Virginia Part #2 : Sharp Top Trail @ The Peaks Of Otter

After hiking McAfee Knob on day one while in Virginia we woke up sore and stiff. Although, we were not going to let that hamper our plans for the day which were to hike Sharp Top Trail next.

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Across the road from the trail head is the Peaks Of Otter Visitors Center where we first stopped for a trail map, restrooms, and a chat with the park ranger.

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Why??? Well, all the way to the Peaks of Otter on the Blue Ridge Parkway we saw numerous and I mean numerous trucks full of dogs and bear hunters.

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And sure enough when we were pointed across the road to the trail head there were also signs warning us of the bear problems nearby.

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We made sure before heading down the trail that our bear spray was on us at all times.

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This was a hell of a hike!!!! Short, at just over 2 miles according to our GPS, but wow was it rocky and very hard to manage at times.

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About 3/4 of the way up you reach an area with big boulders once again that lead you up some steps and brings you to an old building.

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Round the corner from this building and you will be speechless. Suddenly you are once again on top of the mountain looking at 360 degrees of beauty.

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Simply amazing!!!!

We spent a good amount of time up here where we had a small snack before deciding to head back down by the way of the shuttle offered at the gift shop at the bottom. Down is so much more painful than up for both my husband and myself that we agreed with the rolling rocks we climbed to get up here that the shuttle would be the safest route back. This shuttle can be taken both ways or one way either up or down. For us one way cost $6 each. The shuttles run on the hour and the entire ride up/down takes about 15 minutes.

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My opinion of this hike is its rough on the knees and ankles. It took us just under 1.5 hours to get to the top and the trail itself is straight up. We saw no bear on this trail but I will tell you we did see them very nearby so some type of bear repellent would be a safe idea. If you are not a hiker and don’t have the proper gear to attempt this hike the shuttle is worth every penny to enjoy the view from the top.

 

 

 

Alum Cave Hike In The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We did two hikes while in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in January. One being the Alum Cave hike to the bluffs.

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According to the day hikes guide we picked up at the Sugarlands visitor center upon arrival,

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it was a fairly short hike, 4.6 miles round trip and rated as strenuous.

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This trail was amazing…..there were so many different things to look at, experience, and explore. First, I must remind you, we were here in January and this particular day was a Saturday. The trail was no doubt wet. Some spots were wetter than others but easily doable.

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A bit down the trail we came to our first of three one sided bridges that were over water.

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This trail does follow a stream/river almost the entire way which makes for some very nice photo opportunities along the way.

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(photo courtesy of our son, Quade Byrnes Photography)

Eventually you will come to a cave opening that has steps built into it that will bring you up and over away from the stream. This is Alum Cave. There is cable built into the wall of the bluff for guidance but it is not difficult in any way, in my opinion.

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After going through the cave we came across our first water crossing without a bridge. In January we found it easy to find big enough rocks to make it across with dry feet.

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Upon reaching the bluffs, it was still very foggy and made for a good rest spot while our son took all the photographs he came to get. This also made a nice spot to stop and have a snack and cool down. It was a warm hike, being about 60 degrees outside on this day, but it is straight up the mountain the entire way.

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After this we headed back down the same trail we came up and back to the parking area where we began. Of course, there were more photographs to be taken along the way.

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For us this trail was great. Our GPS read 5.6 miles round trip when we returned to the vehicle. Now, we did make a few extra steps for necessary reasons but an extra mile I would have to wonder about. However, after many years of hiking I have found no one measurement of mileage on a trail is ever the same so for us it ended up being 5.6 miles proudly!

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A few things I must mention…..in January you will not find the restrooms at the trailhead open. So take care of “business” before hand. The parking area for this trail is well mark, easy to find and has ample parking. However, in January when we returned from our hike, vehicles were lined up on the road due to full lots everywhere. I can only imagine summer/spring and fall to be even worse. So I would say, arrive early during all seasons.

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And, as near other trailheads we have visited, this one was also well marked to take all valuables with you.

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I would highly recommend this hike if you are in good shape and like mountain hiking. Children will also be able to easily do this trail with parent supervision. Cliff edges are easily manageable and the views are breathtaking.

 

I Can Cross One More Thing Off My Bucket List

Hello Hello, we are back from our trip to Sedona, Arizona and let me just say, it was a dream come true.

I have tons of photos to scan through, tons of laundry covered in red rock dust to do, three little ones begging for my attention, a stack of mail to read, a yard covered in more leaves and…….well, you get the point. So for right now, know that I am working on blog posts to share with all of you. Everything from pointers we learned while in this area to some of the most spectacular hikes I have ever been on in my entire life.

As for that bucket list summit, it’s done….here is the proof.

 (photo taken by our son, Quade Byrnes)Mom Cathedral End low logo-1

Time To Kick It Up A Notch…..Our Training Plan For Arizona Hiking

Yes, you read that correctly…..I am finally headed to another destination on my bucket list…..Sedona, Arizona!!!!!! OMG…excited is an understatement.

With this destination comes another training plan so I can make sure I can reach my goals while I am there. Hiking, of course, is the activity we have planned. And with hiking mountains comes switchbacks and elevation which all leads to pain the next morning upon waking up to use the restroom. Trust me when I say that the toilet seems much lower than any other toilet you have ever sat on the morning after you have hiked up a mountain side. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the pain I am going to try and avoid this time around. Anyone that has ever hiked elevation knows exactly what I am talking about….for the rest of you, just try and imagine sitting down and not knowing if your legs will be able to pick your body weight back up again. It’s pure muscle pain, like no other!!!

So I have a plan. Again, like times in the past, we will be training as a family, but at different times and different levels.  I need to listen to my body and not over do it since I still have some scar tissue issues happening in my abdomen. My husband has knee issues that we are hoping to #1 strengthen before leaving and #2 remedy some with the trekking poles he is going to purchase for this trip. And our son, who is also joining us, just needs to find time to exercise in general. He has a lot on his schedule being it’s summer and he works two jobs.

So the plan looks a bit like this for my husband and I:

Monday: stair climb and hill walking.

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Tuesday: recumbent bike, weights

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Wednesday: 3-5 mile walk…. which ultimately we will consider our rest day since walking is more a relaxing, end of the day activity for me than actual exercise.

Thursday: stair climb, hill walking

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Friday: recumbent bike, weights

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Saturday: random…..paddling, walking, hiking, yoga, elliptical etc.

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Sunday: stair climb and hill walking

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Thankfully, we are very lucky to live near all these types of challenges. We actually live at the bottom of a fairly large hill so walking up and down this hill is very convenient. And our steps are located at a nearby middle school which also is withing walking distance of our home, again very convenient. And with our downstairs full of workout equipment and a gym membership, we are set for success.

Here’s to a great few weeks of preparation………

Questions For All My Readers

****Have you been to Sedona, Arizona? Do you have any recommendations on what we should make sure we do or see? I would love to here them.

****Are you a trekking pole user when you hike? 

Exploring The South For A Week

The past week my husband and I spent exploring the south in temps that were spectacular compared to what we experience in WI during the month of March.

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Life down south is so amazingly different that I can only imagine how it would be to live somewhere where I could “play” outside year round. I love it hot, sunny and dry.

We did so many things in a matter of a few days that I don’t even know where to start. So maybe sharing pictures will be the easiest.

We ate so much BBQ which made my husband VERY happy.

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We fell in love with a new to us flavor of soda we found. I am not a soda drinker but this was fantastic. Thank goodness we don’t have this here in WI or I would have a problem.

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The first thing I noticed when we arrived were flowers and blooming trees everywhere. HA, our trees aren’t even close to flowering here in WI.

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We hiked some amazing trails in the area we visited. We hiked into a canyon to reach a gorgeous waterfall,

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we hiked to the top of a mountain to enjoy the view of the entire area surrounding us.

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(top of the mountain picture courtesy of my husband)

We visited the local zoo,

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we had table side guacamole made for us and margaritas to celebrate my birthday, IMG_3570

we found our first geocache in this state and shared lunch on Lake Bailey with some feathered friends.

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All in all, we had a wonderful time. In my condition, being 6 weeks post op, I don’t feel I did too bad considering. Travel went smooth, hiking was slower than usual but made me feel normal and back to my old self again. Plus, having sunshine and warmth could never hurt anyone in my opinion. I may not have made it to the top of that mountain but that is not to say I am disappointed. My husband finished and took the pictures from the top to share with me which is good enough in my eyes. I do plan to return and complete this hike, but for now, I am happy.

I will be updating the trails page in the next few days/weeks with all the hikes we did and some pointers for each one. Until then, here are a few more pics of what we experienced.

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