Last Saturday Shannon and I celebrated two years together. Yayyyyy! We agreed early on to not do anything big over the weekend since next week we peace out to the Bahamas for five days for a real anniversary celebration, but we had to do something on our actual anniversary. So, obviously, hiking. Except that the whole thing didn’t quite go as planned. Because naturally.
We woke up Saturday to the sound of steady rain and after a couple of hours of obsessively checking TWC app, decided to scrap our plans to celebrate our anniversary on our anniversary. Sunday would be our new Anniversary (observed) for this year, and Saturday became just another Saturday. RJ took the kids to get donuts for breakfast, then left ’em with us and took off. The rest of the day was the most lackluster, boring thing ever. So boring that I fell asleep on it, which may not seem exceptionally remarkable to you but I never, EVER take naps. So that means it was really boring. Like, WHOA.
After braving the commissary with all the kids on the weekend, whereat I bought Shannon a grocery store bouquet of flowers (with which she begrudingly posed and decided she hated her face in the photo so I cleaned it up a bit for her), Shannon took the kids to the pool while I napped and when I woke up I was in a piss poor mood, angry that the anniversary I had been planning since fall was a trainwreck. I headed to the gym by myself to wrap up my most recent cycle of programming by re-testing a 1RM back squat and couldn’t even hit my old 1 RM. Not cool. On the way out of the gym my chocolate protein shake spilled all over the stack of clean gym clothes I had just put in my gym bag. When I got home and went to take a shower, I opened the linen closet to grab a clean towel and ALL OF THEM fell off the shelf and onto the floor. Then, while tidying up around my hoo ha in an attempt to salvage part of our anniversary by hopefully getting some later that night, the razor I was using to shave literally BROKE OFF (almost) IN MY ASS. Buns of steel? Whatever. Over it. But clearly I couldn’t be all the way over it before one. more. mishap. After getting out of the shower and putting on face moisturizer, my toothbrush falls off the counter and into the toilet bowl brush cleaning thingy that sits between the toilet and the counter. What the hell, universe?
And then, and then, Shannon hands me a small bundled gift for our anniversary right before bed and I literally fell down on the bed wailing, upset that she’d gone against our agreement to not get each other anything and devastated by the reminder that I didn’t have anything to get her because the thing that I had been planning to get her since last fall was gifted to her by someone else. A someone else whom I approached months ago and informed of my plan to get this something for her for our anniversary and pleaded with him to please let me do this for her and he told me, “Too bad. I’m getting it for her. You’ll have to find something else to get her.” DICK.
Thankfully, Sunday morning started way better. RJ took the kids out for breakfast and Shannon and I decided on a trail: Whiteoak Canyon Trail, which leads to Whiteoak Canyon Falls, which are the highest falls in Shenandoah National Forest. We hit up the grocery store for snacks, then hit the road for Shenandoah. Everything was going great until we were (according to our screenshot-ed directions) three miles out, and then a monumental shit storm of unfortunate luck happened. (Though, to be fair, this hike turned out way better than our last attempt in Shenandoah back in May.)
Literally, in a three-mile span of time (which I realize isn’t an actual unit of measurement for time but whatever IDC): I realize I left the memory card for the “real” camera in the computer at home, which means I won’t be trying out my new lens after all so sorry that you’re stuck with these crappy iPhone photos; we get lost; we pull over to pee alongside a creek and I step in shit – while wearing flip flops; we loose cell and data service, so we can’t look for a re-route and instead have to just “sense it out” and hope for the best. Three-ish hours later, we finally found the goddamn trail parking lot – just in time to get THE LAST proper parking spot, thankfuckinggod.
Because we started the trail at the boundary of the park, we ended up hiking Whiteoak Canyon Trail “backwards” from the bottom to the top, which means that the best part of the hike – the falls – was, for us, at the start of the hike. We didn’t realize this at the beginning and figured the “Upper Falls” portion of the trail, which was all the way at the top, DUH, would be the primo part of the hike. It wasn’t. The view was cool, but it was mostly just of the tops of the trees and the sky, and can only be fully experienced by taking a suicidal leap off the top of the big rock formation up there.
The view from the lower falls, on the other hand, was fully enjoyable from the base of the falls, at which point you could also safely experience the falls by lunching on a giant rock in the middle of the water, or wading or swimming in the pool of water at the base of the falls. Yes, please. We’ll take that.
Whiteoak Canyon Trail can be hiked as an out-and-back, or you can break off at a couple different points to loop around on other trails and eventually hike back to where you started. Once we made it to the top we hung out for a bit, vacillating between turning around and heading back the way we came or continuing on to hike one of the loops, which we really wanted to do. It was only a few more miles (added to the 6 miles comprising the out-and-back) to do the loop, but with it being Sunday and already almost 2:00 pm and still having at least 2 hours of hiking regardless of which way we went, and then a 2+ hour drive, ahead of us, we opted to just turn around and head back the way we came.
From bottom to top and back down, the entire hike took us exactly 4 1/2 hours – we set out at 10:43 am and drove away at 3:13 pm. It took us 3 1/2 hours to make the uphill trek, including the time we took for breaks to eat and pee and take pistols-on-rocks photos, and about an hour to hike back down, also including an extended stop to play in the water at the lower falls.
We had a lot of fun hiking this trail, and it was the perfect day for it. If you ever find yourself with the opportunity to hike this trail, take it! But know going into it that it. is. hard. And that’s coming from two chicks who workout like it’s their job. You will be sore and achy the next day (or two (or three)), and you’ll feel the soreness and achy-ness creeping into your muscles and your bones during the hike. Personally, we were happy to do the hardest work at the beginning and are really happy we started at the base of the trail (as a total mistake, actually). But doing the work at the beginning doesn’t mean you won’t have any left at the end. The way back down was quicker, but it was still pretty difficult. And it was even harder on our joints.
Overall, a great hike. We’d love to do the full loop some day, and we’re looking forward to taking the kids on the initial 0.8 mile, relatively flat and navigable trek out to the lower falls and swimming holes. Hopefully we can make that happen sooner rather than later!
On our way home we stopped for ice cream at Moo Thru, which was a little barn on the side of the road and amazing. Their waffle cones were warm-to-the-touch fresh, and the raspberry and lemon sorbets we got had little chunks of fresh fruit in them. So yum.
We got home just before 6:00 pm, with a fucking gallon of water, a bag full of NYAJ takeout (our default) and NPR streaming on the laptop, because for some reason it wouldn’t play on my phone and I really wanted to listen to the Climate One episode on advances in neuroscience. Because I’m secretly 90.
To top it all off, we were in bed before 9:00 pm. Because, you know, work night.
PS: Check out our 1 Year Anniversary weekend last year.