Virginia Part #3- Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive/Shenandoah National Park Hike

I knew by today we would be tired mountain hiking and would need a bit of a break from the trail. However, we knew from past mountain hikes in Utah,Tennessee, and Sedona that sitting and doing nothing only makes the pain prolong itself so we had a plan.

Our third day we checked out of the Salem, VA hotel and drove the popular scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way to the Shenandoah National Park and then continued onward via the Skyline Drive through the entire park.Gorgeous…..simply gorgeous once again.

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Again, like the day we traveled to hike Sharp Top Trail, we saw numerous bear hunters lining the road all along this route. And this is where I saw my first 2….yes 2 wild bears ever! Exciting I tell you….and wow can they run fast…..I was amazed.

We drove for 6 hours this day ending at a trail head we choose to hike to stretch our legs before heading to our next hotel in Winchester, VA. Hotels near the park are an enormous amount of money…and I am cheap…so this worked out very well. The trail we choose was the Compton Gap Trail.

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According to the sign it was a 2.4 mile trail but we clocked a bit over this.

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The parking for this trail was easily located if you follow the map given to you at the entrance of the park. Parking was sufficient and the actual tail starts on the opposite side of the street.

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This trail is also part of the AT as was McAfee Knob so you will follow the white blazes you see in the trees until you reach the post marker directing you to then follow the blue blazes to the overlook.

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The trail itself offered a bit of everything. Flat dirt, rocks, and boulders you weave through once again. There seems to be a pattern to Virginia hiking.

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The overlook is easily located since the trail simply comes to an end.

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On this trail you head down the same way you hiked up.

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My opinion of this trail is its a nice short trail for families. Not too steep and not too rocky like others if you have the proper footwear for hiking. It was a great choice for us to have a bit of time on the trail and out of the vehicle.

My opinion of the Blue Ridge Parkway is it’s gorgeous. We traveled it early in the morning until mid afternoon and had no problems with traffic. That being said, I can only imagine with fall colors and mid summer it could get a bit crazy. NOTE: There are NO gas stations on the parkway so fill your tank before you travel it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Memories I Will Have Forever From Virginia: Part One….McAfee Knob

Memories….they are made everywhere. Many of my memories are from here in Wisconsin where I was born and raised for the past 40+years of life. However, this past week I made some more memories with my husband on a bucket list trip to Virginia where I know my heart aches to be……in the mountains.

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We live in the flattest state around(in my opinion) and I have seen almost all there is to see here numerous times. So when the chance comes that I get to escape the grind of every day life to go to my happy place I am the first one packed and ready to go. So let me share with you the past week in the mountains of Virginia.

For this vacation we drove from WI to Salem, Virginia to begin our adventure. Now you may wonder…why such an off the wall city like Salem? Well, I had a bucket list dream to fulfill and I wanted to make sure I could do this before we packed in anything else. My dream was to hike the AT up to McAfee Knob and get the iconic picture that you see in many, if not all, hiking magazines, on hiking websites and so on. Every time I would see this picture displayed I would tell my husband….some day I will get there. And as usual, he would just smile and say….I have no doubt you will. Love you honey!

The morning of our hike we left before sunrise to make sure we could find the trailhead and get a parking spot. I had read that parking was sometimes packed but was hoping it would not be too bad since our hike was happening Monday morning. We arrived with about twenty minutes to spare before the sun started peeking over the mountains. The lot had a fair share of cars but all looked to have been there overnight. The lot was easily located of the 311 and marked clearly.

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The trail itself starts across the street from the parking area. Again, clearly marked with signage once you cross the 311 carefully, since cars zip around this mountain road fairly quickly.

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The view going up was so beautiful.

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A bit up the trail you will come to a split. Signs are large and arrows point you in the correct direction. ***Now, I will tell you that many AT hikers recommend hiking the fire road up to the knob and then taking the AT back to the parking lot or vice versa since the AT is quite rugged. We did not do this. I did not train physically and drive for two days to hike any fire road for whatever reason what so ever. I came to hike the AT up to McAfee Knob and back and I am so happy we did.

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The trail we found to be difficult. Remember….we hike flat ground in WI almost all our life. This part of the AT was covered in rock, boulders, and roots in many places. Very little was ground and being we were headed to the top of of a mountain it was clearly up all the way.

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Eventually you will come to a crossing that again is well marked and will lead you across the fire road.

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Then you reach an AT shelter where you head up another clearly marked trail.

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Eventually you see the trail start to have huge boulders and you weaving around these while you make the last stretch to the top.

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By this time I was tired. And I mean TIRED!!!! Hiking up the entire trail was difficult plus our GPS clearly did not agree with the mileage that was posted with all the information I had read regarding this trail. So if you attempt this hike and find your mileage is also different keep going…..you will be so happy you did. We finally reached the top of the knob and immediately we checked the mileage to compare.

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I soon forgot about this little issue because when I rounded the corner I felt like I wanted to cry. OK, maybe I did a bit. It was truly amazing in every way!!!!!!

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We had did it and we did it together. We arrived to find a few others but the longer we stayed the more others arrived. We ate a small snack and rested a bit before returning to the bottom by way of the AT once again. We saw deer, lizards, and many, many caterpillars along the way.

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When we finally arrived back at the 311 parking lot we had clocked a total of 9.5 miles and almost 6 hours of hiking with I would say about 45 minutes were at the top exploring, resting and having lunch.

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Most importantly……I crossed something of my bucket list that I will cherish forever…..my own iconic photographs on the top of McAfee Knob with the love of my life.

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A dream come true!!!!!!!!!!!

Time To Catch Up

Warning: Long post ahead:-)

Life has been so crazy that I have been struggling to find time to blog. However, that does not mean I don’t have a ton of stuff to share with you all. So let’s briefly catch up a bit today.

I mentioned back a few weeks that we were headed out to waterfall hike. Well, I have 6 waterfall hikes that need to be written and posted on the hiking trails page and hopefully I will get to them before the snow flies but if not, winter is LONG and that will be something to blog about then. For now, I will tell you we had a magnificent time and while my husband and I ventured off alone leaving the photographers do their thing…we came across one of my favorite reptiles ever. I love turtles…even ones that bite!!!!!

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We also had another monthly dinner out with my brother recently and it was his pick on the restaurant so we ended up trying Green Bay’s newest sushi restaurant….Sushi Lover.

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Oh my….I could eat sushi every day…..it was so darn tasty. I loved this place. Everything was made fresh, you can order as many times as you wish, and it is one flat price. My husband and brother can sure pack away their share of sushi…..and I had fun watching them fill themselves to complete fullness from about that half way point of our meal.

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Then we had our first camping trip of the fall season. This time it was only the two of us and it was so relaxing.

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He was in charge of keeping the fire going so I could stay warm.

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I was in charge of meals for the weekend.

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My only request for the weekend was to relax, go out for our favorite pizza at the new location of our favorite restaurant in the Door County area which is Wild Tomato now open also in Sister Bay, and to go out just once for ice cream before the end of summer. All of which we made happen.

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We used to go out for ice cream all the time….heck, we used to go out for anything all the time…but since going artificial sweetener free for his stomach issues we can’t without causing problems. Although, since getting this all under control, it has gotten easier to go out here and there and he only gets a little stomach upset if we go overboard. Some foods and restaurants we have found are fairly safe for him to eat at…like sushi…..this causes little to no problems at all.

While camping we also got in a small two mile hike which was the highlight of the weekend. I love hiking and it makes me sad to know that very soon the ground will be rock hard and frozen solid for months.

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Then I had a mid week day off of work which I packed way to much stuff into. I had three appointments to attend and a date with my son for lunch at a new restaurant in Green Bay near his work.

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That evening my husband and I walked my favorite nearby trail to discuss the results of one of these appointments in a place I feel peaceful.

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There is nothing like a beautiful sunset to reset my mind and make me come to terms with news I don’t like hearing. Although, as with all things, we will move on and deal with what comes our way.

In the food category the fall menu has arrived here in our house. Soups are being made, the last of the fresh veggies are being enjoyed everyday and I am even sneaking in veggies where my husband and son would least expect them. So far no one has complained and they have even asked for more. From salads, to veggies added to pasta sauces for the entire family instead of just myself, and even carrot muffins…..eating clean and healthy is getting to be so much easier.

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And lastly, this past weekend I spent with a friend attending a harvest festival in Door County. I was not sure I could pull off another weekend away but when travel plans were set back a bit for my husband I went for it. We had the best time chatting, shopping, and of course eating.

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That should catch me up to date I believe. Eventually I will get to the details of those beautiful waterfalls but for now I will leave you all with the reminder to get out and enjoy life while it’s still nice. Go hike, enjoy the beautiful fall colors that are starting to appear, and breathe the fresh air……see ya!

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How We Made Curtains For Our SUV For Camping Privacy

Recently, I was left home alone…with plenty of time on my hands…..and so much to think about. This is never good since I can come up with some crazy ideas sometimes. Although, I don’t think this one was all that crazy.

I decided I wanted to make curtains for my SUV since we loved sleeping in it for camping this past spring. So as always I did some research, went in the garage and sat inside my vehicle and thought….and thought hard. Then I made a few notes leaving them out where I knew my husband would see them when he returned home from his fishing trip and I would be sound asleep. I do this so my crazy ideas don’t come as a complete shock to him when I approach the subject….haha! And sure enough it worked….come morning he immediately asked what all the measurements were and why was the roll of twine out. I simply told him I was experimenting with the twine and have decided that we are going to make curtains for the SUV today. He, as usual, looked at me and said ok…tell me more. And as you can imagine….I did tell him more and an hour later we headed to the hardware store.

First, I had thought about buying fabric for the actual curtains but I do not sew. Never have and I have no interest in learning. Plus, I wanted to do this as cheap as possible with no drilled holes or any damage done to my vehicle. Then I remembered I had a dark colored single sized sheet downstairs that was a spare. It would be perfect. I measured it, laid it out, and simply cut it in half the long way.

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We got really lucky with the sheet having overlapping sewn edges. This way we could thread some paracord through here to be our so called curtain rod.

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However, I did have to cut the corners to allow for the cord to come through. So what I did was cut the ends and then quickly hand sew through the original seems so they would not unravel. Not pretty, I know, but it will work.

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With the cord through both sides we then moved out to the SUV and started making the anchor points where the curtains would hang from. My SUV has these round hooks in the back of both sides that we believe are for a cargo net that I do not have. So these two hooks are going to be used for one end of the curtain anchor on each side.

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The front anchor will be the visor on each side. We simply tied a loop that will stay attached and made a loop in one end of the cord and attached a carabiner for easy hookup and removal.

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Then when both ends are secured we simply loop the middle over the garment hook on each side.

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Add a solar shield to the front window and it was time to install and see how it all comes together.

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The curtain easily slides on the paracord to leave in more light or less. And with a metal paper clip it can be attached easily to the edge of the solar shield for extra darkness and privacy.

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It’s lightweight and easy to remove.Simply unclip the front carabiners and unhook the back two cords clipping the metal paper clips to these so they cannot pull back through the curtain then fold and store. Simple, cheap, and super easy…just the way I like it.

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I do believe I will leave the tiny side windows near the back uncovered for some daylight and just to be able to see if any creatures of the wild wander into our campsites at night. Someday I really hope to see a bear! Even though we don’t plan to cover these small windows they are still tinted glass so we will still have plenty of privacy. The back hatch window we are thinking of using poster board to just cover this area if anything. Again, it’s tinted darker and we always back into a sight so privacy in the back of the SUV is usually never an issue.

Now all I have to do is wait until I can go camping and try them out. That probably will not happen until September. Until then I will live with memories of the first time we slept in the back of our SUV.

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Primitive Camping Actually Means Four Wheel Drive Camping

When I booked our campsite for our weekend near Interstate State Park I knew I wanted a site away from all the action, the entrance, and the shower house. Plus, I needed a site that could accommodate three tents since their were five people in our party. Typically, campgrounds do not let three tents on one site plus two vehicles but this campground had a sight away from all the action and big enough for us all. Perfect…..right? The lady said it was a quiet site and primitive…..she forgot to mention that we would need a vehicle capable of making it to the site. Thankfully, we did not have our Honda Civic for this trip since that would have been even funnier than it already was.

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We arrived mid afternoon and began setting up immediately. Three tents up, gathering wood for campfires, and organizing camp.

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I then left to find the nearest bathroom since the middle of the night was not that far off. Needless to say, it was quite a distance to walk at 2a.m. in bear country, so I knew if need be it would be a quick trip to the nearest tree. Life goes on…I did ask for primitive.

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After camp was set the guys were all itching to get in some fishing. So after a quick lesson for one of our friends on how to tie fishing lure knots, we headed to the river.

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I wandered around the park we found while the guys tried fishing. However, it did not take long to see that the fish were not biting here so we headed back to camp for dinner and a campfire. Our son taught our friend how to light a campfire with flint and steel which is always fun. Some succeed and some do not….he did very well.

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Saturday morning I climbed out of my tent to see this beautiful sunrise before we visited Interstate State Park both in WI and MN to hike. You can read more about that adventure here.

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After a day of hiking and fishing at the parks we headed back to camp once again to clean and prepare their catch.

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For those of us that were not into the “cave man” type of eating…..roasted fish on a stick (that would be me) they also made some fillets. All while I threw together a quick cheesy taco casserole.

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And just as I watched the sun rise on the day I also watched it set feeling like we had a pretty fun day.

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A Trial Run Camping In Our SUV

This past weekend I threw out an impromptu camping trip to my husband where we would sleep in our SUV. Back when we purchased the vehicle the salesman laughed at me when I asked to see all the back seats lowered down and I then crawled in to make sure we fit in the back length wise. I simply looked at him and said, “I plan to sleep back here while camping.” My husband and the salesman then both looked at me with an expression of your kidding right? Ha, would I ever say something I did not mean…NEVER! So, a few months after having the vehicle my husband and I made a trip to the hardware store for a sheet of plywood and he got to work.

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And then life happened and we never had to opportunity to test it out due to his back injury and then my surgery. Which meant, this weekend seemed to be the perfect opportunity to finally do so. Campgrounds are not full yet since it’s too cold, which meant we could easily show up at any park and be guaranteed a site without a reservation. After throwing a few needs and some quick food into the vehicle we headed out. We picked a state park about 45 minutes from home.

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Upon arrival it was cold…and windy…..very windy. He gathered wood around our campsite for heat and I made up our sleeping area.

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Then we did some exploring nearby, did a little fishing, took a drive, and came upon a new park we had never seen before. I can see us returning here when it’s paddle season.

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By this time the wind was starting to calm down a bit so we returned to the campground and he made a big fire to keep us warm.

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We later took a short walk around the campground and it was so great to see the leaves finally emerging from their pods. Summer is coming:-)

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As evening progressed we started to get hungry. Our choice for dinner were freeze dried meals we had on hand from home that we quickly grabbed. Two, new to us, meals that we each chose were chicken and dumplings…super yum and chicken fried rice….again, a winner.

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After dinner we relaxed by the fire and later turned in for our first night of SUV camping.Ohhhh, what an adventure this was.

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We learned a few things during the night. #1SUV camping is quiet…we hardly heard anything from area campers unlike in our tent. #2 you cannot unlock the SUV from inside and open the door to exit if the SUV was locked with the key pad…the alarm goes off(this was so funny at midnight of all times) #3 our sleeping pads do not stay put in the SUV which meant we kept sliding down toward the door. Frustrating, but we figured it out and turned the opposite way to sleep which was much better. This little transition happened about 2a.m.. #4 down sleeping bags and comforters are priceless when temps are in the 30’s and winds are 35mph off the Bay of Green Bay….brrrr!!!! It was freezing outside but we were quite cozy inside.

All in all, we were surprised we were not cold. We have one adjustment to make with our sleep pad but this is already worked out, I just have to go buy the item we are going to use. And I know without a doubt this will be the way to camp in the spring and fall here in WI. I loved not having the damp, wet, clammy feeling of sleeping in a tent. Plus, there was nothing to take down, dry out or fold up. In the summer however, I will still take my tent. There is nothing quite like falling asleep in a tent staring at the stars above.

 

When Back Pain Is Not Really Back Pain After All

For the last few weeks I have been suffering with some middle back pain or what I thought was back pain. After making yet another trip to the doctor, I now was told I have a dislocated rib. Fabulous….just what I need. No wonder it hurts every time I take a breath! So as you can imagine, I was told to rest, use ice and heat, and rest some more. I just had to laugh, me rest…can you even imagine? Ice and heat…sure….when I have time maybe. Again…I laughed even harder at this one.

Which meant after receiving this diagnosis mid week, my workouts became nothing. And to make things even more funny, we had already made plans for an trial run of sleeping in our SUV overnight while camping. And lets face it, if the good old doc would have told me that this would have been a bad idea I would of laughed hysterically at this one. So I decided not to tell him our plans….and continue on with this fun adventure. More on this later in the week….

Here is what a week of pain and rest was like for me:

Sunday: 3 mile evening walk and a nine basket game of disc golf

Monday: 3 mile evening walk and an abdominal workout at home

Tuesday: crunches and 30 minutes on the recumbent bike

Wednesday: gym: 30 minute elliptical, stretching

Thursday: rest

Friday: rest

Saturday:rest

On the flip side of things, I did not cook dinner one single night this week. HOORAY!!!! My boys took over the kitchen and wow, can my son cook. We had chili rellenos for the first time ever. YUUMMMM!!!! He did a fabulous job and knows exactly what his mom likes.

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My husband made his specialty of bacon cheesewiches….which was one of his family favorites apparently, when they were growing up. Good…odd…but oh so good.

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And grilled brats and sushi were all on the menu for the rest of the week. It was great to be able to sit back and relax while someone else figured out dinner for once.

Here to hoping next week I feel better and can manage workouts and lifting kids all at the same time.