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God Bless President's Day.

So we (the lady-friend & I) leave NoVA around 11 AM, heading west along I-66.

Note to self: Next time when I ask before leaving, "Should we pack lunch", ignore a negative answer and pack lunch anyway.

and then signed up for this autumn's harvest, in which the winery brings folks out to pick grapes early one morning in the fall, and cooks breakfast for the volunteers, open bottles of wine, and generally have a good time.

Signed me up. Forutnately, they will at least provide the gloves for you...

We commented on the homes with wrap-around front porches, and the character and distinction that went into the truly older homes.

I am fully convinced that the decline of American civilization is in no small part due to new homes having no front porches.

We passed by the currently closed "Cooter's Garage" where the former Congressman who once played "Cooter" in the Dukes of Hazzard runs a hamburger stand and pop-culture museum dedicated to the TV show.

He actually pulled a U-turn to get a better look.

In the corner of the parking lot there, you will find the entrance to a 3.7 mile "moderately difficult" (whatever that means) hike along the Appalachian Trail to "Mary's Rock."

Moderately difficult = if you have balance and/or coordination problems, don't do this.

At this point, my hiking has been limited to hikes through the woods that were more rolling hills with few, if any, rocks to contend with. This would not be one of those hikes.

It was brisk. Lady Friend would say otherwise, to include a choice set of expletives before the word "cold."

I layered. Tights, socks and jeans. T-shirt, sweatshirt, jacket. Gloves. Despite all that, even half-way up the mountain, my legs would not get warm. They never did.

The path is fairly uneven, and narrows quite a bit in places with an exhilarating drop on the non-mountainous side.

Did I mention that I am afraid of heights? Very afraid? There were a multitude of loose rocks along the trail, and I do think I managed to trip over every single one, each time sure that I would end up careening over the side of the trail and down the mountain. If I had a nickel for everytime I whacked one of my toes, I would be independently weathly from just today's outing.

A little further up the trail, I saw a beast of amazing proportions up ahead of me. Momentarily, I was unsure as to whether I was facing a cow or a horse (it was white with large black spots) but it was imposing whatever it was... and completely out of place on the trail. It turned its massive head, and looked right at my dog. It was a great dane. All bossiness left my dog, and she (who has never done anything like this before) just laid down in the middle of the path quite confident in her impending demise. Fortunately, its human showed up, and after coaxing Eve into another detour, the behemoth passed us by.

My first thought was a pony, but it turned out to be a Great Dane... There is nothing quite like seeing an animal on the trail that is as tall as you are.

At this point, I wanted to get to the top so we could get back down. I still felt like I was going to fall off the trail, I was constantly tripping over the rocks, getting hungry, and frankly would have killed someone for a Coke. I am serious - I would have pushed someone off the trail and off the mountain for a Coke.

At this point I am sure my hiking partner was re-thinking the merits of the relationship.

After about an hour and a half we reached the summit of Mary's rock. The view is beautiful, and large.

It is lovely. However, it is very breezy as well. Any heat I had managed to generate while climbing up the trail was blown away in the space of 30 seconds.

You get about a 240 degree view of the valley, and the rocks above the clearing are easily climbed. That is, easily climbed until your Lady Friend sees you bounding up them full bore and behaving like a poor mimicry of DiCaprio in 'Titanic.' She emitted a string of demands and ultimatums that proved... if nothing else... that she likes me.

That, and there was no way I was going to be able to get the dog, the pack, and the hiking partner back down the trail if he fell and hurt himself. (Well, I probably could have just rolled him down, but there still would have been the pack and hound to contend with...)

Probably better in the end. Being a peak, if only 3514 feet, it was much more windy up there, and I suppose I could of misstepped and tumbled and we really wouldn't... oh heck, I LOVE CLIMBING.

He does.

Well, the descent was much easier. They normally are.

Sort of. Unfortunately, as we headed back down the trail, all built up heat I had was gone, and due to the sun dropping lower in the sky, getting warm again wasn't happening. My hands were cold to the point of being in pain, and about halfway down it started moving to my elbows. Trying to re-tie the laces on my boots was a challenge as I had no dexterity in my fingers.

Oh, and then the vertigo kicked in from having to stare at my feet to keep from tripping over the rocks and then looking up too quickly. At one point I really wasn't sure if I wanted to cry or throw up.

There were some bumpy areas, some breathtaking views, and many shouts and imprecations towards a mutt who was finding it much easier to pull a large person with his momentum leading downhill than it had been going up. It was a blast, but a bit chilly by the end, there being a noticeable drop in the temperature whenever we'd scuttle out of reach of the sun's rays. We were tired, and hungry, and satisfied with a decent climb.

I for one was extremely grateful to be on flat ground again where I could walk without fear of tripping over a rock to my untimely death.

We got into the car, and drove back. I stopped at a cider stand & picked up some apple butter, some pumpkin butter, and some good pithy country apple cider.

I made him promise that he would stop at the first place I could buy a Coke.

We toured a few old, small towns in the area, and daydreamed a bit about winning the lottery and just moving out to that kind of existence.

I've already decided I'll have a shop of some sort, somewhere out there. :)

On the way back, we hit a favorite dining establishment of mine. It's named "Lom-bar-dy's" and it is located near the winery in Amissville.

Long story short: Dive on the outside, terrific food on the inside. Wonderful coffee - I resisted the urge to dunk my hands into it.

I drove home full and happy. The dog passed out in the back seat, and lady friend maintained a contented smile all the way back to NoVA.

I was starting to get warm again.

It's the only way to hike.



I really would love to do it again - when the high is 70 degrees or above.
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