Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunset & Stargazing Hike in SNP

A few years ago I went on a sunset hike with The Center Hiking Club.  It was a neat hike and something I wanted to do again sometime.   Andy and I are always talking about going someplace to look at the stars so I decided to schedule the hike with our meetup group – Miscellaneous Mayhem

I put it up for the middle of April thinking we could get the hike in before the pollen unleashed it’s fury.  Mother Nature has other plans.  For some reason the trees all came to life with a vengeance about a month earlier than normal.  All week I debated canceling the hike, but ultimately decided it was worth the suffering to get out and go hiking. 

Although there were 5 people signed up as “maybes” on the event, none of them showed up and it ended up being just me and Andy! We drove out the park and got there about 4.  It was a beautiful afternoon.  The sky was as blue as can be and barely a cloud to be seen.  It was on the cool side, with a stiff breeze blowing.  Most of the trees has unfurled their leaves and many of the blooming trees were in full bloom.  I was downright giddy just to be there!

A quick stop at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center so I could pick up a book I wanted and we were on our way to Jenkins Gap.  It was only about 4:30, sunset was a 7:50 and the overlook we’d planned to watch the sunset in was only 2 miles away so we decided to hike up to the summit of Compton Mt, 1 mile round trip. 

On the way up we took our time.  Stopping frequently for pictures of flowers, rocks with moss, interesting downed trees, etc.  It was extra fun because Andy was noticing fun things that I probably wouldn’t have noticed on my own! We finally made it to the summit and it was beautiful, although very windy!  You could see spring advancing up the mountain.  Down in the valley the trees were full of leave, about halfway up the color changed to a more yellow green color and at the top of the mountain the leaves were just buds. 

A quick check of the time revealed that we’d taken about an hour to get up there!  We were going to be pressed for time to get to the overlook before sunset.  We headed down not stopping as much for pictures and moving at a pretty quick pace.  As we hiked we talked about all kinds of things!  At more than few points I thought this afternoon was just about as perfect as it can get – beautiful day, beautiful mountains and a good friend to share it with!

The second half of the hike wasn’t any tougher, but the up part lasted a lot longer than I thought it would and we were both getting tired and it was time for dinner.   I have a bad sense of distance and kept saying “just around the bend we’ll go down”, only to be greeted by more up.  We pushed along and finally came to Skyline Dr.  We continued along Skyline drive until we reached the overlook.

Sunset was at 7:50 and we arrived at 7:45!  We found a spot on the wall and pulled out dinner.  It would have been very nice if it hadn’t been for the crazy wind.  It was blowing so hard and making it very cold! My hands were so cold that I couldn’t eat the other half of my sandwich.  The clouds had also rolled in and you couldn’t really see the sunset.   We were so cold that we packed it up and started back down Skyline Drive before it was even good and dark. 

The trip back to the car was much easier because we were walking on the road and it was all downhill.  As we walked Andy was pointing out the contestations that he knew as they emerged!  He eventually pulled out his iPhone and used his cool astronomy app to figure out what was where.  We were even able to see the two bears that make up the big and little dipper. 

Eventually we made it back to the car and started the trip back home.  When we got back to my house I stepped out of the car and looked up and there was the big dipper! :-)

I’m definitely paying for the extending amount of time outside in the pollen today.  Paying more than I have all season thus far, but it was worth it!  I look over my pictures and I’m so glad we went! :-)

Check out pics from the day here: