Christmas Card 2016

Both Jon and I are serious lovers of the Christmas season and Christmas cards are one tradition we look forward to sharing with our loved ones each year.  Although this post is less about a life-enriching experience on the trail, we figured our friends and family would get a kick out of hearing how our Christmas card came to be.  When Penny’s involved, there’s usually a good story.

We wanted to feature Penny this year, since she is the new addition to our family, or “pack” (as we think she would call it).  That being said, I started dreaming of our perfect family photo in August.  I had Pinterest-inspired outfits picked out, poses planned and the perfect setting- the park across the street from us that we frequently run through.  Jon went along with the plans very graciously (pretty sure I drove him crazy).  The one thing I was nervous about, was getting Penny to look at the camera for the self-timer (I was not about to invite any one else into my crazy, dog-mama plans to take the photos, insert blushing emoji here).

Our photo shoot took place on a beautiful Sunday and we had to take 3 rounds of photos.  When I say rounds, I mean we went out to the park and back home 3 times (good thing we live close).  Every time we thought we had some good shots we would realize this or that and find an excuse why that one just wouldn’t work.  Jon and I are both perfectionists and, unfortunately, this was one of those times where we totally egged each other on.  I think both of us wanted to capture a nice picture of the two of us (because let’s be honest, I am not sending out a bad picture of the humans) but also wanted to capture Penny’s personality.  And this girl has lots of personality.  The photo we ended up choosing completely captures her sass and sweetness all at once.  And we love her for all of it!

The last outing, Penny really got into her element.  We ended up parking near some trees.  Penny quickly sniffed out some squirrels and began howling.  It was that instant that I demanded Jon put the camera down and start clicking.  I am so glad I did!  (Side note, Jon discovered the remote app for our Sony a6000, which worked much better than self-timer.  Can’t wait to take advantage of that more often!)   The pictures we captured are hilarious and truly reflect Penny in all her glory.  She is a great squirrel-huntress and that should be celebrated, right!?  We adore our coonie and wouldn’t trade her crazy hound behavior for anything.  Enjoy!

Rocking her “Elvis Lip”
All of this picture-taking is making me sleepy!


Jon was not yet sold, at this point…but Penny is clearly in her element!


We hope you enjoyed these out-takes as much as we enjoyed the process!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

K, J and P

Manassas National Battlefield Park

One of our favorite places to visit with Penny is the battlefield at Manassas (Bull Run).  It is close to home but each time we go we experience something new!


Penny loves to go for runs at the battlefields because of the variety of scenery.  If you follow the entire First Manassas Trail you will see battle fields, meadows, forest, streams, hills and historical landmarks.  It makes for an exciting and interesting trail-running loop.



Jon and I enjoy visiting and following the marked information boards along the trail.  The loop is designed to tell you the entire story of the 1861 battle, when the Union and Confederate armies converged for the first time on the plains of Manassas (the Second Manassas Trail details the second battle, which happened a year later).  You follow the footsteps of the soldiers and read about the battle as you go.  The various historical views definitely keep your interest up throughout.  We think that’s awesome- a history lesson and run combined!





We have enjoyed the park in the fall, spring and summer.  Summer is brutally HOT but you really feel the historical experience, since both battles were fought in summer. (Can you even imagine wearing a wool uniform in 100 degree weather?!)  We recently took Jon’s family when they were visiting.  We went on the most gorgeous, fall day and everyone loved it.  We can’t wait to go back when it’s covered in snow (and I hope that’s soon)!

Happy Trails,

K, J and P

Devil’s Backbone- Trail Angel Weiss

Jon and I have a bit of a thing for a good Bavarian-style Hefeweizen and Devil’s Backbone’s Trail Angel Weiss does not disappoint!  Jon and I love visiting Devil’s Backbone Base Camp after hiking in the George Washington National Forest.   This beer is the perfect way to kick back, relax and re-hydrate after a long day on the trail.  It’s fruity, not too heavy, but also fills you up a bit since it’s a wheat beer.

We enjoyed this after hiking a few sweaty miles on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park.  Late summer scenery looks good on you, Trail Angel!




There’s nothing like August in the Blue Ridge!


K, J and P

Dirt Farm Brewing

Jon and I recently visited Dirt Farm Brewing in Bluemont, Virginia. Getting to Dirt Farm was half of the adventure! Located off of Route 7 and down a few country roads, you arrive at the entrance and unpaved driveway. Once you hit the dirt road, it’s a half mile up hill! The brewery faces East on one of the first Blue Ridge Mountains. The view is incredible!


The brewery was packed since it was a hot, Saturday afternoon. Everyone must have had the same thought we did- cold beer! We were instantly charmed by the setting; wooded, lodgey and casual. There were locals, hikers, families and bachelor/ette parties- a diverse crowd!


We quickly got a flight and found that we loved every beer we tried! We ended up getting another flight to try the rest of the beers available. It was that good!




Notice how hot I was…cold beer and a mountain breeze was definitely necessary!

After our flights, we stepped out to enjoy the incredible view. We could see as far East as Reston since it was a moderately clear day. The outdoor patio is awesome, but I also loved the inside space and think it would be a cozy stop on a chilly afternoon. We will definitely head back soon!


Ps- Dirt Farm welcomes leashed dogs on their patio. We did not bring Penny since it was SO hot out, but think it would be a great place to enjoy with her!

Happy Trails,

K, J and P

Last Leaf Maple Brown Ale

We recently visited Star Hill Brewery in Crozet, VA and fell in love with yet another of their beers (we LOVE Starr Hill)! The Last Leaf is Maple Brown Ale with a perfect dose of maple flavor without being sweet. It’s like drinking Thanksgiving dessert without the sugar rush. It’s our new, favorite, Fall beer. It’s a great flavor alternative to pumpkin!



K, J, and P

Fall at Loft Mountain

The grand finale to our camping season was a “fall foliage” trip to Loft Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. We scheduled this trip months ago, planning to visit the park with the foliage at its peak- just like last year! Mother Nature had something else in store, though. The weather in September was beautiful and downright hot! Without chilly nights, the leaves were not cued to change, thus, a green “fall foliage” weekend. Jon and I were a bit disappointed to show up early for the party but knew we wanted to make the best of our last camping weekend of the season!

Jon planned a hike from our campsite and it was a perfect loop. Around 4 miles in the cloudless sunshine to Loft Mountain peak was a great way to spend our afternoon after setting up camp. The loop was partially on the Appalachian Trail, went up to the summit of Loft Mountain and brought us back to the campground. Naturally, Penny made friends the entire way and someone offered to take her home (no thanks)!



Since our hike didn’t take all day, we decided this was a great opportunity to go see the sunset and sunrise. This time of year is ideal to catch both since the sun sets earlier in the evening and rises later in the morning (that fits into Penny’s sleep schedule perfectly). We drove to the sunset at Rockytop Overlook and were amazed by the crowd but not deterred- the sunset was beautiful!  I especially love the hints of foliage in the foreground- we could tell the foliage burst was just days away!



We jumped into the truck once the sun had set and happened to hear on the radio about the Hunter’s moon rising. We quickly relocated to an eastern-facing overlook to catch the moon rise. Man, was it spectacular!  Our camera does it no justice (can’t wait for our zoom lens to arrive)! It was huge, bright and had an orange glow (hello Great Pumpkin!). What a stunner and total surprise!


Once we returned to the campsite Penny went to sleep and we relaxed around the campfire (Last Leaf in hand). The moon was glowing all night and was extremely bright! We went to bed early to make sure we’d be up for the sunrise.

We woke up at 6 before our alarms (why can’t we do that during the week?!) and snuggled in our warm sleeping bags until 6:20. We jumped into the truck and drove to the Ivy Creek Overlook on Skyline Drive to find some amazing color! What Mother Nature left out in foliage she made up for in this sunrise! We snuggled and watched the color change as the world came to life. I love this picture of Penny and I because it looks like she’s telling me a secret. 🙂


She was actually just whining to tell me she wanted breakfast. I tell you, this sassy girl does not divert from her daily routine! Jon and I enjoyed the sunrise while Penny enjoyed her breakfast. Jon’s favorite part was seeing the mist in the valley below. I loved seeing the color from the sky slowly sink into the foreground like watercolors. Sunrises are so hopeful and magical.  As the sun rose, Jon spied the Hunter moon setting to the west. On our way back to the campsite, we stopped to see the moon set and were met with another awesome view. This trip sure was filled with unexpected surprises!





It was a fantastic weather weekend in SNP and, as usual, the views did not disappoint. As much as Jon and I hate the crowds, I feel we somehow dodged them this weekend. I’d say setting and rising with the sun made for a perfect, fall weekend.

Happy Trails,

K, J & P

Sunsets at Rocky Gap

Our Loft Mountain camping weekend was a perfect chance to finally catch some famous Shenandoah National Park sunsets!  Both Friday and Saturday nights we headed to Rocky Gap overlook to catch the sun sinking below the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Although we watched the sun set from the same location both nights, the views were completely different!

Friday night, as we finished cooking dinner at our campsite, we heard the ominous rumble of thunder.  We quickly cleaned up and retreated to the truck to escape the storm.  We ended up eating our dinner in the truck…not exactly what we had planned but we were dry!  Penny is nervous during storms, so she was very happy to hunker down in the truck rather than in the tent.  After the rain stopped, we realized there may be a stunning sunset following the storm (think rainbows and sunshine).  So, we headed to Rocky Gap overlook and were not disappointed- the steamy clouds were rolling off the mountains in the valley and the sun streamed through the residual storm clouds to the west and south.  Talk about picture perfect payoff!  It seems to always rain or storm when we camp but this view made it all worth it!


Saturday night was much more dry and clear, creating the most beautiful, warm lighting.  The overlook was a much more popular location due to the nice weather, so we shared the sunset with a few others.  This sunset was much more “textbook” and illustrated why these ancient mountains are called the Blue Ridge.

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Both sunsets were gorgeous in their own way and watching a mountain sunset is now our favorite way to end the day.  The warm, evening light makes Penny’s red coat glow and it’s the perfect finale to a beautiful day enjoying nature.  We can’t wait to get back to SNP for another sunset!



Happy Trails,

K, J & P

All photos were taken with our Sony a6000

Hawksbill Summit

Getting to Hawksbill Summit (the highest peak in Shenandoah National Park) took us 12 miles and 2 months!  That may sound crazy, but in early May we hiked Hawksbill Franklin Cliffs and it was the longest day hike we (and Penny) had been on.  It’s a loop hike which runs south on the eastern side of Skyline Drive, running along the gorgeous Rose River Falls, cuts across Skyline Drive and heads back north along the AT. We parked at the Upper Hawksbill Parking area and ended up cutting off the Hawksbill Summit from the hike due to exhaustion (see Penny panting in this final photo?!  she was SO tired) and vista-overload (no joke, this stretch of AT has so many gorgeous views you get jaded and are willing to cut off the grand finale).  Little did we know, how silly that was!

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A month and a half later, as we were heading home from our Loft Mountain camping weekend, I begged Jon to stop at the Hawksbill parking area so we could hike the up to the summit (I couldn’t get it out of my head that we had cheated ourselves from the best view in the park)!  Although exhausted from hiking the past few days, he agreed and we hit the 1.8 out and back trail to the highest peak in SNP.  This hike is easily accessible from Skyline Drive and the trek to the summit is .9 miles…straight up!  Be ready to get sweaty and winded really quickly, unless you’re a coonhound- Penny was fine.

We realized when we were 3/4 of the way up that we had turned in just 50 yards short of the summit the month before.  We must have been delirious to refuse hiking 50 more yards to see the best view in the park…but we finally got our chance!  Needless to say, the 270 degree views from Hawksbill Summit are nothing short of breath-taking.  You can see the entire valley to the south and west, the Blue Ridge Mountains to the north, and the peak of Old Rag to the east.  Talk about views!



This hike would be excellent choice for a sunset or getting a quick glimpse of the best of what SNP has to offer when driving Skyline Drive.  Don’t be fooled though, this hike is challenging in it’s own right.

Happy Trails,

K, J & P

All photos were taken with our Sony a6000

Jones Run and Doyles River

This past weekend we camped at Loft Mountain in Shenandoah National Park.  We spent the day hiking the Jones Run/Doyles River trail, which begins at the Brown’s Gap parking area, just minutes from the campsite.  This hike proved to be one of our favorites in SNP!

Jon is a huge fan of waterfall hikes, so this was his dream come true!  After a short warm up on the AT, the first series of falls on Jones Run take your breath away (and your balance- careful of slick rocks)!  Once you hit the first set of falls, the trail continues to follow the river through the woods and the views are consistently stunning throughout.  The hike is filled with fall after fall, with one minor river crossing (it had rained a lot the days leading up to our hike so the falls were very full).




The only draw back of this hike would be that the trail became quite crowded, making the waterfall views less stunning (think waterfalls covered in tourists).  Jon suggested reversing the hike mapped here to hit the falls earlier in the hike rather than later.  Hiking earlier in the day or on a weekday would help a lot too (we hiked through the afternoon on a Saturday).




Penny enjoyed this hike and it was not super difficult.  According to Jon’s Garmin, the mileage was closer to 8.5 miles.  This is a long hike for Penny, so she was happy to see the truck when we arrived back at Brown’s Gap.  We loved everything about this hike except for the annoying tourists distracting us from the beauty along this trail.

Happy Trails,

K, J & P

All photos were taken with our Sony a6000