Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing

This week was especially awesome, because my good friend +Kristina Scrimshaw and I headed down to Newcastle, VA (pop. 200) to visit our mutual buddy Hector at an amazing place called Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing where he is currently employed as a trip leader. Kristina lives in Alexandria, so she scooped me up in Fredericksburg on Tuesday evening, and we headed down to Charlottesville. We spent that evening at my parents' house to break up the 5 hr+ drive down to Southwest VA. Wednesday morning we woke up exceptionally early (for my taste) and hit the road around 7:30 am after making a crucial stop at Bodo's Bagels, a Charlottesville staple.This was Kristina's first time in C'ville... so I vowed to show her around more when we stopped in our way back. Then we hit the road! It's a fairly pleasant drive, taking 64 West to 81 South almost the whole way, then Rt. 311 (love that #) to our final destination.
We are (were) here!
We were rocking out to a bunch of mix CDs featuring 70's music, enjoying the scenery, catching up, and loving life. Great times. Before we knew it... we were winding up 311 through the mountains towards Newcastle. We arrived at the camp around 10 am, called Hector (woke him up) and started the day's adventure.
Hector and me in front of the main lodge
 Wilderness Adventure (WA) is an absolutely gorgeous place. It's surrounded by pristine woods, rolling farmland, a peaceful creek, and most of the buildings are constructed in the style of an old log cabin. It was started by a retired Marine Colonel named Gene Nervo who wanted to provide a place for youth to experience adventure and challenging experiences that would teach them valuable life lessons. It was established in 1990 and continues to thrive more than ever today... and it's easy to see why, the place is awesome.
The porch of the main lodge
Wilderness Adventure offers tons of different opportunities to explore the great outdoors, including hiking, mountain biking, caving, rock climbing, canoeing/kayaking, and even a 900 ft zip line through the forest! They have high and low ropes courses designed to build character, confidence, and teamwork skills. It is impossible to be bored here. So of course, we attempted to do as much as we could in the short amount of time we were there. In the beginning however, Hector had a few tasks to take care of to help out around the Lodge.. so Kristina and I took this opportunity to enjoy a much needed relaxation break.
Me and Kristina chillin' out
Eventually we got off our butts and started preparing for our first adventure, kayaking down the over-sized creek that ran next to the property. We each picked out our kayaks, PFDs, helmets, water shoes, and paddles and helped Hector load them onto the trailer. Hector's co-worker Brad helped us out and volunteered to drive the bus to the drop off point. Joining us on this adventure were a few Canadian cyclists that were staying at WA as part of a larger group that comes every year to bike the beautiful mountain roads in this area.
Ready to Kayak!
The ride to the drop off point was just down the road, but the float was expected to last about 2 hours. This was my first time actually paddling in a white water kayak, so I was excited to play around with it. The creek itself did not really have any rapids though, just a few riffles here and there. That was perfect for us though, because we got to hang loose, chat, and snap lots of pictures!
Me and Kristina, floating on
This was Kristina's first time kayaking, so it was a great little spot for her to get the hang of how the boat responds to your paddling, the current, etc. Thankfully, she brought along her waterproof camera, so we didn't have to fret about protecting it. Pictures galore!
Life is good
About half-way through the float trip, we bumped into the Canadians. They had shoved off just slightly earlier, and were in canoes. When we approached, they offered us a beer from their well-stocked cooler. We graciously accepted, and thought amongst ourselves that it really doesn't get much better than this.
Hector and the Canadians. Cheers!
Finally we made it to our take out spot, right in front of the camp. We saw a pair of orioles, flitting about through the trees above... which was very neat. We carried the boats up the river bank, stowed away our gear, and then headed towards the lodge to grab a quick meal.
Hector luggin the kayak
After a delicious early dinner of vegetarian chili and cheese piled high on nachos (wish we had a pic!) we started making preparations to go on a hike up the mountain to a spot known as "The Bluff" where you could supposedly see an excellent view of the valley below. On our way towards the trail, we could hear prolonged screams of joy and excitement echoing through the woods. People were on the zipline! We headed that direction, and bumped into Brad again who was helping some of the Canadians have the time of their lives. He graciously agreed to let us go for a ride, so we quickly grabbed helmets and harnesses and booked it up the hill to meet the other staff member at the top of the zipline.
Epic view from the top of the 900' zipline. The cable continues well past the water.
Needless to say, we were super stoked! The last time I was on a zipline I was in Ecuador, Kristina hadn't been on one since she was about 15, and even Hector hadn't had the chance to go on it since he had started working there. This is the second largest zip line on the east coast! So we harnessed up, snapped a couple pics, and got ready to take the ride of our lives.
We're ready to fly!
 It was just as radical as it looks, and more so! Kristina went first and rocked it. We both took our cameras with us, and I managed to shoot a video of the trip down. Enjoy the ride!

As you could see in the video, it was all over before I knew it. They had a pretty cool system set up, a couple of cables would catch you when you got over the water, slow down your incredible force, and send you soaring back towards land. Then a dude on the ground reached out with a long pole with a loop on it that you were supposed to grab onto to keep from sliding back over the lake and getting stuck there. Once in place, they slid a wooden tower over towards you that was mounted on a track. You get on it, "de-wedgie-fy" yourself, and then they slide it back over towards the stairs, so you can gracefully climb down to solid ground.
Hector experiencing an "Extreme" wedgie
After our awesome, and very quick, zipline experience we headed back up the ridge to find "The Bluff" and enjoy some amazing views. We got directions from Brad on how to get there... Hector had been before but he was being led, and on a bike, so didn't quite remember. The directions seemed pretty simple.. "Head up past the zipline, follow the trail to the Jeep Road... take a right, follow the Jeep road until you come to a fork.. then go left and that will take you there. Just keep heading uphill basically." Little did we realize how directionally challenged we were... and how much that last part would make us second guess ourselves.
Which way to go?
We made it to the Jeep road having only wondered if we were going the right way once or twice. Took a right... kept going for a bit, then suddenly started taking a sharp dip down hill... This couldn't be right. We turned back and went to the entrance to Jeep trail... trying to remember if he really said turn right. Must have, because left definitely went downhill. So we went back and saw that the trail went back up after it dipped. Phew. So, we continued on.
A walk in the woods
We ventured past the low ropes course (which Brad had mentioned were nearby) and continued on until we reached the fork. Or at least what we thought was the fork. So we turned left, as instructed... and soon found ourselves on a small narrow path heading down the mountain, steeply and continuously. We kept on that path for about 50 ft, before deciding this couldn't be the way.... we were going downhill again! So we went back to the fork and took a right this time, continuing on the Jeep Road. We wandered on and on, passing signs for the Orange trail, then the Blue trail, but nothing mentioning anything about "The Bluff." We were beginning to wonder if "The Bluff" was a just bluff after all.
So lost, I took this picture. Just Bluffin'
After wandering down the Jeep road for approximately forever, and eventually passing fallen trees covering the entire path... we realized there was no way Hector went mountain biking this way. Thankfully, Hector remembered very clearly what he had seen on his previous trip to the Bluff. NOT. We were lost and no one knew where we were supposed to go to find this damn overlook. So we headed back to the ropes course area, and started trying every possible path off-shooting from the Jeep Trail... wondering if perhaps one of them was the "fork". No luck.
Turned around
We explored probably every inch of the high and low ropes courses, going deep into various pockets of the woods... continuously hoping that suddenly all the trees would disappear and the magical bluff would appear. Nope. At this point the sun was starting to fade, and we were getting nervous and frustrated that we might not even find this thing. Definitely the beginning to a bad horror film.
Not a happy camper
Finally we gave in to Hectors demands to call Brad and ask for directions. We were extremely embarrassed that it had come to this. Especially since we had clearly waited such a long time to ask for directions. We started the hike around 5... at this point it was getting close to 7. Don't get me wrong, we were still having a great time gallivanting around in the woods... it just would have been nice if we knew where we were going. But no answer from Brad. Then Hector decided to text one of the other staff members. His simple reply was "Go past the bridge, when you get to the end... turn left" OK... I think we can handle that. The bridge he was referring to was part of the low ropes course, which was on the left of the Jeep road we started on. So we were back at the original fork. This time we took a left and kept going... down, down, down, and then back up! There was hope! I started running for joy, hootin and hollerin. Then suddenly it appeared... The Bluff!!
There it is!
Boy, were we happy! The view was amazing, and it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from our shoulders. We took tons of pictures, relaxed, breathed easy, and congratulated each other on our perseverance. This spot was totally worth all that nonsense, and we felt extremely appreciative to be there.
Amazing view from The Bluff
We took a moment to pause and appreciate our accomplishment.
A Lion King moment
At last, we could return back to camp with smiles on our faces and a feeling of achievement in our hearts. We got back to the lodge, around dusk... had a hodge-podge dinner of left-overs and started preparing for bed. We were exhausted. Kristina, being the very active individual she is, has a band around her wrist that tracks her activity and tells her how much she has walked, run, etc. Prior to our walk she had set it to start calculating our distance, and once we returned... she downloaded the report to her iPhone. 
In the Zone!
As you can see, we experienced quite the hike. Probably the longest trip from camp to The Bluff that anyone has ever made. We're awesome like that. We're so awesome in fact, that we decided to return to The Bluff the next morning to see the sunrise, this time on mountain bikes instead of hiking. This involved waking up WAY too early, grabbing some bikes from the WA bike barn, and peddling uphill at a very steep incline.
My trusty steed
The ride was quite enjoyable, once I got over the fact that I was extremely out of shape. Other than the major hill on the way up, the rest of it really wasn't too bad. We didn't quite catch the sunrise, but we still got there pretty friggin' early (around 7 am) and enjoyed a lesson from Hector on how to mountain bike like a pro. 
Hector leaving us in the dust
And of course, the view from the top was nothing less than spectacular.
A slice of heaven
The ride back down was totally awesome, and only involved Hector leading us down the wrong trail once.
Kristina bombin' down the hill... like a boss
The trail spit us out onto the road that leads to camp, so we cruised on that a bit which was a nice way to cool down, and before we knew it we were back at camp and it was time to say goodbye to Hector. We quickly showered and then hit the road, leaving by 9 am... hoping to make great time for the long ride home. True to my word, I showed Kristina around C'ville when we got there, but soon realized we would have to come back since there was so much I didn't get to show her. Hard to believe we accomplished so much in just over 24 hours! Definitely an adventure for the record books.
Peace Out Y'all!
P.S. Tomorrow I will be participating in DC Bike Party again.... the fun never stops!

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