Nearly down to the day one year ago, Andy and I set off for a short hike in the woods. Unlike this February, the weather was moderate — even warm — as we went in search of Hidden Rocks, a large granite wall leading to a cliff-edge look-out.
Because of this wall, rock climbers mostly frequent the area, which is why — as far as hikers are concerned — reports state the area is comprised of the “least utilized trail systems in George Washington National Forest.” Those trail systems make up Hone Quarry Falls, Hone Quarry Ridge, and Oak Knob (links coming as we returned for hikes). To me though, knowing these four unique trails scored high on the solitude scale meant my interest was piqued and so Andy and I took off to Hidden Rocks — the shortest of four trails, meaning the perfect outdoor exploration in February.
- A little less than three miles
- 390-foot elevation gain
- Level Two of Five difficulty
The truth is we do not find ourselves on wooded walks much these days. In fact, in 2020 when we did this hike, we only went out seven times all year — a mere seven times! I cannot describe the actual pain I feel as my heart drops knowing this. To provide an example, in years before, we hiked almost three times more — which means about every other weekend, we were in a forest and on a trail. During these times, I felt physically and mentally at my peak . . . whereas now, I am physically and mentally suffering.
See, Andy and I live in a city where ancient trees were plowed down for parking decks long ago. There is no grass to walk on barefoot and no dirt to get under my nails to plant a garden.
There is only pavement — miles and miles of tar that shimmers in a victory dance on summer days, and my heart aches for forests.
This is because nature is cathartic in more ways than one. Mentally, I am only sane outside so when not given the opportunity to stretch and be wild, my mind becomes toxic. Physically, exercise is the closest proven remedy to battle multiple sclerosis since there is no cure. Without hiking trails, I feel my body weaken; I see my eyesight blurring and becoming brighter. I know am on the brink of a relapse and so every day I wake hoping my medication is strong enough and each night I fall asleep grateful my disease was held at bay.
But this is a risk — a dangerous one . . . and yet, I feel forced to continue to wager.
With COVID, the world has turned virtual and so I find myself like most of you — waking to sit behind a computer to work until work is over and then dinner turns to finding a different seat before going to bed to repeat the entire process again. And again. And it is killing me.
I am also working against myself: Andy and I spend essentially every weekend restoring our 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome so I am battling between the desire to work on our ancient RV consistently, which would get it finished faster and put us closer to our goal of traveling and living outside . . . versus instead hiking now, which will stretch the restoration far ahead and move our RV goal further away.
These granite cliffs are as high as eighty feet, and hold four separate small areas to explore: Lower Hidden Rocks (pictured here), Hidden Crack, Upper Hidden Rocks, and Hidden Hilltop.
The rocks are really quite stunning so as we walked, we would pause to take in the sharp angles that have been formed. . .
Above us, birds flew in circles and the sun’s rays splashed onto the rocks and us, providing a warmth that made us sunbathe with no desire to leave. We had the area to ourselves and it was so quiet, so peaceful that time moved quickly, making it hard to believe we had to go home.
and so on the way back, I couldn’t help but smile. This hike proves that even a simple, short walk in the woods has huge rewards, too.