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Monday, December 31, 2012

When I was your age...

Snow. It ain't easy hiking in the stuff, as I learned this morning/afternoon. What was intended to be a five-hour loop along a segment of the Appalachian Trail that passes through the G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area in Delaplane, Virginia became a four-hour out-and-back effort when it proved to be too slow-going through the snow. Of course, there were other factors involved in the change of plans - I got there later than expected, having taken the scenic but slow route along Highway 50 instead of sticking to Interstate 66; I wasted a lot of time trying to find the right parking lot for the trailhead (the one I needed wasn't signposted on the road); the snow made it harder to follow an unmarked trail; and the skies in the distance looked ominous. 

So do I have any regrets? None at all. Highway 50 may have gotten me there behind schedule, but the drive through the small towns and snow-covered vineyards and pastures that make up Virginia's horse country was worth it. And the walk through the woods, while occasionally a challenge when it came to effort and navigation, was magical at times. However, if I'm going to continue these woodland walks, I'd better get a good idea beforehand what I'm going to be up against when it comes to the elements.

The trail started at Lake Thompson, a 10-acre (4 hectares) artificial lake that is popular with anglers



The trail at first ran parallel with a wire fence, separating the wildlife management area from the farms, houses and vineyards.

The trails weren't always easy to make out, but others had gone before me earlier in the day, so in many places I literally followed in their tracks (and then literally followed in my own footsteps on the trip back).

This dilapidated shack served as a landmark for a key junction


As the dark clouds off in the distance headed my way, I decided that it would be better to turn around and go back whence I came, rather than risk still being out on the mountainside as the light dimmed. The skies were clear in the opposite direction, however, and remained so for the rest of the afternoon.

The temperature out there today was around 35°F (1.7°C), though I barely felt it, both from being properly attired and working up a sweat. The small creeks and streams making their way down the mountainside haven't frozen over yet.

With the exception of some turkey vultures I saw while driving along Highway 50, wildlife sightings were scare. Evidence of wildlife was abundant, however. In addition to seeing deer and bird tracks in the snow, I came across these interesting specimens. I spotted them next to a patch of grass that hadn't been covered by the snow due to its proximity in the middle of a small, flowing stream. 


On the return leg I passed by the farms and the lake






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