Tonic for the Pandemic

The Lashley Lounge

Falls Church, Virginia, Saturday, February 13, 2021 — Pandemic fatigue is real.  People are tired, frustrated and fed up with lockdowns, restrictions, inconvenience, anxiety, and fear.  This is not to mention the more than 460,000 dead, the economic deprivation,  and the devastation of the Main Street economy.    This blog is apolitical so we’ll not go there.  Suffice it to say that everyone is doing the best they can. 

Our Gang of Four hiking group is a subset of a larger group of friends who have been coping in our own way.  Each of us has a connection to the Washington, D.C. journalism community.  Two are academics, I’m a former spokesman for the National Security Council, and the rest are covering or have covered our national government at the highest levels.  In most cases our various connections go back at least 25 years and run through the White House and/or Capitol Hill. 

The next thing I’d mention how good we look after all that time.  Masks are the new facelift.

We’ve been gathering at social distance on Saturdays for months.  Tina invited us to meet at her house on summer evenings on a large patio, around a gas fire pit, under a string of lights.  She moved the start time to mid-afternoon with the arrival of winter.  In that way we collect all the warmth the day has to offer.  With the change, the main event ends at the hour the when the sun-splashed winter daylight becomes frozen winter darkness.  The hard core can brave the night with a flicker of light from the fire pit.

Today is Saturday but we’re not gathered at the Lashley Lounge.  We’re in the middle of a bleeping ice storm.  We may be crazy but we’re not braving the beltway in this weather.  So let’s cheer up by rerunning last Saturday’s festivities.

It was Kia’s birthday!  

4F521EDA-5DAC-4842-A225-2B92903E1DDB_1_201_a

We divided up the menu pot luck.  The delights included baked ziti, Chianti classico, brochette and an awesome cake.  Long johns are the new unmentionables.

25393978-C590-499C-A66A-174B439414EF_1_201_a

Blowing out the candles COVID style by waving a paper plate. Singing “Happy Birthday” muffled the flapping.

Of course no gathering in complete without Tilly the dog. She’s a pup with the energy of an unguided missile crossed with an Olympic mud wrestler. You can probably guess where this is going.

A patch of mud does not exist that Tilly can’t find.  That’s the point.  This is a place where folks can safely let their hair down among friends, talk Washington inside baseball and blow off a little steam. 

We laugh, we vent and we cheer each other up.  Where there is a will, there is a way to do it safely in a pandemic.  Wearing home a boatload of dirty laundry is an affordable tonic these days.

Sisu

Gilligan’s Island Hike. What could go wrong?

9D701137-65EE-4E16-B8AE-FF79929B0455

Appalachian Trail south of Harpers Ferry, WV, Friday, October 2, 2020 — We rendezvoused at the church parking lot next to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry.  Hot Starbucks and blueberry muffins fortified the blue sky, dry air and perfectly cool autumn morning.

Bellies comfortably full, the Gang of Four plus one piled into my Subaru, masks on and windows down for the shuttle to our starting point at the Keys Gap trailhead.  From there we planned a three hour tour to Harpers Ferry with a detour to the Loudon Heights scenic overlook.

Our plus one was Nancy who was dubbed the Iron Ranger for her roots in Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range.

B8E17091-829B-4E67-A0AC-BFE955B2C013_1_201_a

The start was uneventful.  We marched six to eight feet apart. 

The AT is infamous for its rocky tread.  It wasn’t long before the Iron Ranger got bucked off her horse in a classic face plant that dealt her a bruised cheek and a small skinned area on the palm of her hand.  She’s made of Viking stock, so patched up, she soldiered on.  Little did we know that by day’s end we would each do some serious soldiering.

053AAD01-98CD-425A-93E7-EBC88479DE4A

Taking a break.

8D0C4576-A478-4FF9-8E94-1FB02B982383

Badass removes a branch blocking the trail, her first experience as a trail sawyer.

5834ACEF-8DE1-4F45-B71A-57E7714FA1C5_1_201_a

D03BCAA9-F736-4441-AC2C-B3FF0D1722DA_1_201_aAD927714-C59F-4F88-A7FC-175CB586D8CD_1_201_a

FD5A12FD-9F0D-4049-94C5-7522B3E5D624_1_201_a

Along the way we photographed natures interesting handiwork.

A1E9A98F-906E-4473-8340-1344552C70A7

Not far from the orange trail that goes to the overlook on Loudon Heights.  This where the “What could go wrong” part comes in.

I’ve hiked through here dozens of times but had never diverted to see the overlook after seeing photos taken there.  It’s excellent, but Maryland Heights was much better, so I never bothered.  Besides I was always in some kind of hurry.

We rallied at the turn off behind the trail sign.  My assumption for a number of reasons was that the viewpoint was less than a mile out of the way.  When we returned, the sign said it was two miles. 

Round trip that’s at least two extra hours.  So instead of finishing at 3 p.m. we finished at 5:30 when the walk all the way back to the church parking log was factored in.  Probably would not have done that if I’d looked at the sign.

8538A4B2-3EB9-4E91-9F5B-C7AB58F2FD26_1_201_a

This view of the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers was the holy grail. 

B2808D45-16E2-48A2-9077-AB75482F0AE1

Trophy pic.

242AEC93-79F8-4320-AFC7-52B49A617C6F

By the time everyone reached the overlook many of us were spent.  We took plenty of rest breaks on the way to Harpers Ferry.

F8486FB9-E689-4FFB-BE07-C1B3E29C0480_1_201_a

Full circle.  Lunch turned into dinner at Keys Gap. Our weary bodies smacked the log benches with the sound of a waitress wet-ragging a plastic table cloth.

There we were with quads made of jelly, sore feet and empty fuel tanks.

Seemingly to pick us up, AWOL bragged her gluts were in fine form.  That was a rare opening.  She has wanted a new trail name, so we started riffing – Hardass, and Buns of Steel emerged as candidates.  Being who we are, Iron Butt won the day.  Iron Butt it is.

At some point I think I was charged attempted murder if not formally that’s what everyone was thinking.  I thank them for the acquittal.

7EBAE218-F69D-422D-8673-ED70C8875D8E

Saturday night was Badass’s birthday.

EAEB3FFB-0C11-41CA-B384-374A23073A8C

Happy Birthday!

5804B8D4-8E64-4036-9C6F-947AE9C0D1FF

Celebrating six feet apart at Bulldog’s house. 

Guess what? We had as much fun as they did on Gilligan’s Island and we’re already planning our next outing.

Sisu

Busy Week on the Trails

IMG_3985

Tiny toad next to a blue blaze.

Shenandoah National Park, Antietam National Battlefield and C&O Canal National Historic Park, Maryland, July 20, 23 and 26, 2019 —  The week started with the Hoodlums trail crew work trip Saturday in stifling heat and humidity.

IMG_3942.JPG

We cleared the leaner with a 24 inch pruning saw.  The chainsaw vapor locked.

fullsizeoutput_1ffe

 Monday the heat broke and I dashed up to the park to weed the AT section I maintain.

The warning sign is about a rabid ground hog that has been spotted in the area.  Of course I immediately imagined that our local bear would find and eat the dead ground hog, then we’d have a rabid bear on our hands … Nooooooo!  With that I put my imagination back in its box and got to work.

Tuesday featured a Maryland AT Management Committee meeting where the various organization involved with the AT in Maryland convene to sort out issues and coordinate activities.

Traffic is always horrific coming out of Washington so I usually leave early and meet the ridgerunner for dinner.  Then we attend the meeting.

IMG_3948

Dunkard Church taken from near this vista.  It is one of the iconic photos from the battle.

I had 90 minutes before the time I arranged to meet Mary, so I dropped in on Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg, MD.  Link to Antietam Battlefield website

When I was a student at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, we spent some time studying this battle to learn what we could from the decisions its various leaders made on that bloodiest day in American military history.

“23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862. The Battle of Antietam ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North and led Abraham Lincoln to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation,” according to the website.

IMG_3952

After falling into disrepair, the church was rebuilt for the civil war centennial.

IMG_3949

Inside of the church as it is today.

The Dunkard faith tradition is alive today.  Link to the Dunkard Brethern website.

Now for the highlight of the week.  It’s time for another Gang of Four (again minus one) hike.  Alexis was booked as an analyst on NPR’s 1-A Friday domestic news round up.

IMG_3962

Three sunny faces at 8 o’clock.

We were back at the C&O Canal’s great falls.  There are many trails in the park, but the Billy Goat trails are the best.  Last time we hiked Billy Goat B because A was flood damaged.  Yesterday A was open and we were ready.  Link to our last visit.

fullsizeoutput_2005

Billy Goat A is similar to B.  It’s located on the Potomac floodplain and features rocks and sand.

fullsizeoutput_2002

The C&O offers excellent aquatic habitat.

IMG_3997

Butterflies were abundant.  This is Viceroy, not a Monarch.

fullsizeoutput_2006

Rock monkeys atop the featured rock scramble.

fullsizeoutput_2004

Selfie!

fullsizeoutput_200a

For the record.

fullsizeoutput_2000

Balance beam yoga.

fullsizeoutput_1d3b

Readers may recall last year.  Area rainfall for the year was nearly double normal.  The river roared through Great Falls as if wasn’t even there.

IMG_3992

What a difference a year with normal rainfall makes!

jYg44gydTz4fJ0E0RIA

With that, we called it a day and repaired to a local watering hole for an al fresco lunch.  We had to sit outside.  I forgot to bring a dry shirt.  Stay tuned for our August adventure.

Sisu