Tag Archives: Hike

Old Hotel Trail off the Appalachian Trail

It’s nestled in the 7500 plus acres of the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area and the even larger George Washington & Thomas Jefferson National Forest (about 1.8 MILLION square miles.) It is part of the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Mountains and has miles and miles of trails. So yesterday, I headed to Mount Pleasant trailhead and decided to trod a new trial. Between the Mount Pleasant and AT (Appalachian Trail) is the Little Hotel (aka Old Hotel) Trail. The 3 miles takes you from Hog Gap Parking to Cow Gap right near the open meadows of Cole Mountain. The trail is like a dividing line between Mount Pleasant and the AT part on Cole Mount.

To be clear – I saw no cows and no hogs. I did see dears and bugs and birds – but no farm animals.

The name apparently doesn’t come from any hotel that existed – but from the name of a farmer who many trekkers used his old abandoned house for overnight respites. Even today, the AT has a sleeping hut and privy where the trails connect.

The trail is filled with diversity and beauty. It begins with a mile long, rut-deep, bouncy fire road. This was why I bought the FJ Cruiser in the first place. From the small off the off-road parking spots, you immediately hit the forest filled with acres and acres of ferns that were closing in the wind. This trail seemed to be rarely walked. I guess most enjoy the more picturesque Mt. Pleasant or the shorter route to Cole Mount.

From the dancing ferns, I immediately hit a deep and dark patch of pine trees. I felt like I was in an eerie nightmare. It was more than the pines, it was also the sky. I checked the weather and it was like 4% chance of rain – stupid weather app. For the next mile, it sprinkled ever so lightly … then it gave a solid soaking for about 30 minutes. But 30 minutes was spread out as the now wet trees begin to drip, drip, drip. By the end of the 6 miles, much of me was soaked.

A good point is my new Merrell Moab 3s held up their water resistance and my feet were completely dry. I do love my Merrell’s.

At one point in the trail, I came upon a slew (?), a bushy area filled with swallows. About 20 to 30 swallows took flight and circled me. I knew I was on their turf so I did not linger.

In about half way – I came across a wall – more of a cattle or hog wall – which I know dates back to the days this areas was actually used for cattle and hog drives and containment.

As you get closer to the apex, the trail begins to have a few switchbacks. Now I could’ve gone off trail and cut through but it was the switchbacks that led to the beautiful overlooks – though with the rain and the after rain mist – the view was limited. The lesson here though is we often look for shortcuts but if we do, we might miss some of the best stuff in life.

As you get closer to the apex, the trail begins to have a few switchbacks. Now I could’ve gone off trail and cut through but it was the switchbacks that led to the beautiful overlooks – though with the rain and the after rain mist – the view was limited. The lesson here though is we often look for shortcuts but if we do, we might miss some of the best stuff in life.

The true delight of this hike is Cole Mountain. Cole Mountain has a huge meadow – or heather – and it is the largest mountain top meadow on the east coast that has both an eastern and western side of the mountain. This meadow is astounding and warrants the best and most romantic picnics any outdoors peeps can plan.

After a 1.5 mile trek on the downward slope of the AT, I arrived back at the trusty FJ that was waiting too take me back home.

For the first day of Fall – this was a good day.

Top Trails in Virginia

Top trails in Virginia

This is not my list. This list originate with All Trails. But I’ve done them. All Trails has 2,124 trails in Virginia. I can n’er I’ve done them all but I’ve done ocean/bay front, city, suburb, foothills and mountains. I’ve scrambled the rocks, viewed majestic falls, gone off trail, and seen the wander of this great state. 40% of the Appalachian Trail is in this state and I’ve done portions.

Here’s the list …

  • Old Rag Mountain Loop (11+ miles) … by far the best and most wonderful trail.
  • Mcafee Knob (7.8 miles) … most photographed spot on the AT and possibly all of Virginia.
  • Hawksbill Loop
  • Dark Hollow Falls
  • White Oak Canyon/Cedar Run Trail Loop
  • Rose River Trail
  • Raven Rocks via AT
  • Stony Man via AT
  • Bear face Mountain Trail
  • Little Stony Man via AT

From 1 to 12 miles. All doable as day hikes. Some great views and better adventures. I’ve done alone and I’ve done with family. Both have merit but the family ventures bring the best memories. It doesn’t include Peaks of Otter, Mt. Pleasant or Mt. Roger’s (highest peak) and most are inside the Shenandoah National Park.

So what is there to say …

If you have just one … Old Rag is the one you’ll remember forever … but wear hiking shoes, no rookies for this one.

If you have just one …. McAfee is the one everyone will recognize. Getting your picture on the overhang carries a lot of creed.

If you have just one … it doesn’t matter, just go.

In the blue ridge mountains of Virginia
On the trail of the lonesome pine
In the pale moonshine our hearts entwine
She carved her name and I carved mine
Oh June, like the mountains are blue
Like the pine I am lonesome for you

… Tokyo Blade

You Should Be Outside

“You Should Be Outside”

What a line. I hear it often from the voices in my head. Sometimes I answer those voices with strong affirmation – Yes I should. But there is so much to do. So very much to do.

But this time, my administrative assistant said it. She has said it every day this week. Every stinking day. It has been beautiful outside. 

I love hiking. I went last week to the Holiday Lake State Park. It was just a short jaunt around most the lake and back. But it was great. But last week was last week. This week is this week.

I should be outside.

But what do you do if you can’t? Me, here are some of my temporary brain fixes …

  • I look at pictures of previous hikes. I just remind myself that it has happened and it can happen again. (Colorado – I miss thee)
  • I read blogs, e-articles and posts on other people’s hikes. Hey, I can live a little vicariously. And sometimes I discover new places to hike.
  • I look on my All-Trail App and plan the next excursion. Today, I am looking at Harper’s Ferry, VA.
  • I plan the next biggie … I’ve got it bad of the Badlands!

Today, I can’t get outside.  But maybe tomorrow. 

What should you be doing? If you can’t do it today – maybe tomorrow. Don’t give up.

As far as the voices in my head – maybe they’ll be quiet if I watch a movie about the outside. They just put Blue Ridge on Peacock.

Today, I can’t get outside. 
But maybe tomorrow.

DAY FIVE … Road Trip ‘22

Today, it all focuses on the letter “W.” What a Wonderful Way to Write the Whimsical Whisperings Wrangling in my head.

West – It is the fifth day. And while a whole bunch of it was spent driving west, so much more happened too. So many wonderful things. I woke up early, in the wee hours well before sunrise. Took I-20 west from Fort Worth and turned off hours later to head to Carlsbad NM. Almost 8 hours behind the wheel.

Lesson … sometimes much has to be done to get to where you’re going. Few things worth attaining come quickly.

What-A-Burger. I stopped along the way to get a breakfast taquito. This was on my bucket list. Oh how I wish there was a What-A-Burger up my way.

Lesson … simple things are often very precious. So enjoy them.

Wide open spaces … West Texas. It is beautiful. Unique in its scenery. Flat as far as I could see. Cacti, cattle, clouds that go on forever and little towns miles and miles apart. Thank the Lord for Audible books.

Lesson … America, in her diverse landscape, is a beautiful country. From sea to summit. From city to small crossroads. From the Atlantic to the Pacific. America is blessed.

Windy … Wind Turbines. There were times I felt the 4 Runner pushed to the right or to the left. Wind rolling over the flat landscape and nothing to slow it down. If looks like tomorrow’s hike will be quite windy. Caution would need to be taken. West Texas was taking advantage of the wind with hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines. No shortage of that green energy here.

Wells … Oil Wells. Wind power wasn’t the only energy being produced out here. Thousands of oil wells – some pumping, some sitting idle. There was no shortage of here.

Double Lesson … free enterprise will look for opportunities whenever they may be.

Wife. I miss Lisa. Lesson … I miss Lisa.

And finally … my destination … Carlsbad Caverns.

In a word … WOW. No review did it justice. No simple picture can grasp its magnitude. The majestic stalagmite spires. The enthralling stalactites. Gigantic open spaces hundreds of feet below the surface. Artistic. Unique. An emanation of awe. And when you ponder the original explorers, it leaves you overwhelmed.

This product with in the Guadalupe Mountains was an island rising in the flat land of West Texas and southern New Mexico. Even the drive at the start of the National park was fabulous.

I encourage every one to make this trip one day. I leave you with pictures … which don’t do it justice.

Airplane Mode … #MyPhoneGetsMe – Number 4 of 5

Now for my regular readers, this may seem a bit opposite of yesterday’s wisdom nugget (Hotspot) … but stay with me, they actually work together in the world of #MyPhoneGetsMe.

I don’t travel by air a lot, I prefer to drive. Maybe it’s a control thing, an economic thing, or just a “I don’t want to be a sardine” thing. But when we fly, I do appreciate the fact we no longer have to completely unplug and turn off our devices. We can now go to airplane mode. That wonderful way our phone becomes isolated from everything around it and lives within the confines of its own little world.

Airplane mode is cool. It saves the battery. It helps us focus. It takes away distractions. Now, I know yesterday I shared about how we need each other … how the phone as a hotspot is a way #MyPhoneGetsMe … but there are times we need to pull away and refresh, retreat and recharge, spend some time alone with God and maybe just a few people without the pulls and tugs and demands from the world.

For me, it’s the mountains. Here I get by myself. I mean, Jesus did that … went off alone into the mountains to pray.. I normally don’t even have to turn on airplane mode. I try to get areas where there just isn’t any service. And it’s kind of nice. #MyPhoneGetsMe … I need the solitude. Such was yesterday.

I was on the mountain yesterday. Trekked about 6 miles, got off the trail, and spent time with nature and a friend. We went off trail to view the memorial to a 1942 Air Corp training wreck. A plane that lost altitude at night. Five lives were lost. I’ve been a few times, but this was his first endeavor down the rugged side of Sharp Top mountain.

It was as if life stopped, everything for him tuned out, and he focused on the moment. It was something we all need, living in the present – untethered, no outside demands, just right here and right now.

Airplane mode can be a way of life, and it’s a way of life I need more moments of.

But beware, we were not created to stay in airplane mode. We need it, but in portions.

So today, or at least in the next couple of days … find a moment, a place, and get into the airplane mode state of mind. You’ll think me for it.

I’m so glad #MyPhoneGetsMe.

Hotspot … #MyPhoneGetsMe – Number 3 of 5

One is the loneliest number that I’ve ever seen. Two can be as bad as one, it’s the loneliest number next to number one.

Now that song will be in my head all day … a brain worm, so they say. Hey, that rhymed … but I am getting off topic. And my topic is #MyPhoneGetsMe.

I’m pretty heavily invested in Apple. Phones, computer, iPads, AppleTV, and TV+. And I use them quite regularly. But my iPads, the poor little mobile tablets are WiFi models. They need something for them to work to their full potential. Neither is connected to the World Wide Web like my iPhones with GPS. They need to be in a WiFi zone. They need to be connected.

So enter the great technology of mobile Hotspot. I didn’t have to buy an extra device, I have one in my iPhones. I can move a little virtual button, share my password, and allow other devices to share my data stream. So my iPad talks to my iPhone which talks to Verizon which talks to the web … Abracadabra … magic of technology.

I can use the iPad without the web … but I’m limited. I’m not getting everything out of it for which Steve Jobs designed it. By itself, it’s lonely, it’s just one. But hook it up … sync it … link it in … log it on … whatever you call it, it I can surf, download, stream, and more.


I too am lonely and incomplete when all by myself. We all need each other. We need to connect. If any lesson has arisen out of this COVID mess it’s that we need to wash our hands more … no, not that, though that is good. What I mean is … We need each other. We were created for relationships.

Oh yes, I can function on my own, but I will never get the full range of what God created me for. I need other people.

It’s not good for man to be alone. We are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves.


So the process …

  • Realize the need … we were created for more and we need each other
  • Turn the toggle to allow others to join … take a chance, open up.
  • Search for others ready to connect
  • Click the “join” prompt
  • Enjoy the fulfillment of knowing we are better together

So in the end, I sometimes need a hotspot and sometimes I am the hotspot … and it’s all about connecting with others. Try it … you’ll like it.

So my hotspot today … 1/ headed to the mountains with Matt Mc to do Sharp Top and find the plane wreckage (been too long for hike and for connecting with Matt) and 2/ Men’s Study group tonight … my weekly fix with some great guys.

Who’s on your hotspot list today?

Piney Mountain, Appomattox – Fire Tower Road

When is a mountain not really a mountain? Appomattox is in some rolling hills, the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountain range. The closet peak is about an hour west. So why didn’t I know there was a Piney Mountain right here in Appomattox county.

Well, as I arrived on site, I realize Piney Mountain was probably more in name than an actual peak. It was a pretty good hill so I was pleased to take a little time to enjoy the early fall weather. The journey up was not so much a trail as a fire road that has gone to mayhem. A four wheeler couldn’t actually make it – maybe a dirt bike. The pictures look easier than it actually was.

But it wasn’t an easy entry way … I had to pass through some private property with a “No Trespassing” sign. In this area, they often take that very serious. Like 2d Amendment serious. Fortunately, I met a friendly man working on an old Chevy. “Bob” helped me out with some history, a few hints, and permission to hike.

There was another problem. Spider webs all across the trail. In my hair, in my eyes, in my mouth … yes, I gagged.

Made it to the top and reached the Fire Tower. It is one of about a dozen left out of about 150 previously scattered throughout the commonwealth.

The gate was open, the clouds were fluffy, and the vultures were circling. A beautiful and creepy sight. I started up the stairs.

Wait a minute.

This thing is a bit wobbly. The stairs had little in terms of guardrails. It was like climbing a high dive platform with minor protection. And didn’t a high dive platform just collapse in a local college? I made it about half way. A bit Wobblies. Not believing it was a Weeble (they wobble but don’t fall down,) I decided to descend.

So, I looked around, took a pic, and headed down.

20-30 miles in all direction. A beautiful place to live.

Maybe if I had a partner, maybe if I wasn’t alone, then I would’ve had a bit more confidence. I had this short Visio I’d fall, I would just lay there, get eaten by vultures … and a week or so later, my wife would notice I hadn’t been around. Next time.

I found some pics online of inside the cabin (the room at the top.)

My lessons …

  • Look for adventures right around you
  • Sharing the adventure will help you go further and higher
  • Take pics

If nothing else, I climbed a mountain today. That makes today, a good day.

Walking with a Limp

Sore feet. Worn out legs. Exhausted (somewhat). Artificial hip. Ankylosing spondylitis. There are many reasons I walk a bit weird. As one person told me, I have a little hitch in my giddy up. So I often limp.

But today, I need … yes, need … to get outside. So off to the Conner-Sweeney Trail at Appomattox NPS. And I feel the discomfort. I’m trying to do this early before the triple digit heat.

So why am sharing this? Because I believe we all need a reminder that life doesn’t always happen with perfect conditions. Yet we march on. We continue down the path even when life is less, often far less, than perfect.

Sometimes out of necessity (gotta work to pay bills), sometimes out of fear (clean the room or momma’s gonna get ya), sometimes bout of habit.

And sometimes out of love.

I missed too many years in my life not appreciating the outdoors. Too many years living in the city/burbs not taking in trees, trails, treks.

And I love it now. I believe we make time for that which we love – kids, family, wife, reading, exercise .. and … serving God.

Our church is getting together teams, volunteers and workers for the next church year. Many will say no because busy, or tired, or fear, or they feel unqualified. Could they be saying ‘no’ because they feel less than perfect? Could they think they would serve with a limp and therefore don’t even want to get on board for the tasks?

To that, I say – we all serve with a limp. We all are unqualified. We all are less than perfect. And that’s the way God uses us. In our weakness He is magnified.

So why serve? Love. Do you grasp the depth of His love? What He did for you? His love for your imperfect, broken, limping little life should make us jump up and run (limping and all) into acts of service for our Lord.

He didn’t call us to sit on our pews, thinking how imperfect your life is, or how imperfect the pastor is. He called us to serve, to do good works, and walk with Him.

And we all walk with a limp – for now. But one day, oh that one day where we limp no more, I will praise and serve all the more.

Till then, in my deepest love for Him and for what He loves (people) – I serve, and yes, I walk with a limp.

Will you walk with your limp beside me?

It Happens Every Blessed Morning

Some people just aren’t morning people. They wrestle with the sheets, hoping to lose the battle and end up trapped in bed with no escape – an escape they don’t want anyway.

But something amazing happens every morning. The sun rises. It’s not extremely hurried – almost like it knows people are waiting, so it takes its sweet time. That can be a bit annoying in people, but with the sun – I kind of think it’s cool.

Today, I left home way before the sun came up. I had a place I wanted to be before it peaked its bright light out and turned the darkness into daylight. I made it and now I sit off Skyline Drive in the beautiful Shenandoah Mountains.

However, I can’t see that beauty nor the wonder of God’s creation. For the longest time, all I saw was darkness. And as the blazing orb of flames begins to get closer to arrival, this is when God’s artistry is shown in full force. The dark sky starts to lighten just a bit. Horizons and mountain tops can start to be seen. Then it’s even brighter where reds and oranges and scarlet intermingle in the sky, even if for just a few minutes. Trees can be made out. A few animals scurry near by, seen only as a shadow moving with two glistening eyes.

There is a saying …

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

We long for His mercies. We thank Him that they are new every morning. And while I think this is referring to the daily freshness, the wonderful consistent nature of his mercies, and the confidence we have in Him (daily like the sunrise), there is more.

The stars are now gone. Well, drowned out by the light of the sun. The rich colors of sunrise are fading as well. And there is a single spot on the horizon that looks like a fire in the distance. It wI’ll eventually yield the first bright rays declaring day has arrived. And for another day, we look around and see His blessings and mercies and love. So let’s walk in the light as Children of the Day.

I also think we can see God’s daily renewed love and mercy – like the sunrise – in a different aspect. He uses His slow appearance with purpose – so we can appreciate God’s wonder in Himself and the way He works – steadfast and beautiful. We desire Him to pop in and fix something, to be the miracle worker that is quick and available on demand. But God often creeps up on us, shows the beauty around us little by little, keeps us patiently hanging on – but telling us to sit back and watch the show. He is marvelous and awesome.

Not a cartoon rendering that is just the sun that pops up and “boom” – night is gone. But slow, building excitement, and teaching us patience.

The sun is now up – it’s time to hit the trails. Have a blessed day in God’s love and mercy. And maybe tomorrow, get up and watch the sunrise. It’ll be worth it.

It happens every blessed morning.

Killing a Legacy

Don’t miss what you were created for.

It grew strong and lasted through many years. It was fruitful and grew to be proud among its peers. It was an evergreen, a pine to be precise. It’s needles lasted in harsh summer and the coldest winters.

Trail head of a simple trail at James River State Park.

Where the Tye River meets the James. Unique in its right angle intersection as opposed to a Y-type of most merges.

But something happened. It now lays horizontal on the floor of the forest.

Was it toppled by heavy winds? Maybe it was hit by lightning or knocked over by another tree that fell. I didn’t hang around to investigate. All I saw was the evergreen tree laying dead on the forest bed of leaves. All her once thriving needles have since fallen off to die and decay.

But something caught my eye. The limbs. The limbs were still full of her pine cones. They remained attached even when the tree had already shed her needles and dried up.

I learned a few things … cones can stay viable for quite a while, even after detached from the source. Cones can be attached for around ten years before they no longer produce seeds. And cones have quite a lore about them.

But I pondered if these cones were still viable. It didn’t appear so. It seemed they were stuck and dying right along with the rest of the tree. And if that is the case, the seeds would no longer be able to spread. The legacy of the once mighty evergreen would remain on the limbs till they too decayed in the circle of life.

I pastor a church … a church called Evergreen. This image challenged me. If we don’t get off the branches and spread the seed, we too will one day lose our legacy. If we stay inside the building, if we cling close to each other, and just hang out in one place, then we would not be doing what we have been created to do. We are to be going into the world, sharing the love, the hope, the grace of the Gospel.

So this month, we are sharing water and love at Railroad Fest, we are connecting with a sister church for AutumnFest, (we love Fests in this neck of the country), we are feeding after school kids, and we are getting ready for even more next month.

I don’t want us to be known as a ‘come to us’ church. Let’s be ‘let’s go to the world’ kind of people.

What about you?