Swallow Falls camping

Muddy Creek Falls

Our campsite – no we didn’t sleep in the element. Our tent is just the other side of my car.

We were a bit apprehensive about the weather forecast for our weekends camping trip and indeed, on our three and a half hour drive we encountered a storm that hammered us with rain so hard that we had to turn on our emergency blinkers and drove 4o miles under the speed limit.  Fortunately we had a several hour long break in the rain when we arrived so we were able to set up our tent without trouble.  The rains returned that evening though and seriously tested the waterproofness of our tent (drip… drip… drip… it did not completely pass).  We managed to make it through the night and were rewarded with beautiful weather for the remainder of our trip.

One of the things I’ve long searched for is to see an owl in the wild.  Frequently, on walks through the woods I would search high in the trees to see if I could spot one of these beautiful raptors.  So I jumped at the opportunity to go on an evening owl walk led by one of the park employees.  I met up with the group around 8pm… mostly kids and their parents, in fact, I think I was the only adult not accompanied by a child.  I have to say, I was amazed at how quiet they managed to keep themselves as we were led on our walk by a young man in his early 20’s who could do a remarkable imitation of an owl call.  We wandered about from spot to spot for about 40 minutes, pausing for our guide to call out but sadly we never heard a reply and I went back to camp still having never seen an owl in the wild. 

Okay, so I didn’t see any owls, but I went out for a walk the next morning on my own and found a tree full of turkey vultures.  These birds had found a dead tree which stood in stark contrast to the healthy green foliage found everywhere else.  It was a great halloween graveyard type of scene. 

I walked back into camp, ready to tell Sandy that she missed an interesting scene with the vultures.  But Sandy had her own news for me… she had seen an owl!!!  I couldn’t believe it happened when I wasn’t around.  Apparently she heard it first, and then saw the owl flying about in the trees and eventually landing down on the ground not far from our site.  For the remainder of the day, everywhere we walked, my eyes were glued to the trees looking for owls.

The next day was our last day and we started breaking down camp.  As we’re dismantling the tent, Sandy suddenly exclaims that she sees another owl.  I quickly grabbed my camera and we go off on our hunt, heading into the woods following the owl calls that we can now hear and watching for movement up in the trees.

We can see the bird, high up in the trees, his eyes focused on something below him, some prey perhaps.  He doesn’t seem to notice us as we move closer.  Approaching slowly, hoping our movement won’t scare him away.  Then we notice that although he is not watching us… we are being watched…

A pair of owls, one spying something on the ground below, the other keeping a watchful eye on us.

 Soon they moved on from this perch and found another… 

But they remained close enough for us to study.  They watched us but didn’t seem to be too concerned about our presence.

As I moved closer to his tree, the owls head rotated down so he could watch me.

I have a few more pictures in my gallery.


Biking towards the Rosslyn exit

My first organized (kinda) bike event.  Okay… well I didn’t really start at the starting line, but I did go through the finish line in DC and then immediately couldn’t figure out how the hell to get back out of the city.

I biked down the Four Mile Run Trail and up the Mt Vernon trail until I saw a slow line of cars being diverted off of the GW Parkway so the bikes could take over the roadway.

I biked up the GW and worked my way up to Arlington Blvd where I was biking towards the high rises of Rosslyn until I detoured to circle the Iwo Jima Memorial.

This is where I started to get a little confused.  I biked around the Iwo Jima Memorial twice- with flashbacks to Chevy Chase stuck in a roundabout (“looks kids, Big Ben, Parliment”).  I wanted to bike into DC but couldn’t figure out where the hell I was supposed to go.  I made the mistake of asking an official looking person for directions which sent me on another lap around the memorial. 

Finally I broke out and headed back down 50 and eventually made it across the Potomac.  

And across the finish line…

Now I had to figure out how to get home… I didn’t want to go back the way I came because I’d have to bike upstream against the steady current of finishing cyclists.  So instead I found a small group that looked like they knew what they were doing and followed them.  That’s how I ended up biking down Pennsylvania Ave.

Biking down Pennsylvania Ave

I had to backtrack and try a new direction… then I had to backtrack again… after many false starts I finally ended up on the Memorial Bridge and biked into Arlington Cemetery.  Guess what?  They don’t allow bikes in the cemetery so I turned around (for the hundreth time today) and backtracked, slowly finding my way back onto Arlington Blvd (by now the streets had opened back up to cars) and finally I was able to conclude my trip home.