I’m going out west on a two-week hiking/biking/kayaking/exploring vacation this summer and I’ve decided that it would be a good idea to at least try to get in shape BEFORE my trip. That way, I can actually enjoy my hikes and all the beautiful scenery rather than constantly fighting the feeling that my heart and legs are about to explode. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years (and there are very few things I have learned), it’s that being prepared goes a long way in terms of comfort, enjoyment and efficiency.

So far, my physical preparations for this trip have included: Climbing the 90 stairs in my building three times twice a week, walking 4-5 miles a day and doing one challenging/steep hike once a week. I have no delusions that I’ll manage to get in great – or even good – shape within the next six weeks, but I’m hoping my fitness preparations make the difference between being challenged in a good way and being miserable. This past Saturday, I went to Sperryville, VA to get some hill practice. I’d like to say that all my stair climbing and weekday walking prepared me well, but I’m afraid that after climbing 660 step, we decided to turn around and head into town instead. Hopefully next week will be better :/. I do think I’m going to come back to this hike (Buck Ridge/Mary’s Rock) a couple of times before my trip — it’s good practice!

Sperryville is your typical southern mountain town: Cloudy, humid, iridescently green and lush and so very quiet. “Downtown” consists of about a dozen businesses and a few antique and arts stores sprinkled around the periphery of the town. In some ways, towns like Sperryville remind me of the rural hamlets around Bogotá, places that are known for their dairy products or candy or sausages, sleepy little places Bogotanos visit when they want to get away from the noise, pollution and chaos that is Bogota. I imagine Sperryville hibernates during the week and comes to life on weekends.

Like every decent small town, Sperryville has a local pub (two actually), a few preserved Victorian-style buildings, a general store and a couple of those shops that sell trinkets and knickknacks, things like overpriced pashminas, hand-crafted aromatic soaps and artwork by local and regional artists. I like Sperryville because despite its small size (just over 200 full-time residents) the town offers a few extra perks, like a coffee roasting outfit that doubles as a print shop. I’ve been to this shop, called Central Coffee Roasters, a few times and it’s a lovely place to start your morning by trying coffee varietals from Ethiopia, Peru and Mexico and picking up a bag or two of beans. Plus, a cup of coffee only costs $1! Because Virginia is as humid and verdant as a tropical jungle this time of year, you almost feel like you’re in the coffee growing regions of Latin America at Central Roasters. The other perks Sperryville offers are a couple of distilleries, a handful of wineries/vineyards and access to hundreds of miles of hiking trails in and around Shenandoah National Park. I guess it’s technically a “gateway” town – one of those little towns that only exist because of their proximity to national parks – minus the tacky souvenir shops and safari-outfitted denizens of tourists.

If you’re ever looking for a day trip from D.C, I recommend Sperryville: You can grab your morning coffee at Central Roasters, go on a hike, grab a burger at the Thornton River Grill and then finish your day at a distillery or winery. Not a bad way to spend a day, I’d say.

Sperryville, VA 7 creek

We accidentally parked at the wrong turnoff and ended up at a trailess creek. So many creeks, streams and rivers in this part of Virginia!

Sperryville 6 Butterflies

You can’t tell in the first picture, but there were hundreds of butterflies fluttering about the woods and at least several dozens spread thickly along the banks of the creek. I felt like I was a kid again and just stumbled into the land of the butterflies, or some kind of magical secret universe. And these butterflies weren’t shy at all….I got within inches and they still didn’t fly away. Maybe it’s mating season and they had other more interesting pursuits to attend to?


Sperryville 8 stairs

Then we found the right turn-off and started our steep ascent. 660 steps up. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but it was quite steep.

Sperryville 9 weight

At the top, I found this rusty, abandoned weight. Lately, I’ve noticed quite a few objects like this. I found an abandoned yellow toy truck at Roosevelt Island the other day too. I can see a toy truck being accidentally left behind by a distracted child, but a weight? And just one? It’s a mystery.

Sperryville 5 fell in river

Every thing was going well (except the heart/legs exploding thing) but then, just a few hundred yards from the car, I fell into a river. Or maybe it was a creek. Anyway, I was crossing the river/creek and suddenly I was on my butt. It was a surprisingly soft landing, likely because of all  my natural padding. This fall allowed me to discover that my new waterproof hiking boots are not quite as waterproof as I thought. Apparently, even waterproof boots will get wet when entirely submerged.

Sperryville 1 motorcycles

After our hike, we stopped at the River Walk Arts Center, an expensive antique shop. There were a  bunch of motorcyclists having lunch at the pub adjacent to the antique shop. I guess the owners of the shop decided beer and burgers make good husband/boyfriend babysitters. Leave your husband here while you shop!

Sperryville 2 garage sale

After about three minutes of antiquing, we headed to “downtown” Sperryville, which is a collection of about a dozen buildings or so. Calling it downtown is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but the place does have it’s charms. Isn’t this a cute garage sale?

Sperryville 3 downtown

As you can see, there’s a lot going on in Sperryville.


We had lunch at the Thornton River Grill which seems to be very popular with hikers/winery tourists visiting from D.C and the Northern Virginia suburbs. They have a nice rooftop patio, though the parking lot views aren’t exactly scenic.








Categories: DC Area Hiking, Small Towns, Virginia

Tags: , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. Looked like a beautiful walk. I’ve fallen in a couple of creeks on slippery rocks, much to the amusement of my hiking companions. –Curt


  1. My (Former) Nomad Life

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