Sunday, June 16, 2013

Skyline Drive Sufferfest 2013.1 and a Short Walk in the Woods

Yesterday, we rode our first Skyline Drive Sufferfest of the year. We rode from Front Royal, Virginia to Elkwallow Wayside in Shenandoah National Park and back again, for a total of 48 miles and almost 4,800 feet of climbing. It is one of my favorite rides in the area. The road is in great condition, most drivers are considerate, it is a very challenging ride, and the view at every turn is just incredible. One of the best parts comes right at the end:  After working hard, grinding up miles-long hills all day, the reward is a six mile descent back into Front Royal.  All things considered (only our second ride of this length this year and our first real climbing ride), it went very, very well.  This ride was part of ramping up training for Cycle Oregon, which we are doing in September.
My bike at Hogback overlook, the highest point of our ride.  We could not have asked for better weather:  temperatures around 80 and very little wind.
Michael and two of our friends who rode with us at Hogback overlook.
The view from Hogback overlook towards Front Royal and where we started.

Today, Michael and I went for a short (3 miles) walk at Patuxent Wildlife Refuge near Bowie, MD.  Although it is less than ten miles away and we ride there regularly, we hadn't hiked there in several years. It was quite a bit hotter than yesterday, but most of the walk was in the shade, so it was still enjoyable.  We paused for quite a while at the dam at Cash Lake to watch swallows diving and weaving to catch insects over the water.
Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) near the visitor center. There were a lot of flowers blooming in the sunny meadows, including three species that I had never seen before.
 A mushroom along the Valley Trail.
 Rubus allegheniensis (Common Blackberry). No ripe ones yet.
Look closely and you'll see a tiny little toad. We saw several of these little guys along the trail in the woods. This one looked like a pebble until he jumped. He was only about an inch long.
Erigeron annuus (Fleabane) near the Cash Lake dam.
Nymphaea oderata (Water Lily) on Cash Lake.
Solanum carolinense (Horse Nettle), which is a member of the Nightshade Family.
Baptisia tinctoria (Wild Indigo - yes, really, even thought it is yellow).
Nuttallanthus canadensis (Blue Toadflax).  These flowers are only about 1/4 inch long. This is one of the species I hadn't seen before.
A dragonfly on the trail near the dam.
Scutellaria integrifolia (Hyssop Skullcap).  This is another one that was new to me. I didn't get a good picture of the third, Lyonia ligustrina (Maleberry).
A pretty island on Goose Pond.

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