52 Hike Challenge: Final Update — Hikes 41-52

Here we go – the finish line!  For a while there, it looked like this challenge was going to come down to the wire – thanks to so many rainy, gross weekends earlier in the year.  But as it turned out, I had time to spare and even got to plan a really special final hike – read on.

Hike 41: Story of the Forest Trail, Shenandoah National Park (Luray, Virginia), October 13, 2018 – Having driven almost two hours to get to the park, we wanted to squeeze in as much trail time as we could, so after hiking Big Meadows, we hit another trail.  This was a wooded hike that passed over a lovely stream with a perfect Poohsticks bridge.

Hike 42: Fletcher’s Cove, C&O Canal National Historical Park (Washington, DC), October 14, 2018 – I was looking for a hike in the city, because I had an errand to run downtown, and so we decided to check out the network of trails around Fletcher’s Cove, where we usually go to kayak.  The trail we found was all the way down on the bank of the river, and we had water views the entire time – such a treat!

Hike 43: Rock Creek Park (Washington, DC), October 21, 2018 – Two weekends in a row, two hikes in the District – who even are we?  We used to hike the central portion of Rock Creek Park pretty regularly, but it had been a long time since we’d been there.  I’m still in total disbelief that such a wild and peaceful oasis exists in the middle of the nation’s capital.

Hike 44: Rust Nature Preserve (Leesburg, Virginia), October 28, 2018 – How was it that we didn’t know about the nature preserve and sanctuary for Virginia’s native birds of prey before this?  Peanut is obsessed with all predators (she’s a surprisingly bloodthirsty child, who knew?) and especially with raptors – falcons, eagles, kestrels… We loved this meadow hike and we saw a few birds of prey circling the skies above us – too high up to identify, but it was cool to know that they were there.

Hike 45: Huntley Meadows Park (Alexandria, Virginia), November 4, 2018 – The colors finally burst into glory!  Between the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows and the gorgeous birds swooping all around, hike 45 was one for the ages.

Hike 46: Claude Moore Colonial Farm (McLean, Virginia), November 7, 2018 – I’d hoped to get a little further afield on my three days of funemployment between jobs, but it mostly rained.  There was a break in the clouds on my final day, but I’d already committed to chaperoning the class field trip to a local colonial farm (which turned out a really weird day, story for another time).  So you can imagine my delight when a hike on wooded trails around the farm was part of the day’s activities!  It wasn’t exactly restful – herding fourteen kindergartners is stressful, it turns out – but it was a lot of fun.

Hike 47: Billy Goat Trail, Section C (Potomac, Maryland), November 7, 2018 – Same day, after dropping the kids back at school, I drove over the border into Maryland to try to tackle the Billy Goat Trail.  The more famous sections – A and B – were closed due to flooding, but I had a lovely walk with just a leetle bit of scrambling on Section C.  Considering it was a Wednesday afternoon, and most of the world was at work, I felt lucky indeed.

Hike 48: Winkler Botanical Preserve (Alexandria, Virginia), November 10, 2018 – This local gem has been one of my favorite discoveries of the year!  We wandered right down to the pond and meandered along the shoreline, and I picked up some trash.

Hike 49: Widewater State Park (Widewater, Virginia), November 18, 2018 – A hike for the birthday boy!  We love to celebrate on the trail and Steve decided to use his birthday hike credits to check out the newest Virginia state park – as in, Governor Northam had just cut the ribbon a week before.  It was a beautiful, serene spot and we can’t wait to go back.

Hike 50: Great Falls National Park (Great Falls, Virginia), November 23, 2018A Black Friday hike!  We burned off some of the mashed potatoes (so good, though) and showed my parents around Great Falls, a park we love but had randomly never taken them to see – on a very cold morning.

Hike 51: Lake Accotink (Fairfax, Virginia), November 25, 2018 – Did the penultimate hike at a pretty local park!  The kids entertained everyone on the trail with some rousing song and dance routines.

Hike 52: Saratoga National Historical Park (Saratoga Springs, New York), December 24, 2018 – I wanted to save the final hike of the challenge for something extra special, and this trail through a rolling meadow, with mountain views all around – and on Christmas Eve, no less – was just what I wanted.  What a way to finish out a year of hiking!

And there it is – the END of the road!  What an incredible journey it was.  I’ll have more thoughts coming soon about the 52 Hike Challenge, the lessons I learned on the trail, and my favorite memories from a year of hiking.  It was a beautiful way to spend 2018.

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