Saturday, July 12, 2014

Shenandoah Nat'l Park Hike - Hawksbill Peak

I'm slowly working my way through the hikes in this book, Best Easy Day Hikes Shenandoah National Park, 4th (Best Easy Day Hikes Series).

Hawksbill Peak is the highest point in Shenandoah National Park at 4,049 feet, and it's been on my to-do list for a few years now.  It's a fairly short loop hike (a little over 3 miles), totally doable for kids, and has spectacular views at the top.  I organized this as a group event for my church and it turned out really well.

Lesson learned the hard way:  There are TWO trail heads from the parking area.  

This was supposed to be a counter-clockwise loop that would go up slowly over about two miles, then come down a shorter, steeper route to the parking lot. 

Well, I got us on the wrong trail head and ended up going UP the short, steep route to the top, but then we had a nice leisurely hike back to the parking lot following the path clockwise instead.  As a result, here's what our altitude profile looked like:

One of my sons went charging up the hill and wasn't phased at all by the steepness.  The other moaned and groaned and I wasn't sure I was going to get him to the top without dragging him, but after a lot of cajoling him and distracting him with conversation we made it to the top.  When we got to the top and he looked out at the view of the Shenandoah Valley, he said, "THAT was worth it!"

My boys on top of Hawksbill Peak

Blunoz & Sons on top of Hawksbill

It was a gorgeous day!  Mid 70s and a light breeze was blowing.  We packed our lunches to bring with us, so we sat and enjoyed lunch there at the top with the splendor of the Shenandoah Valley before us.

Most of the trail is under the shade of trees.  (Picture by Jason R.)

The trails are well-marked with blazes on the trees.

Of course, I had to stop and admire the flowers along the way.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Paddle Log #33 - Potomac River from Point of Rocks to Monocacy

After waiting so long to get out on the water for the first time this season, I managed to get out on the water TWO weekends in a row!  Cha-ching!  Cha-ching!

Saturday morning, my friend Bill called up and asked what I was doing that day and if I wanted to go kayaking.  Heck ya!  We got a bit of a late start since we didn't leave until after lunch, but it was really nice out.

Point of Rocks boat ramp with the bridge in the background

We dropped our boats off at Point of Rocks (on the Maryland side of the Potomac River where Route 15 crosses the river), went and dropped one car off at Monocacy, and went back to get in the water.  It was a spectacular, gorgeous, sunny but not too hot day outside.  The boat ramp at Point of Rocks was fairly busy and the parking lot pretty full, but there were some open spots. 

Let the watergun battles begin!

Bill and his two kids and me and my boys brought our water guns along this time.  Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my waterproof camera, so there aren't many action shots to share.  I just have the pictures I took when I felt brave enough to take my cell phone out of its waterproof case.

His first time paddling solo!  I love how this picture turned out.

This was my 10-year old son's first time out solo in a kayak instead of riding tandem with me, and he did a great job.  Most of the day, he was way out in front of us and I was having to paddle pretty hard to keep up with him. 

Family Selfie

My 13-year old son has outgrown his Perception Acadia Scout, which is a kayak designed for small children, so his younger brother used the Scout while he tried a loaner Old Town Loon to see how he liked it.  He seemed to handle it pretty well, although he's not sure he likes how open the cockpit was.

Air temp was low 80s and water temp was a glorious 79.9F.  Without paddling, the water moved us downstream at about 2 mph (for reference, this was a a gage height of 2.0 feet and a flow rate of 4,600 cfs at the Point of Rocks USGS station).  It's about 6 miles from Point of Rocks to Monocacy, so it would take about 3 hours if you just drifted and didn't do any paddling.

The water was never much deeper than about 5 feet using my paddle as a probe.  At one spot, we stopped to stretch our legs and play in the water a little bit where the water was about 2 feet deep and clear enough we could see the bottom.

As usual on the Potomac, we saw bald eagles, great blue herons, butterflies, dragonflies, and fish, but without my waterproof camera, there's no way I'd be quick enough to pull my cell phone camera out to take a picture of any of them.

For the last couple of miles, the boys were tired, so I hooked up a double-tow line and I did all the paddling pulling the two of them behind me.  I gave them each a waterproof pad of paper and a pen.  In the past, they've used them for drawing pictures, but this time they each wrote a story.  My older son's story was a very long epic about his younger brother that made his brother mad.  My younger son's story was along the lines of, "Fred the fish was a a fish who hated kittens.  One day he woke up and discovered he was a kitten, so he killed himself.  The End."  Isn't that sweet?  :-$  Where does he get this stuff???


It's hard to see where the Monocacy River joins the Potomac River from upstream.  In the picture above, the Monocacy River entrance is right smack in the middle of the picture.  As you approach it, the tall stacks of the power plant downstream on the Maryland side of the Potomac become visible.  If you see those smoke stacks, you need to be working your way over toward river left to get out.

We made it!

As you can see above, you won't be able to miss the Monocacy Aqueduct.  It's very easy to see and identify from the Potomac. 

There's a parking lot with a nice boat ramp and a port-a-potty just upstream from the aqueduct on the right side.  Oh, and then there's the Rocky Point Creamery for some ice cream on your way driving back toward Point of Rocks!  :-9

Trip stats from the GPS

Stats for the paddle log:
  • Date: Saturday, 5 July 2014
  • Time In: 3:07 p.m.Got a late start, didn't head up there until after lunch
  • Time Out: 6:23 p.m.
  • Elapsed:  3 hrs 16 min (based on GPS)
  • Moving Time (GPS): 2 hours 20 min
  • Stopped Time (GPS):  56 min
  • Mileage (GPS): 6.65 miles
  • Sea State: 0
  • Winds: 0 kts
  • Air Temp:  81F
  • Water Temp: 79.9F
  • Current:  2 mph
  • Tides: N/A
  • Avg Moving Speed (GPS):  2.8 mph
  • Max Speed by (GPS):  5.9 mph
  • Rapids?  None. 
  • Hazards?  Not much.
  • Kit: My youngest son on his first solo time in his brother's Perception Acadia Scout.  My oldest son trying out a friend's Old Town Loon.  I was in our Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL.  Flop hat, NRS paddling gloves, short sleeve shirt, swim trunks, scuba booties (for the rubber sole and to keep sand / rocks out).
  • Configuration:
  • Route:  Put-in at the Point of Rocks boat ramp and paddled 6.5 miles downstream to Monocacy River.  Took a left and paddled briefly upstream on the Monocacy River underneath the Monocacy Aqueduct to the boat ramp take-out.  
  • Other comments (such as wildlife spotted): Bald eagles, Great Blue Herons, butterflies, dragonflies, fish.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Paddle Log #32: Potomac River from White's Ford to Goose Creek

Catching up...

After a long, cold, snowy winter, the weather finally turned around, but I wasn't able to get out on the water until the end of June. It wasn't for a lack of trying, mind you. There have been three aborted attempts before this.

First, for Spring Break, we went down to Hilton Head, South Carolina. It was a wonderful vacation, but I wasn't able to get out on the water. I had reservations for a guided paddling excursion in the Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge, but that day there were very high winds and some significant chop on the water. The tour guide company cancelled the trip due to hazardous weather conditions.

Next, I was scheduled to do the Keep Loudoun Beautiful cleanup event on Goose Creek in May, but the crazy heavy rains we had the week before resulted in some local flooding and hazardous conditions on the creek, so the cleanup event got cancelled.

Then, I was scheduled to go with the Monocacy Canoe Club on a trip down Antietam Creek, but there were severe thunderstorms and rain forecast for that day, so we cancelled.

Plus, it seems like just about every Saturday we have SOMETHING going on, and Sunday we're normally pretty busy with church stuff.

Finally, this weekend we had the rare confluence of both an open schedule on Saturday combined with favorable weather reports, so we finally made it out onto the water.

 * * * * * * * * * * *

I was excited to see in the local news that the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) opened a new park with water access for canoes and kayaks at White's Ford.  Because it's a new park and new access point to the river, I wanted to provide some details of the logistics here for others who may be looking to try it.

DIRECTIONS!  Now, I didn't realize when I was on the White's Ford Park page, if you click on "hours and directions" it gives you directions how to find it.  I just plugged the address (43646 Hibler Rd, Leesburg, VA 20176) into my GPS and followed the navigation system, but it turns out that isn't the best way to get there.  My GPS had me go north of Leesburg on Rt. 15 and turn off on Rt. 661, which resulted in about 3 miles of bumpy dirt and gravel roads.  Fast forward to the END of the day when I was leaving White's Ford, there is a big sign at the park exit that tells you a better way to get back to Rt. 15.

For those of you looking to go to White's Ford, stay on Rt. 15 north until just before Lucketts, then turn right on Spinks Ferry Road.  That will keep you on pavement and get you much closer to the park.  You'll turn right on Limestone School Road and left on Hibler.  

There is enough parking for about a dozen or so cars.  There is no boat ramp.  There is no restroom or water or other facilities.  There are nice new wood steps and a wood ADA ramp from the parking lot down to the river.

White's Ford Parking

Steps from the parking area down toward the water.
The rail is there to slide your kayak down.

The steps don't go all the way to the water though.

For reference, here's how close the water is 
to the path at a Point of Rocks USGS gage height of 2.35 feet.

Trip Planning:
I foolishly thought I was going to park here, get on the river and paddle upstream aways, then come back and get out at the same spot.

Not so much.

Note this is a ford.  In other words, the water is shallow enough for General Lee and his army to walk across the river here.  So it's shallow, but must still accommodate the much larger volume of water in the deeper parts of the river, so here in the shallow part of the river, the water has to go faster to keep up with the overall flow of the river.  

As I arrived there on the river, a guy was taking his kayak out of the water.  I asked where he went.  He said he tried paddling upstream, but he just couldn't do it.  The water was smooth, but noticeably moving.  So we changed plans to go downstream and have my wonderful wife pick us up someplace.

Right after we got in our kayaks and pushed away from the shore, my GPS said we were moving downstream at 2 mph without any paddling.  (For reference, this was at 5,500 cfs flow rate and 2.35 feet guage height at Point of Rocks USGS station.)  I typically paddle solo around 3 mph, so I suppose I could have paddled upstream at a 1 mph over ground pace, but not with my two sons with me.

Heading out from White's Ford, 
looking downstream on the Potomac

IN HINDSIGHT, I see two options for using this White's Ford Park:

1.  Put-in upstream at either Point of Rocks 9.5 miles upstream or at the Monocacy River Aqueduct 3.5 miles upstream and get OUT at White's Ford.  The challenge would be the finding White's Ford.  You'll be moving through the area pretty quick on the current and there's not a lot on the shore to alert you to the location of the take-out.

2.  Put-in at White's Ford and get OUT downstream... but where? 
- White's Ferry 3 miles downstream will charge you a fee to use their facilities, and only river LEFT on the Maryland side.  They won't let you use their ramp on the Virginia side.
- Kephart Bridge Landing on Goose Creek 9 miles downstream.  This is what we did, and it worked out well until about the last hundred yards.  Goose Creek was at 200 cfs flow rate and 1.95 feet gage height at the Leesburg Goose Creek USGS station, and the water was very calm and easy to paddle upstream.  However, about a hundred yards from the take-out, the water got too shallow and there were too many small rocks and ripples for us to paddle any farther.  We had to get out and walk on slippery rocks pulling our kayaks behind us to get to the take-out where my wife was waiting.  I slipped pretty bad and landed pretty hard with a big rock in the middle of my lower back.  I'm lucky I didn't break anything.  In hindsight... not so smart.
- Note:  There is a very nice dock for taking canoes and kayaks out right at the mouth of Goose Creek, but that is part of a private gated community.  You won't be able to use that unless you have access to the gated community.
- Algonkian Regional Park 14 miles downstream, which makes for a pretty long day on the water.
- I'm not very familiar with the Maryland side of the river, so I'm not sure if there are any other opportunities to take-out on that side.

All that being said, we had a very nice trip (except for the part where I slipped and banged my lower back on a rock on Goose Creek).  It was a gorgeous sunny day in the low 80s, and the water was fantastically warm at 81F.

We dragged our feet in the water for a while, and got out a few times to stretch our legs.  Most places the water was only a few feet deep and you could see the bottom.  When we stood up in the water, the fish were nibbling at our ankles and toes.  It tickled and it was fun to watch.

We saw bald eagles, great blue herons, white egrets, deer, butterflies, and dragonflies, and then...

...I suddenly had an urge to eat more chikin.

Thankfully, my awesome wife came and met us at White's Ferry and brought us lunch from Chick-fil-a.  We sat on the side of the river and ate lunch together before continuing our trek toward Goose Creek.
This is where the water got too shallow on Goose Creek for us to paddle any farther and we had to get out and walk to the take-out ahead on the left of this picture.

Stats for the paddle log:
  • Date: Saturday, 28 June 2014
  • Time In: 11:17 a.m.
  • Time Out: 4:10 p.m. (based on time-stamp on my camera)
  • Elapsed:  4 hrs 40 min (based on GPS)
  • Moving Time (GPS): 3 hours 33 min
  • Stopped Time (GPS):  1 hour 7 min
  • Mileage (GPS): 10.12 miles
  • Sea State: 0
  • Winds: 0 kts
  • Air Temp:  78F on the car when we parked climbing to the low 80s
  • Water Temp: 81F
  • Current:  2 mph at White's Ford, nearly still in deeper / wider parts of the river.
  • Tides: N/A
  • Avg Speed (GPS):  2.9 mph
  • Max Speed by (GPS):  5.3 mph
  • Rapids?  None. 
  • Hazards?  Not much.
  • Kit: My youngest son and I in our Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL, and my eldest son in his Perception Acadia Scout.  He's almost too big for it.  Flop hat, NRS paddling gloves, short sleeve shirt, swim trunks, Keen Newport sandals.
  • Configuration:
  • Route:  Put-in at the White's Ford Regional Park and paddled 9 miles downstream to Goose Creek.  Took a right and paddled a mile upstream on Goose Creek to the Kephart Bridge take-out.  
  • Other comments (such as wildlife spotted): Bald eagles, Great Blue Herons, white egrets, deer, cows, butterflies, dragonflies, fish.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

DC Gouge: Antietam Luminaries

Hey folks, Once a year in December, the National Park Service puts luminaries out across the Antietam National Battlefield - one luminary for each of the 23,000 soldiers killed at the battle. You stay in your car and just drive the tour route through the battlefield. It's happening this Saturday, 7 December. You can find out more information at the National Park Service website:

Friday, November 29, 2013

Cold Weather Gear

Happy Black Friday everyone!

Since it's shopping season and since it's 28 degrees outside and there's ice forming on the pond behind our house, I'll tell you about the cold weather gear I used for the past two years driving in and out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Granted, being on the bridge of a submarine presents a unique set of circumstances - namely being stationary and exposed to the elements for several hours.  Someone on the bridge of some other type of surface ship would presumably be able to step inside the pilot house to get shelter from the wind, rain, and snow.  Other people who brave the cold for recreational activities like skiing tend to be physically active and generate extra body heat in the process, and they can always take a break and step inside the ski lodge for some coffee or hot cocoa.  When you sit or stand in one place on top of the submarine, you aren't doing any exertion to generate body heat, and there's no place to go for shelter.

Before going into the gear I've been using, I should offer a disclaimer on uniform regulations.  There are some differing opinions from one boat to the next, or rather from one CO and COB to the next, on what is allowed to be worn by personnel topside when getting the boat underway and returning to port.  During my JO tour on USS PROVIDENCE operating out of Groton, Connecticut, we absolutely needed good cold weather gear topside and on the bridge, and the Navy didn't sell uniform components that would adequately protect us.  The philosophy on the boat was go buy yourself some good cold weather gear (more specifically - to protect your hands and face) and as long as it's solid black or navy blue, nobody would have a problem with it not being an official part of "the uniform."  That philosophy made sense to me and has stuck with me ever since, much to the chagrin of some of my later COBs who were more insistent on not allowing guys topside to wear anything that wasn't 100% in compliance with the uniform regs.  (Sorry, COBs, no offense intended!)


Soon after I reported aboard USS PROVIDENCE, one of the other JOs told me to go to the mall and find the kiosk where they sell headsokz.  It was absolutely essential being on an SSN operating out of Groton.  We drove in and out frequently enough that I had many opportunities either as a topside supervisor or as an OOD on the bridge to put it to use.  It was money very well spent.  Even during my department head tour out of SAN DIEGO, I was very glad I had my headsok and gloves from my JO tour in my locker for port calls in Bangor and Esquimalt and an unexpected surfacing near the Aleutian Islands.  As an XO, I used it supervising linehandlers topside getting the ship underway.  As a CO, I've used it every underway and return to port in Bangor.  Even returning to port in June last year, it was 50 degrees, howling wind and hailing as we drove down the Hood Canal.


Initially I used ski goggles, but most ski goggles have some sort of shading like sunglasses to protect from the glare off the snow.  It's almost always overcast in the Pacific Northwest and there's no blanket of snow on the water to reflect the ambient light under the overcast.  I found that I needed something to shield my eyes from the wind, rain, hail, and snow, but I didn't like the light loss with the ski goggles.  I wanted clear lenses.  I tried a few models of ski goggles with clear lenses, but I just didn't like any of them.

Then it occurred to me... I said to myself, "Self, you probably need to check a store that sells motorcycle stuff."  Sure enough!  I stopped at the Harley Davidson shop on my way home one day and found exactly what I was looking for.  However, I also suspected they had a pretty high mark-up given the name brand of the store.  The goggles I wanted were $26 at the store, so I came home and searched for them on Amazon.

$6!  Cha-ching!  Cha-ching!  SCORE!  Now that I go back and look at them again, I see they raised the price, but it's still better than what they wanted at the HD store.  These goggles worked GREAT.  I wish I had thought of motorcycle riding goggles instead of ski goggles sooner so I could have used them from the outset.


There are a ton of different styles of cold weather gloves out there.  I ended up making a spreadsheet to compare the thickness of insulation, the type of insulation, the cost, etc.  In the end, I bought the Outdoor Research Remote gloves.  They were pretty expensive, but I found them to be worth the money.  (Aside - the price has come down considerably since I purchased them.)  They have the most insulation and are rated for the coldest temperatures, but they use the Primaloft insulation (more insulating for less thickness, but also more expensive).  Now, they might be too warm for doing any sort of winter sports or outdoor activities where you're moving around and generating more body heat.  However, sitting-still on top of a submarine I found my hands quickly got numb from the cold, and I needed the extra insulation. These gloves did a great job.

If you were shopping around for some good gloves, here are some other features I liked about these gloves that I would recommend looking for:

Idiot Straps.  You fasten the "idiot straps" to your wrists so when you take your gloves off your hands, you don't drop or lose the gloves.  They will dangle from these strap fastened to your wrists.

Loops.  The big nylon-strap loops at the back of the glove make it a lot easier to pull the gloves on in the cold.

Easy-to-operate cinching cords.  The Outdoor Research gloves have a pretty clever system that makes it so you can very easily cinch or uncinch the wrists of your gloves.  Pull the plastic tab on one side, and it cinches them tight.  Pull the plastic tab on the other side, and it uncinches them.

Nose-wipe.  It might sound gross, but I was VERY glad to have this.  Yes, ideally, you would pull a tissue out of your pocket and blow your nose into a tissue.  There are those times when your face is uncovered and your nose starts to run, and you don't have time to dig a tissue out of your pocket before the snot goes rolling down your lip.  This soft material on the back of the thumb is perfectly positioned to do a quick swipe under your nose.

Heat Packs

These sure made the long hours on the bridge more bearable.  There are a dozen brands and sizes to choose from if you search for them online.  The ones I've linked to below aren't particularly noteworthy as being any better than the rest, so shop around and find the best deal.  I just included the link below as an example of what I am trying to describe.

These are very handy little pocket warmers though.  I found they make some for feet that have a peel-away sticky pad to keep them stuck in one place inside your boots.  My toes tended to get really numb after hours in the cold, but I found putting some of these warmers in my boots helped tremendously.  I also put one in each palm of my hand inside my gloves, and it made the surface transit much more comfortable. 

Now if I could just find what the movers did with my cold weather gear...

Mass Transit Benefits go DOWN in January

One of the nice things about working for the federal government in the DC area is they pay you to use mass transit, and they automatically deposit it to your Metro SmarTrip Card each month.

If you're using the National Capital Region (NCR) Mass Transit Benefit Program (MTBP), then plan to pay more money out of your pocket since the benefits go DOWN in January.

One of my coworkers received this email warning from MTBP.  I'm not sure why I didn't receive it since I normally get the MTBP announcement emails, but here it is:

NOTICE: The maximum monthly statutory limit for transit benefits is set to decrease from $245 to $130 in 2014

Attention MTBP participants,

In January 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (H.R.8) temporarily raised the transit benefit statutory limit to $245 per month. This new amount was not intended to be permanent and expires at the end of 2013.

Unless a new statutory limit is approved by Congress, the statutory limit will decrease to $130 per month starting January 1, 2014. Source: IRS Revenue Procedures (rp-13-35)

Congress may still act to extend the limit above $130, but at this time agencies must proceed with what the law states as the maximum tax exempt mass transit subsidy limit. Any updates will be posted at the MTBP website ( )

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ahh, Autumn... and Beer

Updated 29 Nov 2013

I'm so glad to be back on the East Coast an changing seasons.  My favorite season is autumn.  I love the crispness in the air, the trees changing color, and all the awesome butternut squash dishes at local restaurants.  I also love the ales of the season, and being close to Wegman's!

Back in Silverdale, if I wanted to try an assortment of new pumpkin ales, I would have to buy a six-pack of each.  Some were pretty nasty, and I poured out several bottles.

Here at Wegman's (awesomest grocery store on the planet!), you can mix-and-match your own six packs, and they have quite a wide variety of pumpkin ales to try.

Of course, if you happen to be in the Northern Virginia area, then I HIGHLY recommend going to Sweetwater Tavern both for their extraordinarily good food AND for their AWESOME pumpkin ale in the fall.  Take a growler to go! 

To help out those of you who AREN'T so conveniently located next to Sweetwater Tavern or a Wegman's, and in order to prevent you from having to buy whole six-packs of what might later get poured down the sink, here's my votes for the pumpkin ales on a thumbs-up / meh-so-so / thumbs-down rating scale.  I still have three more in the fridge to try, so I'll come back and add them to the list later, but for those of you who may be headed to the store soon and are looking for recommendations, here's what I've tried so far (listed in order from good to not-so-good):

New Holland Brewery's Ichabod - Two Thumbs-UP, still my favorite pumpkin ale.  Strong, bold and balanced flavor.  No weird initial or aftertastes.  I anxiously await its arrival on the shelves at Wegman's. 

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale - Thumb$ Up.  Quality and taste were very good - on-par with my favorite Ichabod listed above, but pricey.  It's very good if you don't mind spending the money on 4 bottles instead of a six-pack.

Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale - Thumbs-UP.  Sam Adams never disappoints with their seasonal ales.  Good flavor, not too strong, very enjoyable.

Red Hook Pumpkin Porter - Thumbs-UP.  Very tasty.  Didn't taste very much like pumpkin, but I still enjoyed it.  I'd buy it again.

Devil's Backbone Ichabod - Thumbs-UP.  Like the Red Hook, it didn't have a strong pumpkin flavor, but it was still very enjoyable.  I'd buy it again.

Traveler Jack-O Shandy - Thumbs-UP.  Added 13 Oct 2013, I liked this one a lot.  It was light and crisp, with a good balance between the lemon peel and pumpkin flavors.  There weren't any strong perfumy or heavy-spice flavors.  There weren't any detectable hops flavors either.  I bought this one as a mixed-up six-pack from Wegmans, but I enjoyed it enough that I went back and bought another full six-pack of this.

Saranac Pumpkin Ale - Thumbs-UP.  Flavor was good, although it did leave a slight after-taste.  I wouldn't turn away a bottle if offered, but if going to buy a six-pack for home, I'd look for one of the others listed above.

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale - Thumbs-UP.  Added 13 Oct 2013.  The flavor in this one was pretty strong.  If you're not a pumpkin ale fan, then I would steer clear of this one.  It wasn't overpoweringly perfumy or spice-flavored, so I actually enjoyed it and finished the bottle.  Not much hops either.  Like the Saranac above, I wouldn't turn away a bottle if offered, and if you're picking out a mixed-up six-pack at someplace like Wegman's, then I'd include this in your sampler six pack.  Given how strong the flavor is, I'd be cautious about buying a full six-pack if you haven't tried it first.

Southern Tier - Imperial Pumpking Ale - Thumbs-Up.  Added 7 Nov 2013.  Very strong, nutty flavor, but not perfumy like some of the others.  Like the Weyerbacher, if you're not a pumpkin ale fan, then I would steer clear of this one.  Very light on the hops / not a strong hoppy flavor.  I enjoyed it though and finished the bottle.  It has a pretty high alcohol content - 8.9% by volume. 
Post Road Pumpkin Ale - Tough call.  Heavy hops, and I'm not a big fan of hoppy-beers.  If you like hops, you should probably give this a try.  As for me, I won't be going back for this one.  Also, flavor was better when I first opened the bottle.  As I got toward the bottom of the bottle, the taste of the pumpkin spices got pretty strong.  

Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale - well...  not so much.  Although it has a picture of a pumpkin on the label and says "pumpkin" in small letters under the BIG "HARVEST MOON" label, there's no detectable taste of pumpkin here.  Now, that being said, it was a pretty tasty, standard Oktoberfest type of beer, so I listed it here above some of the "meh" rated beers with weird tastes.

Harpoon's Pumpkin UFO (unfiltered offering) -  Meh.  It was okay.  I finished the bottle at least, but tasted pretty perfumy.  Given the choice of other pumpkin ales on the shelf, I'd skip probably skip this one.
Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale.  Meh.  Fairly light in body. Definitely pumpkin flavored. Tasted a little weird but nothing I could put my finger on. Not something I'd rave about or buy again.


New Belgium Pump-Kick.  Meh.  Odd flavor.  It says something about pumpkin and cranberry on the label.  I finished the bottle, but I won't be going back for any more of this one.


Shipyard Pumpkinhead - Yech!  Thumbs-DOWN.  It has an amaretto taste to it, and I HATE amaretto.  That being said, if YOU like amaretto, then you might want to give it a try.

Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale - Yech!  Thumbs-DOWN.  Waaaaay too perfumy and overpowering strong flavors.  I couldn't take more than a couple of sips.  Poured the rest of the bottle down the sink.  Poured the rest of the six-pack down the drain, too. 

Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat - Yech!  Thumbs-DOWN.  Similar to the Elysian - too perfumy and very strong flavor.  I did manage to finish about half a bottle of this before I gave up.  I poured the rest of the six pack down the drain. 

Jacques Au Lantern - Blech!  Thumbs-DOWN.  After one sip of this, I poured the rest of the bottle down the kitchen sink.  Like the Elysian and Shock Top - very perfumy and STRONG flavor.