Thursday, March 23, 2017

Footprints by the Falls

On Saturday I had hoped to go for a bike ride but the group leader canceled the event due to the cold temperatures and ice still on the trail. So I grabbed my backpack and camera and headed instead for the hills to hike.
The valleys on the way to the mountains were peaceful with some mists clinging to the peaks while strips of snow hid in the shade behind walls. I'd decided to hike Hazel Falls and was going to start the hike from the base, wanting to finish on a decline rather than puffing up steep slopes. I'd seen the small parking lot filled every time I passed by, but today there were only 3 vehicles there, and no one on the trail as I set off.
There was a lot of rock hopping over the creek or across flooded parts of the path, and I hadn't climbed too high before snow started covering the trail. It hadn't melted yet up here but I was still surprised to notice that the footprints were old, soft edges with no tread marks of the shoes visible. It seemed that I was the first person hiking here today.
After a while the grass disappeared and the only green was the feathery needles of the white pines, rhododendron leaves and the moss on rock faces. White snow was starting to carpet the woodland floor and the trail.The constant sound of the water trickling and gurgling over the rocks as it tumbled down the mountain was a welcome companion and a woodpecker occasionally hammered on a hollow trunk. The air was still, crisp and clean, this was a great day to be hiking. The day had started out a foggy, cold grey, probably encouraging the city folks to snuggle down further in their warm beds, yet  now the sun was shining with the temperatures rising as the morning progressed, and not dropping as I'd assumed on my climb higher still.
The creek became part of a gorge as I progressed up the mountain, huge bare rock faces on one side and a steep drop on one side of the path. As the trail left the creek it climbed higher still but the snow also got deeper. It had been slippery in the 4" I'd trudged through, but now parts of the path were about 6" deep. I hadn't brought my hiking poles and didn't have spikes on my shoes so I was worried about losing my footing, especially with my camera swinging about my neck. After another 20 minutes or so I gave up and started to descend. This was much more perilous and I lost my grip more than a few times, slipping on the snow which was now becoming slushy around the footprints I'd made on the way up.
I slipped and slid my way down to where the path was more level, thankful that I hadn't hiked to the top. The warm sun was working fast on the snow, the whiteness disappearing to a grey watery slush and exposing a muddy path beneath. It had been hard work on that slippy slope and I was glad to feel safer back on solid ground.
I passed a guy who had looked, when approaching me, as though he was going for a solitary walk to find a quiet spot to read or draw. He was clutching a leather bound book or case and it wasn't until I drew level with him that I realized he was barefoot. He was pretty sturdy if he was aware of the deeper snow higher up and I wondered if he was on some meditative journey.
I reached the parking lot and saw more cars, although I had no idea where the owners were, but it was a good 20 degrees warmer than it had been when I'd set out. I threw my jacket into the car and decided to try out Sperryville's new brewery,  Pen Druid. I was the only one in there but others entered after a few minutes.
 A 'bare bones' but friendly brewery, I was soon enamored with their beers, which today, were a selection of six. I ordered a flight to taste them all, becoming a huge fan of the Mercury IPA and the Telemachus Dark Sour, but really they were all superb. The place had a nice cozy ambience, without the industrial feel that so many breweries aim for today. I happily sat supping and chatting to a couple of regulars before I suddenly remembered I had to be in Silver Spring for a 5pm viewing of an art film called Kedi. It was just before 3pm whenI reluctantly left, managing to stop at home first and then arriving at the theater 10 minutes late. The movie was moving and engaging, a serious 'must see' for cat lovers, the dark auditorium constantly cooing and aahing as the cat actors came into view. Afterwards we ate dinner and drank beer at a local women owned brewery but it wasn't a patch on Pen Druid. Back at home I looked up Telemachus, curious to see what it meant. A mighty fine name for a mighty fine beer.

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