a birthday weekend: hiking at colorful douthat state park

Saturday, October 26:  My birthday was Friday, the 25th, and as always on my birthday, it was a glorious day, brisk and windy with a palette of fall colors rustling in the trees.  Nature never lets me down on my birthday; it always gives the best gift of all.  Sadly, I had to work all day Friday, so I didn’t get to enjoy the fall weather on the actual day.  However, when I got home at night, Mike and Alex made me a special dinner.

Braised tempeh with Brussels sprouts, sun dried tomatoes & kale over mashed potatoes and polenta
Braised tempeh with Brussels sprouts, sun-dried tomatoes & kale over mashed potatoes and polenta

The real fun begins this morning, Saturday.  We drive our dog Bailey to my mother-in-law’s house, where we see a mangy-looking fox trotting down the sidewalk, as if he’s at home in the neighborhood.

a little fox trotting through a northern Virginia neighborhood
a little fox trotting through a northern Virginia neighborhood

Someone has really gone all out for Halloween. Gravestones spell out funny death-related messages: Yul B Next, Yetta Nother, Ima Goner, and M.T. Tomb.

a house in Vienna all decked out for Halloween
a house in Vienna all decked out for Halloween

We drive over 3 hours south to the mountains of Virginia, where we go on a fall hike at Douthat State Park, a 75-year-old traditional family park. This was one of Virginia’s six original state parks.  Douthat includes two miles of stream fishing, a 50-acre lake stocked with trout, a sandy swimming beach with snack bar, boat rentals, a gift shop and camp store, cabins, and more than 43 miles of hiking, mountain biking and bridle trails. The park also has 32 cabins and three lodges that accommodate 15, 16 and 18 guests each (Virginia.gov: Douthat State Park).

We decide to take the Blue Suck Falls Trail, a 3 mile moderate to difficult trail that connects several of the trails in the northwest region of the park to the trail head near the Visitor Center. The falls, and hence the trail, get their unusual name from the Appalachian term for a whirlpool or a ‘suck’, which may be found at the base of the falls. At higher elevations the trail traverses the ridge top, often along a narrow path, and connects to the George Washington National Forest trail network. The views of Blue Suck Falls are normally the highlight of the trail; today, sadly, the falls are a mere trickle  (Hiking at Douthat State Park).  It’s an uphill climb, and we find we’re not the only ones to be disappointed by the almost invisible falls.  Someone has written on the sign: “This is it?”

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slide show.

After coming down from the falls, we walk along the dam and the lake.  At the bottom of the dam, we come across a whole family of young children fishing, their miniature mountain bikes strewn all around the shore.

the dam
the dam
the lake
the lake
the dam
the dam
dam and wetlands
dam and wetlands
fishing spot for kids
fishing spot for kids
gnarly tree trunk
gnarly tree trunk
more brilliant leaves
more brilliant leaves
reflections
reflections
fall color
fall color

After our hike, we drop in to the camp store, where we get cups of hot chocolate and hop in the car for a drive to Lexington.

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28 thoughts on “a birthday weekend: hiking at colorful douthat state park

    1. Thanks so much, Rosie! It was a perfect way to spend my birthday. I always live each year just for the fall colors and weather. 🙂

      Alex is my older son and he’s not the one who went to California. Adam, my youngest, is still there, getting ready to start a silent meditation in a couple of days. 🙂 He won’t be home until mid-December! 🙂 Soon after he returns, I’ll be coming to California!

      1. I know, Rosie, it can be confusing, since both of them have names that start with “A.” I get them confused myself sometimes. The handstand son, Alex, is my oldest. He’s studying for a personal training certificate through NASM. The younger son, Adam, is still in California doing a 10 day silent meditation retreat right now. 🙂

  1. Nice to see you looking so happy surrounded by all that gorgeous colour and your 2 lovely men 🙂 Glad you had a lovely birthday trip.
    I’m off to check out a couple of your Barcelona posts again. I’m getting so excited, but the next few days will be a bit crazy. Lisa and Leo are arriving Friday, and James is under my feet 🙂 Take care.

    1. Thanks so much, Jo. It was really a perfect weekend all around! Happy birthday to me!

      Which day are you leaving for Barcelona, Jo? I know you’re really excited. How long will you be there? I hope you have a fabulous birthday trip. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Sylvia! It was a lovely weekend. Sorry I haven’t been able to visit much lately. Work eats up so much time, I barely have time to attend to my own blog! Hopefully I can stop by very soon! 🙂

  2. They should call it ‘Blue Suck Seep’ it’s never much of a waterfall. but it is a beautiful hike up there- glad you got to go. We love Douthat and have stayed there twice.

    1. Haha, Susan, yes, they should call it Blue Suck Seep. There was actually a lot of graffiti on the rocks around the waterfall saying “This is it?” and other such things. It was a beautiful hike, especially in the fall, my favorite time of year. 🙂 Thanks for visiting my blog! 🙂

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