Saturday, November 19, 2016

South River Falls Loop

I was still in a hiking mood after I got back from Arizona, so the next week Mark and I went up to Shenandoah to hike the South River Falls Loop. We had done this hike a few years ago and it was pretty neat, so we decided to check it out again with the leaves changing.

Some of the trees had already lost their leaves, but others still had a lot of great color.

The hike is a 3.3 mile loop with an optional extra part at the bottom. We figured we'd start with the regular trail first, then decide later how ambitious we felt.

This guy was hanging out on a rock on the side of the trail.

For the most part, the trail stays in the trees, but every once in a while you could see the surrounding ridges.

After a little while we made it to the waterfall overlook. You can just see the waterfall on the lower left side of the picture. I had forgotten to swap filters on my camera, hence the super bright light. Oops.

Some of these trees had some really nice leaves. We decided to follow the extra part of the trail to see what it was like.

It got pretty steep for a little while...

...but we eventually wound up right at the base of the waterfall.

We climbed around on the rocks for a bit to check out the falls. It was pretty neat to have the whole thing to ourselves! I took a few more pictures, then we started to make our way back up to the main trail.

At one point we heard rustling in the leaves on the side of the trail. There was a tiny mouse running around! We stopped to watch it for a couple minutes before continuing on.

 It was getting closer to the end of the day, and the light coming through the trees looked really neat.

What the pictures don't show is that the way back felt almost entirely uphill. What a workout! I was beat by the end of the hike.

We stopped at a couple overlooks on the way out to check out the fall colors. Visibility was fantastic!

Some of the trees had already lost their leaves, but there were still a few spots of color here and there. At any rate, it had been a nice day of hiking!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

October 19th: Back to the East Coast

I woke up the next morning, finished packing, then Timmy, Tara, Canyon, and I sat down and had pancakes for breakfast before I had to say goodbye and start the drive back to Phoenix. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had a great time and it had been a lot of fun to catch up with them again!

The drive went just fine, the rental car return was really quick, and check in and security was really fast, too. I treated myself to Wendy's for lunch (mmm, greasy burgers...), then spent a little time airplane spotting before it was time to board.

The gate itself was pretty crowded, but I found a wide open area with lots of empty seats at the end of the terminal. It was great for plane watching, too...there was a really nice view of the runway. I hung out here until it was time to board.

We flew past Sedona, Flagstaff, and Meteor Crater on the way out of Phoenix.

Timmy and I had flown over this in his plane the last time I visited them. I'd love to see it from the ground someday!

I had to connect through Denver on the way home, and there was plenty of great scenery along the way.

We landed at Denver just fine, the layover was relatively short, and soon it was time to leave for Dulles.

It was getting close to sunset when we left Denver; the colors were fantastic. Even better, we wound up with an empty middle seat! The guy that had the aisle seat and I both cheered.   :)

We eventually climbed above a cloud layer, then the sun set and there wasn't much to see. I spent part of the flight editing pictures and the time went by pretty fast. We wound up getting back about 20 minutes early, which was a nice way to end the trip. It had been a lot of fun...I'm glad I got to go!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

October 18th: Courthouse Butte Loop Trail

Rather than turning around and heading back to the car after finishing up with Bell Rock, I kept going until I reached the Courthouse Butte Loop Trail. I had walked around one big rock formation...I might as well walk around the other! 

The trail branched off to the side, and almost as soon as I took the turn I stopped seeing other hikers.

They were missing out...the views were great!

This was about the extent of the wildlife I saw along the way...little lizards.

It took a little while, but I eventually got to the far side of Courthouse Rock.

This cactus looked crazy; it was really tall and thin.

It didn't take long to hike out of the shadow and back into the sun.

Rabbit Ears is the rock formation on the right.

There was really no way to get lost on the hike (just walk around the big rocks until you wind up back where you started), so I had plenty of time to enjoy the view.

I eventually came to the Big Park Loop Trail, and took the turn to follow it back to the parking lot. I started to see a lot of other hikers again when I got here.

The picture doesn't really do it justice; Courthouse Rock is pretty big.

The trail had a lot of nice views, and I eventually made it back to the parking lot. It had been a great hike! I stopped at the gas station on the way back to top off the rental car, then went back to Timmy and Tara's.

Timmy and Tara were just finishing up with work when I got back and we still had a little time before sunset, so Timmy offered to take me for a ride... his 1967 Corvette Stingray. I'm no fool - I wasn't about to turn that down!   :)

We spent a little while cruising around some neighborhoods and enjoying the view; it was a lot of fun. We eventually went back to the house, I grabbed a quick shower, and we drove out to Jerome for dinner. Jerome is a former mining town in the mountains. It was dark by the time we got there, but with how high up it sits I'd imagine it would have awesome views of the valley. We grabbed some burgers for dinner (and laughed as Canyon tried - and immediately spit out - pickles), then headed back to Sedona. We hung out for a little while before heading to bed. As much as I wanted to stay longer, I'd be heading back home in the morning.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

October 18th: Bell Rock Pathway

It only took a couple minutes to get back to Timmy and Tara's house after our hike. I took a little bit of time to upload my pictures, then Tara and I hung out for a bit while I ate some nachos for lunch. (Mmm, nachos...) After lunch, Canyon needed a nap and Timmy and Tara needed to work for a little while. I had the entire afternoon free, though, so Tara gave me some sweet hiking maps and pointed me a few minutes down the road toward some more great hiking.

A very short (maybe five minutes?) drive later, it was time to hike Bell Rock Pathway!

Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock are right next to each other, and Tara had pointed out a few trails that looped around both of them.

It was pretty cool to be so close to Bell Rock after seeing it from our hike in the morning.

I also liked all the cactus hiding in the rocks.   :)

There were some pretty good views looking away from Bell Rock, too. You really have to work hard to take bad pictures here.

There was a great view of Hiline, too; it's about halfway up the big rock on the left side of the picture.

After a little while I was about halfway around Bell Rock itself.

I bumped into a couple at one point and they offered to take my picture. I made sure to return the favor!

The trail splits after a little while and you have the option to do the Bell Rock Climb. I wasn't going to turn that down!

It was definitely worth the detour.  :)

That's Courthouse Rock on the left and Bell Rock on the right.

The trail goes along a lot of open rocky areas, but it was pretty well marked.

After a little while the trail drifted over toward Courthouse Rock.

These were the trail markers. It was pretty fun to follow them around, especially since I didn't exactly know where the trail would wind up.

I followed the trail for a while and eventually made my way back down to the Bell Rock Pathway. The views had been great, but there was still more hiking to do!