Hickory Run Loop
Distance: 7.2 miles. Elevation Change: 900 ft. Difficulty: moderate.
Directions: I-66 West to Front Royal, stop at Shell station, ask for directions from bemused locals. Take right at the Roy Rogers, left on muddy gravel road, parking lot is on the right.
0.0 Stretch out; lecture your girlfriend on the importance of stretching, because you don't want to be carrying her off this mountain. Cross parking lot to Mountain Meadow Trail, blue blazed. Refuse to bring the camelback, because it's just a little day hike, and one water bottle is more than enough. I mean, really.
0.1 Sign at trail head warns of bears. Enjoy good laugh at girlfriend's worry. Ha!
0.3 Walk past first trail junction Realize that you are in another parking lot. Accept only mild chiding over your earlier refusal to bring a compass. This hiking might be fun after all, much better than the time you tried to take her to a hockey game. Of course you know what icing is, just because you can't verbalize it doesn't mean she should laugh at you.
0.5 At trail junction, bear right on magenta-blazed Pine Barrens Trail. Open bag of trail mix. Coconut? You asked for the kind with M&Ms! Ain't that a bitch. Trail crosses Hickory Run and ascends steeply for 2 miles. Ask again if girlfriend stretched.
1.1 Notice slight irritation inside your $35 hiking socks. Hey, waterfalls!
1.3 Take a 10-minute break, to "let her catch her breath." Drink at least 30 percent of the water. Make offhand comments about foliage. Joke again about bears. Sure, you're stalling now, but your heartbeat is currently audible to passersby, or nearby bears. Maybe you should think about getting on that exercise bike in the basement instead of using it as a $1,200 drying rack. Those guys at her office sure seem to be in shape.
1.5 Hear the sound of something big moving through leaves. Affect nonchalance. Trail gets steeper.
2.3 Trail turns sharply right at ruins of old Saw Mill, which has a very boring history and at this point is just a stone wall covered in bird crap. But it will give you time to stop and remove your $250 Adidas trail shoes for a minute, so why not relax? You really should see if there's any fluid inside your sock, because that squishing noise when you walk can't be good.
2.5 Dear god, why is she drinking all that water? Does she KNOW that this is a 7 mile hike? Turn left on Chimney Rock Trail (orange blazed? It's supposed to be orange, but it sure looks red to you). On the positive side, this is a level walk through a hemlock grove, so you should be able to catch your breath. On the negative side, now that you can talk again she'll probably want to discuss your relationship.
2.6 She's probably laughing at your noticable limp.
2.7 And now the skin on your heel has completely detatched. Kudos.
2.9 Here it comes -- she wants to know where all this is going. Sure, she SAYS "I'm having a great time hiking, thanks for sharing your hobby with me," but what she MEANS is "Why are you so distant?" You know what's really distant? The end of this hike. Which she doesn't seem to get, because she KEEPS DRINKING THE DAMN WATER. You're the one sweating, and lord knows you have to replace all that fluid that's in the bottom of your shoe.
3.1 Okay, that was definitely a bear noise. Walking in a big circle sure is a great metaphor for your life, huh?
3.2 Rejoin the Moutain Meadow Trail, blue blazed, and turn, you guessed it, UPHILL. Well, screw this. Back to the car.
8.6 Devil's Canyon trail ends in Parking Lot, where your compass is sitting in the back seat of your car. Not that you haven't heard enough of this for the last few hours. Face it, girls just do not understand what hiking is all about. Maybe you should ask out that girl in accounting, she looks like a homebody.
The surface of the sun. Also, when there's a new trivia night I'll post the date here.
A nine-day journey into the heart of madness (aka California) is being posted on the travel pages. Read it before the Big One makes it obsolete!
The third Nerdcation (TM) is in the books. Feel free to recreate this journey stop for stop with your spouse, the next time you really want to strain your marriage.