Dan and Hannah Hike Hawksbill Gap in the Shenandoah National Park

We are in for a treat today.  The pre-treat is breakfast at a Virginia institution, the Frost Diner in Warrenton, VA on the way to the Shenandoahs.  The entre is hiking with our long time Virginia friend Marianne and her therapy dog Maggie.

Up early and out the door of the Kyker B and B (Innkeeper Amelia is the best) in Vienna, VA by 530A, we are busting away from the Washington Metropolitan area on I-66.   Normally a parking lot, I-66 is free and clear heading west this morning; coming east into DC?  Not so much.  Crawling traffic even at 6A.

Online I’ve learned that the Frost Diner has Dan and Hannah written all over it.  Small town and small time and only an hour from our hike in the Shenandoahs.

Frost Diner facade

Sampling small town Americana, we have a diner that looks like it’s been airlifted from my home state of New Jersey.  They don’t accept credit cards, just cash.  This Friday morning there are only men sitting on the stools at the counter or coming in in work clothes to fill a nearby booth.  We sink into the booths that haven’t been recushioned since the Eisenhower Administration.  Checking out the menu we can see that southerners love their meat: sausage, bacon, and ham.  Often it’s biscuits and sausage gravy for Hannah when we are on the road.  Today we share the two scrambled eggs, home fries and biscuit with an order of buttermilk pancakes.

Taking route 211 west to Sperryville, we come to the Thornton Gap Entrance to the Shenandoah National Park.  On this mid-May morning no one is at the gate; it must have something to do with the sequester (billions in automatic government spending cuts).

SNP Thorton Gap sign

Climbing to the ridgeline of the Shenandoah Mountains, we have hit gold on a 70 degree day with only thunder showers forecasted for late in the afternoon.

The Skyline Drive takes us south to Hawksbill Gap.

Skyline Drive at Hawksbill Gap

Skyline Drive at Hawksbill Gap

Though Marianne and Maggie are coming from the south and we all have no cell phone service, we still manage to meet on time at 830A.  Marianne was a student of mine during the second year of my two year run as a writing instructor in the Summer Writing Program at the University of New Hampshire some 16 years ago.   I think of them as the glory years.  I’m not sure the university feels the same way.

There are parking spaces for fifteen vehicles on either side of the road at the Hawksbill Gap Trailhead.  With new Timberland hiking socks, I follow the leading ladies steadily up to Hawksbill Mountain for the first mile.  

Our effort is rewarded as we have a beautiful 360° view on this Virginia is for Lovers day.  As we look about, I think that you just never know when great things may come into your life.   That summer sixteen years ago brought us a kindred spirit in Marianne.   A former first grade teacher and now a professor, she balances marriage with a grandchild in her life as well as four horses in addition to traveling nearly an hour to her full-time career at James Madison University.   She just impresses the hell out of us.

This simple 2.9 mile loop is something we finish in an hour and a quarter without pushing it.   At 3500 feet, the trees are just beginning to leaf in mid-May, similar to how they are in coastal Maine where we live.

Marianne and Hannah

Marianne and Hannah

After our Hawksbill summit, we find the Appalachian Trail through a path nicely shaded by deciduous trees, not two hundred feet from the trailhead.

White blaze indicating the AT (blue blazes are side trails)

White blaze indicating the AT (blue blazes are side trails)

Skirting the Skyline Drive to our east as we hike, we only occasionally hear the passing cars on this mostly level ridge trail.   Nicely shaded, with a level path with room for two to hike side by side, we catch up like old friends. It’s amazing how quickly three hours go with such good company.

Two flowers and flowers in the trunk

Two flowers

Thinking about our reading of Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (see blog for May 4, 2013), I ask Marianne about dealing with extroverts and taking more control in our lives.  We share stories of our introvertism and “pretend extrovertism” (being extroverted when necessary, or to address a passion in our lives).  After twenty minutes Marianne apologizes and says she has no answer and is sorry she hasn’t really helped.

Au contraire!   By listening to us, she allowed us to reveal our truth within – where the answers live.  As one who understands that letting us talk out our questions is a way to find our answers, Marianne is a godsend.



A thought for introverts:  Settle down.  Don’t try to change extroverts.  You can’t.  They can’t change any more than introverts can.  It’s in their DNA.  That said, both introverts and extroverts can talk too much, be it one to one or in large groups.  If an introvert, find those extroverts who energize your life with their passion as well as being ones who want to hear your story, as well as tell theirs.

PS  The reason we are in Virginia is to celebrate with our daughter Molly her completion of her doctoral requirements to earn her PhD in Mathematics Leadership from George Mason University.  Dr. Molly!

Dr. Molly

Dr. Molly

Proud Mom and Dad

Proud Mom and Dad

Molly at the center of the graduation line

Molly at the center of the graduation line

Dr. Suh, Molly's doctoral advisor

Dr. Suh, Molly’s doctoral advisor

Not everyone could make it through the two hour plus graduation

Not everyone could make it through the two hour plus graduation

Owen and his Omi

Owen and his Omi


Owen on the floor

Molly had the support where it counted!  Congrats to you, too, Tip

Molly had the support where it counted!                   Congrats to you, too, Tip

George Mason's Bright Light

George Mason’s Bright Light

2 thoughts on “Dan and Hannah Hike Hawksbill Gap in the Shenandoah National Park

  1. Thought the first photo was Dan after a biscuit and sausage gravy breakfast. Looks like another super eastern trail. Maybe we should head south sometime rather than west. We get the diner that way as well.
    Godspeed in Canada, Dan Rothermel!!

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