf season!

Here's the Peak of Old Rag (upper right) as seen from both the peak of color and the mountain of Hawksbill.

The peak of the haze in the valley and the flanks of Hawksbill in the foreground.

The peak of Stony man mountain looks like the profile of an old bearded man looking up at the sky.

The peak of the day might just be watching the leaves float by on the stream, checking out the view, topping out the climb or snapping your own peak shots. Whatever the case it's certainly the season to get out and enjoy.

Okay Shenandoah, just send me the check for this last shot.


One more pic for the group of long walkers from the U.K., the Aussies, and the Canadians. Glad to hear you are home safe.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A Bit Dodgy

For the last five days we have been out for some walks with a great group of mostly English folks. The weather on the other hand has been, well, a bit dodgy. Along with some cold temps we had a spot of rain and even a dab of the white stuff. As always, we had a great time. Our in depth knowledge of the trails and the surrounding area along with some creative alternatives made for a good trip. Making the trip tip top were some local businesses including our friends at Central Coffee Roasters who opened shop to serve us coffee and crumpets (or something like them).

Both of the above snowy pics were taken mon oct 3rd. The first is a Striped Maple turning yellow under the snow on Stony Man trail. The second is a Witch-hazel's fall flower under the same trails snow.

Blueberries, Goldenrod, Old Rag Granite, and the fog.

Of course not every recent day has had precipitation. Here's part of the group enjoying lunch at Maryland Heights, overlooking the town of Harpers Ferry at the convergence of the Shenandoah on the left and the Potomac river on the right.

Jugging a line on Old Rag during a balmy, little big wall, climbing day.

Getting sideways on a classic Old Rag route that lives up to the name Pure Fun.

If the sugar in the tree causes the change of color then why will one branch change before the other? This is a two leaf Maple microcosm for a riddle I've always wondered about.
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