While many of the pins we add to our map are planned out well in advance, I’d say a good 30% are spur of the moment ideas. The Mid-Ohio race weekend would be a perfect example, we knew we had a free weekend coming up. Thursday of that week I’m talking to Kelly about wanting to watch a race on TV, and Kelly asks how far away that track was from us… Suddenly we’re buying General Admission tickets and finding the closest/cheapest hotel. Friday as soon as work is done we immediately hop in the car and drive. Saturday morning we arrive at the track have an awesome time getting to see 6 different racing series over both days of the weekend, then immediately after the races on Sunday we drive back home, getting in at roughly 3 a.m. and go to work at 7 the following morning…tired as heck but happy with the experience and memories.
It sounds crazy, but those trips define us just as much as the planned ones Its also how we ended up on our first date (a story of cross-country travel on a whim, but for a later time); and it lands us great life experience, great sights and memories.
This past weekend was one of those weekends, it went something like this:
Me: “You know I really miss doing hiking trails to see waterfalls; my parents did those occasionally on vacations when I was young.”
Kelly: “That sounds cool, I’m definitely up for trying some out.”
One day later of me on the internet researching, and the next free moment we get three days later we find ourselves in Shenandoah National Park hiking the trail for the White Oak Canyon Waterfalls. It was certainly worth it, the falls are gorgeous, and I can only imagine how it must look in the fall with even more color or in the winter at a frozen state. For the sights (falls, foliage, rock formations, deer and other wildlife) it was totally worth it, one of our best trips, and it only cost us gas and a $30 annual membership to the Shenandoah National Park (a park that we’ll be re-visiting a lot as it has much more to offer including 5 more waterfall trails).
Alas, here comes that “but” you were waiting for since the title of this post. In the rush I had forgotten to charge the battery for my Nikon DSLR, doh! Luckily for a trip like this we bring along our small handheld Cybershot too, which while it does good photos, just isn’t the same. Then halfway into the hike, my seven year old hiking shoes started coming apart! Unfortunately these still weren’t the “worst” part; the worst-ness all falls on the hands of myself, who simply failed to fully research the grade and direction of this hike.
Firstly, we got an official trail guide which is greatly helpful, but the problem is that we’ve never done any of this guy’s trails before; so when he tells you easy/moderate/difficult, we have no way of really knowing what to judge that off of. Then the few people on the internet who talk about doing this trail mention how it’s a gradual/moderate hike, but nothing too strenuous. Sounds perfect for our first hike in a very long time right?
The problem is that most/all of them only did the half hike to reach only the first main waterfall. The problem for us is we intended to see all six waterfalls. This trail is roughly 2.3 miles just to the first waterfall; and then there are 2.8 more miles if you chose to hit the other 5 waterfalls, which we did. While the trail to the first main waterfall is graded “Easy/Moderate” the grade of the remaining trail, that no one did online, to get to #2-#6 waterfalls is “DIFFICULT.”
The miles alone are quite a distance hiking with slight elevation changes, but from what I’ve now researched, the elevation change you do is roughly 2,800 feet! About 80% of this is direct decline/incline without much in the way of switchbacks to make it less steep.
Its all downhill (literally) to get to the many falls, and you’re happy with the beautiful falls, you can even take a fresh/cool swim at waterfall #6, but after you’re done having fun and taking pictures, begin the torture. The trail from #6 to get back to #1 is 2.8 miles of Grade DIFFICULT… uphill! Pardon me for a second, I think one of my calf muscles just exploded just thinking about it.
Now Kelly and I aren’t totally out of shape or anything but we’re hardly near being triathletes; I think if we did this trail again next weekend it’d be a much different story as we’d be a lot more prepared than 2 bananas and 2 bottles of water with a dead battery camera and shoes that are falling apart. The lesson? Listen to the Boy Scouts and ‘Be Prepared’ because it’s totally worth it in the end. In total it was five and a half hours of hiking and rest stops that we’ll never forget; not the beautiful waterfalls and the wildlife, nor the sensation of kneecaps imploding