Nature Hike and Eagle Spotting at Mason Neck State Park

MASON NECK HIKE IS A DEFINITE GO TOMORROW!  Please read on...

Eagles don't take snow days off, and neither do intrepid Over 40 Adventurers.  This afternoon, I personally visited Mason Neck Park to evaluate conditions for our nature hike and outdoor bonfire social afterward.  I'm pleased to report that everything is fine and we are set to go tomorrow.  Roads and parking area are cleared and mostly dry, so no problem getting there or parking.  The trails have a 1" snow crunch on top, but nothing deep and no mud.  You may slip occasionally on wet leaves underneath, but overall hiking conditions are very good.  

In fact, Mason Neck after the Wednesday snowfall is an even more beautiful winter wonderland with snow-laced tree limbs and Belmont Bay frozen over in a white sheet that should make eagle spotting easier.  The weather forecast calls for partly sunny, no wind, and high around 40, which is ideal for our hike and fire pit socializing.  Don't forget to bring your binoculars and shades.  The fire pit is on a lovely bluff overlooking Belmont Bay.  It has benches, but no fancy picnic facilities.  So bring something refreshing and simple to eat and drink while we gather around the fire to admire the beauty of Nature and ourselves...  :-)  I'll bring some appropriate music, and Bob has kindly volunteered to be our designated fire ranger to make certain it gets started and is safely managed and extinguished when we're done.

We will meet up at the Visitors Center at the end of the three-mile park entrance road (High Point Rd).  The center has a nice warm welcome room which will be open at 9 am.  The park naturalist begins his presentation at 10:30 am, so please be there before then.

We're going to have a great time tomorrow.  See you there!

 

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Let's get out and enjoy the winter woods. Mason Neck Park on Gunston Rd. near Lorton is a beautiful and uncrowded wildlife preserve with miles of good trails. It's also a major breeding area for bald eagles, ducks, geese, and many other birds. At 10:30 am on Saturday, January 29, we will meet at the visitors center to hear a park ranger give a short lecture on eagles and wildlife at Mason Neck. Then we will hike for a couple of hours through the woods to the breeding area on Kanes Creek. The natural surface trails are well-marked and mostly flat on firm packed earth and leaves. Following the hike, the park superintendent has granted us permission to warm up using the park's fire pit area overlooking Belmont Bay. So bring some warming drinks and eats for a fireside picnic.

Total hiking distance will be about 4 miles. The park entrance fee is $4 per car. There are excellent toilet and picnic facilities available. Since this is an outdoor event, good weather is essential to make it work. Check back here on Friday evening for last minute updates. I will post a notice if we need to cancel the hike due to weather conditions. We look forward to seeing you there...

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  • A former member
    A former member

    Well planned hike. A very nice bunch of people to walk with and share laughs around the campfire. Thanks to the organizers for a fun day!

    January 31, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    This group is great - lots of fun and really nice folks! I look forward to more events!

    January 30, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    A fun excursion with a nice crowd at a very pretty spot, although the hiking itself was just so-so

    January 30, 2011

  • Bob

    Yes, Kim, the fire was put out safely. Jack and I were the last two to leave the fire pit area to ensure all was safe, clean, and in a better state than how we found it, which is the way of the wilderness. The water in the ranger's bucket combined with the snow kicked up from Andy & Julie's Salsa dancing (that HAD to be seen) gave us the tools to allow the fire to be imploded from lack of oxygen.

    January 30, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    I had a fabulous time! I want to thank Bob, Jake, Julie for all the work and preparation that went into the event. I also want to thank Mike for watching our Camp/fire site while the whole group went hiking. He seemed to actually enjoy hanging out, drinking his cafe ole!

    January 30, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    I had a really good time getting to know a few more members than I'd met on my first hike. The science teacher in me enjoyed learning all about eagles, too. Bob, I'm assuming that monstrosity of a fire was put out safely????????

    January 30, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    So sorry I didn't make the hike but the socializing at the fire was great fun! My little dog was so glad to be outside! I had such a good time talking with Colleen, and Jake, and Bob, and Lois and meeting others whose names I can't even remember. Would love to do this again. Can you imagine how beautiful the park must be in the spring and fall?

    January 30, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    What a fantastic day -- all the way until sunset. Thank you Jake for putting this together. I learned more than I expected about Eagles and seeing them was well -- just cool. Hike was fun, scenery beautiful, and Bob's fire waiting for us post hike was perfect. It was a great group of people and it was great to meet so many new people. Thanks for all the effort that went into this.

    January 30, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    A great hike - Mason Neck is a wonderful place to hike and bike on the water - lots of birsd of all sizes and colors to see. Jake planned well, especially with the bonfire crew at the end of the hike. Bob is a great fire builder - you can see by the pics. Reminded me of skating when I was a kid and in my 20's with a bonfire going and no one really want ing to leave. Thanks to Jake and Bob.....

    January 30, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    This was a great day! The park ranger gave a very interesting talk to begin with. We used the telescopes in the Visitors Center to look out onto the bay at the different birds, including eagles! We went on a 4 mile hike which was beautiful in the snow covered woods then ended up at a roaring campfire where we ate lunch, roasted marshmallows, visited, warmed up and ended a beautiful day together! Can't wait to do it again!

    January 30, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Everything turned out perfectly! Excellent weather, interesting lecture on eagles, nice hike through snowy woods, wonderful fireside socializing by Belmont Bay, and a beautiful sunset (as documented so well by Bob). A great group of new and old friends to share the experience, and YES we spotted lots of eagles. I had a wonderful time. We definitely WILL return to Mason Neck Park for future events...

    January 30, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Let me try this again…Jake, Julie and Bob thank you for such a wonderful day! The location was beautiful, the hike was great, company a lot of fun and the bonfire top of the day. This is why I love this group because it gets me to places I might have otherwise missed. Thanks again for everything.

    January 30, 2011

  • Bob

    I had a fabulous time. It was a truly beautiful area, shared with so many first-rate folks, and I saw many eagles therein. Jack did a wonderful job organizing this event in our great outdoors.

    January 29, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    I will not be joining you after all - my dog is sick and we are on our way to the vet. Sorry for the late notice. Hope you all have a great time.

    January 29, 2011

  • jeff

    will be late

    January 29, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    So very disappointed....been bitten by the flu bug so can't make it. I had my camera battery charged and a blank memory stick ready too! Please post pictures of the trip.

    January 28, 2011

  • Bob

    Okay; Jack. Thanks for the heads up. This part of the Potomac River is with no ice, so I did my thing up here......

    January 28, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hey Vlad, I recommend leaving the kayak at home unless it comes equipped with skates. Belmont Bay is frozen over and the steep ramp to the launch area has not yet been plowed. Stay on land and keep the bonfire going so the rest of us can relax and mingle...

    January 28, 2011

  • Bob

    I am still up in the air about the kayak. I can paddle 8 MPH at top speed using my wing paddle, so I can reach the nearby land masses (i.e., islands), but I don't want to go too far out if I do paddle as I have the fire to do.

    January 28, 2011

  • Bob

    Julie wants to practice our football skills, in preparation for our big game on February 12th, when we defeat the evil Meetup group that challenged us! I'll bring a pigskin as well.

    January 28, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    At $4 per car, if anyone wants to carpool from the mid-PWC/Lake Ridge area, let me know! (Email me directly at [masked].) My car holds 8!

    January 28, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hmmmm - disappointed but the thought of me and 2 4-legged companions on muddy trails after all this snow turns me off. Hope we can do it later in the spring though. It sounds beautiful.

    January 28, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Messed up my knee digging my car out of a snow bank. Don't think I'll be able to do it this time. Have fun!

    January 28, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    I thought I would have my cast off by Sat, but no luck. Really disappointed I won't be able to attend.

    January 28, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    All this mixed precip causes me to change my mind.
    Hope you all have fun. Maybe I can make the next one.

    January 28, 2011

  • Bob

    Two of us are thinking of bringing our kayaks for a quick paddle when we have some down time at the park. If interested, let the people know.

    January 27, 2011

  • Bob

    Folks - You may have seen Jake's email regarding this event. This promises to be a great activity, and we should thank Jack for organizing this for us. I do want to remind all that there is a state prohibition against bringing any type of wood into the park. So, please know that we will be fine with the camp fire as we will have dry wood provided to us by the park taken from an enclosed area on the park grounds.

    January 26, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    SNOW UPDATE -- A substantial snowfall is predicted for this evening. I plan to visit Mason Neck Park on Friday to personally evaluate trail conditions and talk to the park rangers. Please check back here on Friday evening to get my latest update report. I certainly hope we can still enjoy our hike and fireside picnic with the added beauty of fresh snow. This is, after all, an ADVENTURE club! Still, the first priority is that we have an event that is both safe and fun.

    January 26, 2011

  • Bob

    The long range weather prediction for Saturday in Mason Neck is looking really good. Of course, this will be getting updated continually as the date gets closer: http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=38.64824892677364&lon=-77.19320297241211&site=lwx&smap=1&unit=0&lg=en&FcstType=text

    January 24, 2011

  • Bob

    Pam - Let's hope it never gets to that stage...... Jake will be sending out more info, but he will ensure it is wholly safe.

    January 22, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hey Jake you were looking for an Eagle Scout to manage the fire but how about a Firefighter? You got one right here! Looking forward to the hike and meeting everyone.

    January 22, 2011

  • Bob

    To put out the fire in this particular park's fire ring we have to use the ranger's bucket in the visitor's center and bring the water from the spigots therein. The longest trail therein is the Eagle Spur Trail and it is 2.6 miles round-trip; the shortest trail therein is the Beach Trail and it is 0.6 miles round-trip.

    January 11, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    About how long is the hike? Leg acting up. TIA John

    January 11, 2011

  • Bob

    I am really looking forward to this hike. Thanks, Julie & Jake, for hosting it. FYI, the sunset therein, on the hike date, is for 5:08 PM.

    January 10, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    I've got the marshmallows covered!

    January 10, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    I can bring a canvas bucket along, for that not-so-fun moment when it's time to put the fire down for the evening.

    Who's gonna bring the marshmallows?

    January 10, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great news! Mason Neck Park has granted us permission to use their large outdoor fire pit to warm up and socialize after our hike. It comes complete with benches, firewood, and a terrific view of Belmont Bay facing Occoquan. I promised we wouldn't burn down the park forest, so I'm hoping some some former Eagle Scouts will be attending to help manage the fire. ;-)

    January 10, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sounds great! Count me in for this hike.

    January 7, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    I have backpacked before in the Adirondack Mtns. Course that was some 30 years ago. But -grandbaby vs supplies - same weight I think. If the weather holds, I will plan to still come. I like the safety of being with a group.

    January 7, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    The park guide rates the trails we will use as easy to moderate. On Monday, I actually did a trial run and had no problems at all. There are a couple of places with steps and a few ravines we cross where you need to watch your footing because the slope is a little steep and slippery on the leaves. Mason Neck park also has a beautiful three-mile trail that is paved and suitable for strollers, bikes, etc. So you will have no trouble finding a good place for a winter walk in the woods.

    January 7, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    If I can convince hubby (Rob) to come along, he'll share the load. Otherwise it's an added workout for me. :) What is the difficulty level of the trail being used?

    January 7, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Terri, a baby and a hubby are welcome as long as we don't have to carry them. ;-) Be aware these are natural trails with some dips and slopes that can be slippery...

    January 7, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Can one bring an 18 mo. old grandbaby in a backpack along?

    January 7, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    This is a great park and you can usually spot eagles flying over the water. Great idea!

    January 5, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sounds nice. Are dogs allowed?

    January 4, 2011

  • Julia R.

    Sounds good to me, count me in.

    January 4, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    sounds like a great time, but OOT that weekend

    January 4, 2011

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