This last minute trip came together as my young brothers-in-law (Sean & Shane) wanted to go backpacking for the first time and they wanted to do it in Yellowstone. After zooming with them about how to prepare, it was clear they weren’t and I would be heading out to west to lead them. Also with us was their friend (Ozan) and my friend (Chris). I met Chris on the John Muir Trail a few years ago and hiked again with him last year in Glacier National Park. I was able to recruit him to help me out on leading the kids on their first backpacking trip by offering a free flight via my Southwest companion pass and free hotels. I was very happy having someone I knew the capabilities of and trusted in the backcountry. So we were a group of five for this trip, but with the flexibility of splitting the group up at times to accommodate the different goals and paces of the kids as they got use to backpacking.
Note from John (website editor & author): Motivation to work on my website this last year has hard to come by for me. The reasons are probably familiar to many out there as we learn to live and normalize the world of COVID. As such, I am backlogged more than a years worth of hikes and travel. So it will take me a while to write my typical detailed trip reports and produce the videos. In the meantime, these brief reports (as cross-posted on the Backcountry Post forums) will serve as a teaser and place holder for the full reports to come. Read More
Shenandoah National Park is one of the parks thru hikers on the Appalachian Trail will cross during their journey between Georgia and Maine. However, I don’t know if the thru hiker ever really get the full Shenandoah experience if they only stick to the white blazes on the ridge following Skyline Drive and never try Blue-Blazing down on of the many hollows. While this could serve as the start of a spicy discussion of why I will probably never be a thru-hiker (JMT doesn’t count), I will save that clickbait post for another time. Instead, this post will highlight they typical Shenandoah experience with rushing cascades, crystal clear swimming holes, and rocky vistas out with views of the wide Virginian valleys. Maybe you’ll even see a black bear. All of which you’ll find on the Riprap Hollow loop.
Being opportunistic is a good way to avoid the crowds when it comes to popular trails. It may mean getting up before sunrise, starting out late in the day, or still heading out when it’s rainy. With many of the frontcountry campgrounds still closed, certain trails are a little less crowded than normal. This included the Sherando Lake area, which is known as the jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains and typically sees hundreds of campers a day.
If you’ve read enough of these hike reports, a common theme you’ll find is that I love hiking next to running creeks, streams, and rivers. As we get into the summer in Virginia, they can also provide a perfect respite to the hot and humid weather in the form of swimming holes. So after a week of none stop rain, I was excited to go check out a hike featuring some swollen creeks and wide swimming holes.
My friends, Chris and Tori, had long talked about heading out to Grayson Highlands State Park to camp out and doing some bouldering. While my lackluster climbing skills and commitment to get better at climbing would steer me away from their bouldering activities, I said I would join them camping. One of my favorite hikes in Virginia is located in Grayson Highlands and I looked forward returning since my last trip out there was five years ago. I would go for a hike while they climbed. A sunny, but abnormally cool summer weekend at the end July finally motivated them to do the trip, so I couldn’t say no.
New lab member Natalie also joined us at the last minute, she had also been looking to hike in Grayson Highlands as well since arriving in Virginia.
We had to change our original plans for July 4th weekend due to injuries preventing us from doing any backpacking or too much hiking. Though we did still want to get outdoors, so we got out to Shenandoah for a Friday hike. Have to get rid of that steak, hotdogs, and beer somehow. #merica
Do you remember your first backpacking trip? For me, it was with Jared, Matt, Will, and Arnold in Yosemite National Park during my last Memorial Day weekend in California before graduate school. Of course, we didn’t have permits beforehand or even thought of how busy it would be that weekend nor really knew much about what was really necessary for backpacking. Through that weekend of floods, rain, infinite hot dogs, and plenty of Gentleman Jack, we emerged as Poopanauts, which is a story that will have to wait for another time. The main point is that it is hard to recall the feeling and mindset of getting into the wilderness for the first time. It was something I had to try my best to relate to as I lead my California friends Arnold, Joey, and Miguel and new friends Becky and Doris back to Yosemite National Park. For Becky and Doris, it was their first time into the backcountry. Since these guys were willing to take the time off work to drive me up to Yosemite – where I would start my John Muir Trail (JMT) hike – and spend several days in the backcountry with me, I hoped that I was able to share my enthusiasm of the outdoors with my friends again and for the first time.
This is part 2 of my John Muir Trail (JMT) trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted. Read More
Recently, the focus of my effort on travel2walk have been on getting the many backlogged large trip reports out. I still have the two trips from this year that I’m working on. A side effect of my focus on trip reports is that other sections of my page has been neglected, such as my local Virginia hike reports. A poor fall 2016 foliage season due to the warm weather wasn’t very motivating for me to work on the section either. A second side effect of the long trip reports is that I don’t get as much content out as quickly.
With that in mind, I’ve revamped the sw virginia hiking page and you’ll see more quick hiking reports like this. The thesis length trip reports will still come, but at a slower rate. I’m hoping I can get those out in time for you to reference while planning for the following season.
This is part 5 of our holiday break trip around the Pacific from December 2016 to January 2017 where we traveled to New Zealand and Maui. You can also to other parts below in the index.
I’ve personally been on Maui on three different trips. Obviously, it is a place I enjoy. This part of the trip report will be based on experiences from my parents and myself on this current trip, but will also feature information from my previous visits and other research I’ve done about Maui over the years. As such, the flow will be a little bit different.
location: Jefferson National Forrest near Arcadia, VA
There are multiple ways you can do this loop including getting all the way up to the AT rather than taking the fire road connector and multiple trailheads to start at. My preferred trailhead is the trailhead at FS59 as described by hiking upwards in the link above. That way you do the climbing first before the downhills.
On the loop, there are many stinging nettles, especially on the Cornelius Creek Trail and the fire road. So it is recommend to cover your legs in the summer.
There are places you go to because it’s a place you’ve always dreamed of going. There are places you go because your friend told you about their great experience. There are places you go for the pure aesthetic. There are places you go because buzzfeed made a list. But another major reason for traveling is certainly for travel’s sake. In this case, Brazil was the place we went to because we’ve never been and I wanted to get in on a mistake business class fare. The end result of that business class saga turned out to be a lot of headache and it lead to a lot of planning by the seat of our pants.
This style of traveling is much different that our typical planned out trips. Research helps to save money and time, but it also helps me to get a sense of what I need to prepare for. This is especially true when it comes to backcountry trekking where you are balancing, literally, what you need and what you don’t. During my attempt to research about trekking in brazil proved very difficult, including trying to find any trail maps online. So it was clear this trip would be without a direct plan, however this style of travel has many of its own benefits. There is much more freedom to just go and immerse into the local culture. From that perspective, you see new things, try new things, meet new friends, and drinking a lot of caipirinhas.