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.