TAEM Explores the world of Hiking by author Joseph J. O’Donnell

Within the past two months we began a new venture by exploring the world of Hiking ! What seemed like a dire period of bad weather, either roasting hot or a season of monsoon-like rains, we finally stepped outdoors in search of a new story, and a new passion.

The impediments of extreme temperatures , what felt like 103 + degrees in the shade, to one of the rainiest years on record for our area, sunshine and more temperate weather finally kicked in. Friends of ours have been sending us photos of their hiking and camping adventures and they really wetted our appetites for similar field trips. Unlike their extended stays, encapsulated by mother nature, we decided to minimize our explorations by going Day Hiking. In this way we could start building up our stamina along with much needed experience. This included purchasing the correct type of gear and supplies we would need for this purpose.
The first thing you learn is never walk alone. Luckily my son (who is also our photographer) showed the same interest in this venue and we immediately teamed up to explore our options. For day hiking we first purchased small backpacks that contained built in water pouches. Appropriate clothing and footwear were also acquired for our trips. Foodstuff was then bought for the initial trip so that we could better judge what supplies we should carry. Pamphlets acquired at park visiting centers are also a must, for they point out the various trails (most have multiple hiking trails) so we would not get lost.

Joseph O'Donnell with son Joe O'Donnell, Jr.Our first trip was along the Bull Run/ Occoquan Trail. This trail stretches over nineteen miles of Northern Virginia. Needless to say we chose a less lengthy hike of only 7.4 miles of the western section to break us in. This proved a smart choice for we found ourselves sorely lacking in endurance and the proper amount of water and snacks for this trip. Walking sticks later purchased seemed to be in order for our next hike, too. The heat and humidity, along with clouds of mosquitoes made it miserable, but did not dampen our enthusiasm.

Our second hike found us at the Manassas Battlefield Park’s ‘Blue Trail’ where we hiked some 13.2 miles. The visitor’s Center, located on Sudley Road, was the starting point. The pamphlet procured led us to the trailhead for this arduous walk. More food and water was brought along and we found that we were smart to do so. We did rest shortly a few times and with the trail being marked, we quickly carried on. One thing that you do learn first thing is to be able to recognize the trail-markers so that you don’t get easily lost.

Our third trip out found us at the Blue Ridge Mountains. The trail we chose was the ‘Stony Man’ and was shorter than the initial hikes ( only 3.2 miles) but fairly steep in incline versus the earlier trails. Our new walking sticks came in handy as there was much ‘scrabble’ (loose rocks) along the paths. This shorter hike was taken because we had other business in the area to attend to and this trail was near an event we would be attending in November and we needed to scout out its location. Both sites are close in proximity.

Our latest hike took us to the Sky Meadows State Park where numerous hiking trails exist. The length we took for this walk was approximately 5 miles along parts of four interconnected trails. We had attempted to climb the Lost Mountain trail there (another 2.5 miles), but recent rains created flooding in the stream crossing it, and to our dismay, we had to turn back. For this trip we had purchased a larger back pack that held our water pouches ( Camel Pack) along with our ‘snacks’ and two additional water bottles each. This was another wise purchase and one we would need for longer hikes.

Virginia has the best trails in the entire country, and its Appalachian trail is world renowned, and very scenic. That trail runs along the ridge of these mountains from Georgia to Maine and takes about six months to travel on. We intend to find more trails in the Virginia area, and some day actually travel the entire Appalachian Trail and report our trips and adventures back to all our readers.

We hope that we have passed along good information to you with this article and hopefully you will be enthusiastic as we are with our new found adventure. Until then…..good Hiking!

TAEM