Sun, Jan 28 2007 - Honeymoon Hike #1 (View Original Event Details)|
Jackie Putman, John Putman
|Participants:||Jackie Putman, John Putman, Chuck Hildenbrand, Cynthia Hildenbrand, Ian Wright, Keith Ellis, Tressa Ellis, Kimberly Engle, Ruwan Alwis, Cristin Fullem, Dana Kalowsky, Stacy Murphy, Jennifer Carey, Steven Wakefield, Rani Gran, Chris Gran, Jen A, Colin Babb, Bob Laird|
So cold! We were surprised it was just raining instead of snowing since it felt so cold out. Though about 43 degrees, with the rain and wind it felt much colder. In fact, the temperature did actually drop throughout the day. There were 20 of us intrepid, or foolhardy, hikers standing in the Roosevelt Island parking lot Sunday morning. I wouldn't say the crowd was bright eyed and bushy tailed, but we were all eager to get moving; just to stay warm if nothing else.
The walk up the Towpath took about 90 minutes. The Towpath is almost perfectly level, but the wind and spotty rain made the trip a little more challenging than usual. We stopped briefly at Fletcher's Boat House for the always important bathroom break. We then strolled under the impressive former railroad trestle that now supports the Capital Crescent Trail. We finally and wetly reached our first objective - the mighty Chain Bridge. We climbed the ramp and crossed back into Virginia. After a brief regroup on the Virginia side, we began the real test of our character, and we faced it as a group.
The Potomac Heritage Trail is surprisingly difficult. Though only 4.1 miles long from the Chain Bridge to Roosevelt Island, it is, as one participant said, ".a long four miles." The trail is full of rocks, roots, steep inclines, stream crossings and one especially tricky rock staircase. All of this was made more treacherous by the slippery conditions resulting from the morning's rain. Nevertheless, we marched forward, into the abyss.
Starting the trail at this point brings you first up a steep climb to get your lungs warmed up. Also early in this trip is that rock staircase I mentioned. The staircase leads from a ridge and the GW Parkway down into the river valley to the trail. This is scary enough when it's dry; it was really fun soaking wet. To make things more exciting, we were rewarded with a shower of sleet on our way to the staircase. The view from atop this precipice is stunning. We all made it down in one piece. Ruwan, the Club Photographer, got some great shots of us cautiously creeping down the sheer rock face. We regrouped at the bottom for a reaffirming group hug.
The rest of the trail, though harsh, is more moderate. The trail does level out, but there are exposed roots all along the trail, a few streams to cross and plenty of rocks to scramble, but nothing like The Staircase. We made our way down the shore of the Potomac at a pretty good pace. As you get closer to Key Bridge and Roosevelt Island, the trail levels out and becomes less rocky but muddier, thus creating new challenges.
Along with these rough features comes the beauty of this trail. For every pile of sharp rocks is a small sandy beach. For every slippery incline is a flat ivy-covered meadow. The trail offers plenty of obstacles but more than makes up for it with a constant panorama of the Potomac and plenty of tree cover and striking cliff formations.
Again, this modest trail is actually pretty tough. The entire trail is approximately 10 miles long, stretching from Roosevelt Island all the way up to the American Legion Bridge and the Capital Beltway. Although I have not trekked north of the Chain Bridge on the PHT, I am sure it is as demanding as the southern 4.1 miles. Someday I hope to lead an MOC trip to cover the northern six miles.
At any rate, after only a couple of brief stops, the group made it back to the parking lot in good spirits if not in a little pain. I know my feet were most displeased. We'd like to thank everyone for coming out on such a lousy weather day and for being so considerate by calling the organizers Sunday morning to confirm. The next Honeymoon Hike will be at Gunpowder Falls State Park. We hope to see you there!
Photos coming soon!
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