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Monday, October 8, 2012

Great scott

My love affair with Virginia's natural scenery continues unabated. On this cold, wet autumn morning, I drove the short distance to Scott's Run Nature Preserve, just off of I-495 in suburban McLean. This was the first day since coming to the Washington, D.C. area in mid-May that I could see my breath, but the fall colors that greeted me in the parking lot very quickly took my mind off of the chill in the air:

The preserve is 385 acres (156 hectares) of wilderness administered by the Fairfax County Park Authority. It's named after Scott's Run, a stream that starts near the Tyson Corner Shopping Center, and makes its way to the Potomac River. Almost immediately I was swallowed up by the tree cover (which included "sycamore, yellow poplar, chestnut oak, American beech and various pines", according to AMC's 50 Best Day Hikes Near Washington, D.C., my weekend hiking bible):

In the midst of such beauty, it was hard to imagine that this area was slated to be bulldozed in 1970 to make way for yet another suburban housing development. The project was met with resistance from local residents, who ultimately prevailed. No doubt Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would've considered these folks to have been "socialists":

This part of the country seems to be full of eerie ruins. This chimney is all that remains of the old Burling house, the home of an attorney and socialite who once played host to Washington politicians in the early years of the 20th century:

The trail I was on soon made its way to the banks of the Potomac River. To the left was the 30 foot (9.1 meters)-high waterfall where Scott's Run flows into the Potomac:

On this Columbus Day holiday weekend morning, I was alone with the river, except for some hardy waterfowl and a lone kayaker making his way upstream on the opposite side:

I followed the trail alongside the Potomac, with the river on my left and steep rocky outcroppings to my right:

The route eventually became impassable, forcing me to make my way uphill about a hundred feet (30.5 meters) above the Potomac:

The path continued in an easterly direction as it clung to the hillside, and necessitating a lot of clambering over fallen logs. The Potomac could still be seen through the foliage, and it was evident why Washington's waterway never developed into an artery of commerce and transport, at least not along its upper reaches:

What a four-way intersection looks like in the middle of the woods:

"Hike to the top of a ridge and turn left at a major (read another) four-way intersection, cutting between a large oak to the left and yellow poplar to the right". Which is what I did:

A final look back into the woods before returning to the parking lot:

Today's not-so-vital statistics include a time of approximately 2½ hours, an elevation gain of 710 feet (216 meters) and a distance of about 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers). Here's hoping that today's walk in the crisp autumn air is a harbinger of many fall hikes to come.


  1. Have you found a good resource/guide for trails in NOVA? I've only been out on one near by neighborhood. I've been meaning to get out to Manassas National Battlefield too. Now that the weather has become pleasant though, I don't have an excuse.

  2. I've been using "AMC's 50 Best Day Hikes in Washington, D.C.". It covers Maryland and the District as well as NOVA, and I've been pretty satisfied with it so far, though I've found their definitions of "demanding" and "strenuous" to be looser than mine. Either that or Americans are getting soft! :-)