Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hiking with the Buzzards

Even though I arrived at home at 10 PM last night from a 2-week (fairly tiring) vacation with the family (more on that later), I headed out at 9:30 this morning with Pat and Ben to hike up to Buzzard Rock in Shenandoah Valley near Front Royal.

This hike was supposed to be fairly innocuous, but I found it nearly as difficult (without the rock scramble) as Old Rag. According to the web site, we gained about 2500 feet in elevation (same as Old Rag) and you actually dip down a bunch into a pass and then climb up a second time, just to increase the "enjoyment" of it. The climbs were exhausting. (N.B. I am in far worse shape now than I was when we did Old Rag and I was doing kung fu three times a week!)

On the positive side, the surroundings were peaceful, the couple views we had awesome (sorry, no pictures) and we only saw one other group of people (taking a break near the first peak) the entire 4-ish hour trip.

On the negative side, the distant storm we saw decided to come our way after we passed the second peak and were exploring a trail on the far side. It caught us near the top on the hurried way back. After a very near - and frightening - lightning strike (lightning and thunder were simultaneous), we decided that speed and shortcuts were the better part of valor and abandoned the trail entirely, heading straight down the side of the mountain.

How we avoid major injuries (although I will probably not walk well this entire week), I have no idea. Slipping, sliding and half-running when we could down the wild side of a mountain through a torrential downpour which probably added at least 20 lbs to our load, we eventually got down into the valley. After some minutes of minor worry about finding the trail (and my not-unreasonable worry that we had gone down the wrong side of the trail and were on the opposide side of the mountain from the car), we located our original trail and hiked the relatively-short distance, now in sunshine, back to the car for a soggy ride home.

I took no pictures on the hike because I had (intentionally) left my backpack in the car, thinking it was going to be a short, 2-hour hike. I forgot that it had the camera in it as well as my inhaler, both which might have come in handy. On the other hand, the backpack is not waterproof, and I'm not sure the camera would have survived the soaking, so it may have been better this way.

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