Hiking weekends are the best kind of weekends

Happy Monday! We’ve been lucky enough to have beautiful weather the past two weekends and you know that that means- hiking!

Last weekend my friend and I drove up to Shenandoah National Park and did the Riprap Hollow hike. (recommended by Leonard Atkins’ book: 50 hikes in Northern Va. Smart guy that Leonard). We parked in the Wildcat Ridge parking lot and trekked up the AT to where the Riprap Hollow trail began. It started off as this leisurely walk through lush grass and nice pine trees on the top of the ridge, which then wound around to a rockier trail with amazing views.

Pretty sweet views. Also apparently there is a smudge on my camera lens. I should look into that. (PUNS!)

There were multiple spots to sit and enjoy the scenery and the Trav and I made sure to take a snack break at one of those rocky outcrops.
Then the trail descended down the mountain and began running parallel to the stream. There were multiple stream crossings and this fantastic swimming hole. Too cold today, maybe next time!

It was a nice spot, so we decided to stop and eat food while sitting on rocks. In the middle of a stream.

'Take a picture of me because I'm coming back here! And I'm going swimming!' was what I said. So Photogenic all. the. time.

The killer part of the trail was the last 2.7 miles. (not gonna lie the entire time we were going down I kept thinking ‘oh man we’ve got to come back up every foot we go down!’) Straight uphill. Brutal. I think we finished in 3 hours and some change.
We trucked our tired legs over to the Loft campgrounds and set up the tent. And I made the fire! I was so excited about it.

This is the fire Christine built. And it burned until she put it out. Victorious!

Trav went for a run (yes, a run after hiking 9.6 miles) whilst I cooked a veggie burger (Gardenburger Chipotle Black Bean. nice and tasty) over the fire and tried not to inhale it. Nothing tastes better than food cooked over an open fire after a day of hiking!

I can't even begin to describe how delicious this was.

This weekend I was headed back to CVille and wasn’t really feeling like driving up the mountain to go hiking. Instead I opted for one of my favorite hikes- Sugar Hollow. It’s a nice easy hike up to a (freeeeeezing!) swimming hole with a rope swing and rocks to jump off. I used to hike there all the time when I lived in CVille. It’s gotten a bit more crowded in the past five or so years, but it’s still a favorite spot.

We hiked up past the swimming hole – with a quick stop for a jump in to test the water with a verdict of brrrrrrrrr!) and made it up to Jarmins Gap in the Shenandoah Park. No need for driving up the mountain; we’ll just hike it! Stopped for a granola bar break, then hopped on the AT and trucked on up to the Calf Mountain shelter. I’ve never actually stayed at a shelter- true story. It was fun to poke around and see what they had at the site: a nice hut with a top shelf for bunk bed style sleeping, multiple sites where you could put up a tent, a giant pole for hanging food to keep it away from bears, fire pit, privy and a nice view of the valley through the trees.

Gimme shelter!

On the way back we saw one mama bear with her 3 baby cubs(!) at which point I insisted on us walking much faster while my friend wanted to watch them make their way up the mountain. I call it a ‘healthy fear of things that can rip my face off’ and he calls it an ‘irrational fear’. Whatever.

Jumped in the swimming hole on the way back and headed back. Boy that water was cold! I’m talking take your breath away cold. Definitely makes you feel aliiiiiiive!

And the great news? My calf and hip did pretty well through all that hiking.
I was especially pleased with how well the calf did on the Riprap hike since I had done the last portion of that hike (the Wildcat Ridge) as an out and back hike in January and my calf really hurt afterwards. I really focused on using my hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes and quads to power up through the uphill to take the load off my calf which is what Amy (my amzing PT) has recommended.

I have also been given the go ahead to integrate walk/ runs consisting of either 4 min walking with 1 minute jogging for 20 minutes or 1 min walking with 1 min jogging for 10 minutes. This is huge! Get excited!! I’ve tried both ways. The longer one seems to piss off the calf more, so I may stick with the shorter version for now.

And the shoulder is sloooowly getting better! I’ve accepted that I will most likely not be mountain biking this summer but I’m definitely to the point where I would much rather just be completely healthy and whole and not injured and pain free than try to push trying to do things when I’m almost better and start the whole process over again. If that makes sense.

These are very nice flowers outside my parents' house. I also ate lots of really delicious food in my parents' house which I did not take pictures of. You'll just have to trust me that it was super tasty. This picture really has nothing to do with my shoulder. or calf. It's fine.

Wow I did not mean to make this such a long post. Does it make up for the dearth of posts recently? No? Oh well!

I hope everyone else had a glorious weekend. Any exciting adventures? Relaxing weekends at home? Busy, getting things done kind of weekend? Tell me!

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