The Return of Squiggly Sticks

When I announced to friends and family that I was moving to Virginia and looking forward to hiking the hundreds of miles of trails in this state, many of them had the same initial reaction: venomous snakes! Having lived eleven years in Missouri and run on various trails, I’m no stranger to the occasional copperhead. I may even have encountered a timber rattler or two; I blasted past several diamond-patterned slithery serpents without stopping to identify their type.

But during the decades I lived in Maine, I only recall seeing three snakes. And there are no venomous ones native to the frozen tundra there. So I’ve grown complacent over the last six years, knowing that any “squiggly stick” I encounter is overwhelmingly likely to be just that.

The other morning I was out for a run in my new home state and, in the early morning light, approached a squiggly stick in the middle of a quiet street. At first I wasn’t concerned, then I remembered where I was and slowed. As I grew nearer, I was able to identify the critter stretched out on the asphalt in front of me: It was a squiggly stick. Relieved, I booted it to the grass and kept on running.

It was an important reminder that I’m back in the land of venom-totin’ pit vipers. And not every squiggly stick I encounter will be one, especially when I strap on a pack and head to the lush greenery of the Virginia woods…

 

The First (But Not Last) Time

My first week in Virginia featured little-to-nothing hiking related until my daughter suggested a trip to the Richmond area to shop her favorite HomeGoods store. Well, that would be a five-star yawner for me, except for the fact that HomeGoods shares a parking lot with the Glen Allen location of REI. Where I lived in Maine, the nearest REI was a less-than-leisurely 3.5 hour (traffic permitting, of course) sojourn to (nearby?) Reading, Massachusetts. Given that I had never been in a physical location, and that I had a $9.58 dividend burning a hole in my account pocket, I was thrilled with the invite.

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I was hoping against hope that they might have a Granite Gear Crown 2 in stock so I could set some eyes on one. It was a longshot, for sure; even Granite Gear has been out of them for weeks. And my now-local REI didn’t disappoint. Nary a Crown 2 to be seen anywhere.

Still, they had a pretty solid array of packs, about half of which are represented in this photo:

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I was able to strap on the 48L version of my trusty Kestrel 28, and give consideration to a few others. But by the end of my hour-long trip through the backpacker’s candy store, all I walked away with was some GU hydration tablets which, after my staggeringly huge $9.58 dividend, set me back a grand total of $3.75.

Still, it was great to spend some time in an actual REI store rather than burning through page after page on their website. And I enjoyed the experience of proudly whipping out my membership card when asked if I had one…

Caution: Filler Post Ahead

Does it make sense to have a post about not posting? I had expected my first post in Virginia to be filled with inspirational and exciting insights; instead, overwhelmed by the stacked boxes and plastic mountains of discarded bubble wrap associated with moving, I find that I have little time to write much about hiking. Or anything else, for that matter. My two novels-in-progress may never forgive me!

Still, I’m happy to be here. The weather has been a stunning and consistent sunny and 82 degrees the first two days (while it continues to be cold and rainy in Maine), and the future forecast looks like much of the same. I’ll get back to posting for real again soon. And, with any luck, I’ll hit the numerous trails around here for some hiking.