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Friday, February 12, 2021

Visiting Luray Caverns - Virginia

Spending $30 a person to go tour a cavern isn't typically on my to-do list when traveling somewhere new. I like geologic formations as much as the next person I suppose, but generally prefer to skip touristry attractions for time outside. 

We were in Virginia for a few days and had a bit of time to kill after our hike to Kennedy Peak. Adam was very excited about the idea of spelunking and checking out a cavern and after a quick google search, the caverns did seem pretty interesting. They are the largest caverns in eastern America and it's more than just a quick look at some rocks, a 1.25-mile path takes you into and through the caverns. Your ticket also comes with admission to two smaller museums on the property. The first is "Toy Town Junction" featuring a walk through history via toys of different eras, and access to the "Car & Carriage Caravan Museum" a blast from the automotive past for any car junky. We spent about an hour and a half exploring all three attractions and both agreed the caverns were even more impressive than we expected and worth the stop. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Kennedy Peak - George Washington and Jefferson National Forest (Virginia)

Shenandoah National Park is a major attraction in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. There's something about the term "National Park" that puts the title on people's bucket list.  Yes. National Parks are (usually) worth all the hype and Shenandoah doesn't fall short with its epic Skyline Drive and famous stretch of the Appalachian Trail. What you may not have known is just next door to this bucket list-worthy National Park is a just as impressive National Forest. 

A lot of people seem confused about the difference between some of our protected areas and for good reasons, there are a lot of terms we throw around. We have National Parks, National Forests, National Refuges, and National Monuments to name a few. They are all protected for various reasons but are basically protected in different ways with various levels of restrictions. For today's post, let's talk about the difference between National Parks and National Forests.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Visiting Shenandoah National Park in a Day (in winter, with dogs!)

For me, visiting a National Park in the off-season is the best season. Our National Parks are gems to be shared by all but visiting these parks in the summer and fall months means you will be in the company of others, many others. Trails will be packed, parking lots full, and it can be a lot harder to enjoy the quiet of the outdoors when you are in a crowd. 

Winter is a great time to visit our National Parks as with just a few "restrictions", you will be able to see a national treasure without the crowds. Shenandoah National Park is a great place in the winter as clearer skies offer sweeping views across the valley. No traffic, parking is a non-issue, and the trails are perfectly quiet. While I know this park is breathtaking in the fall, we figured it was beautiful enough to visit in the winter too - just in a different way. Of course, we had our dogs with us, and as it turns out that Shenandoah National Park is one of the most dog-friendly National Parks in the U.S. (only 10 trails are off-limits). 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Hiking Hartman Park - Lyme, CT

Living on the preserve means I venture to other hiking areas a little less. It's far too easy to walk out the door and down the road than loading up the dogs in the car and driving to a trailhead. But, as much as I appreciate this large swatch of wilderness that stretches past our home, a change of scenery is always good. It was a sunny Sunday in January, temperatures topping in the high 30's and low 40's. A bright sunny day, not a cloud in the sky and a light breeze at best. January in New England can go either way and this kind of weather on a winter Sunday with limited daylight hours means you pack up the car and head somewhere worthy. 

I had been to Hartman Park a dozen times and joked with Adam I had a bit of "PTSD" from a December visit years ago. While hiking in the park, Olive and her hiking buddy (Thule the golden retriever) took off after a deer and that was the last we saw of them for about five hours. Hartman Park is sort of in the woods in the middle of nowhere and after spending hours following the trail and calling their name, asking any hikers if they had seen this dynamic duo (always no), I was beyond hysterics. The sun was starting to set and snow was falling and I left the park to go grab some bacon for a bacon burn. My parents left their hours to head to the trailhead to search the roads while we ran to the store and as they pulled up to the trailhead, our two lost dogs were there waiting for a ride home. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Hiking East River Preserve - Guilford, CT

East River Preserve is kind of the space that has everything.  Wide-open fields, lots of double-track through the woods, trails following the beautiful East River, wide gravel trails along the powerlines, quiet singletrack through the woods, and more. When I lived in Guilford, it was a spot I went almost weekly and even after moving away, it's still a preserve I keep coming back to.  It can be busy during the weekends but it isn't mobbed by any means.  There are various trailheads throughout town and it i's larger than you think.  A hot sunny morning or a grey winter's day, East River Preserve is the perfect place for a hike during any season.