Alone time, About time!

Don’t get me the wrong way, I love being a volunteer organizer and a hike leader for the Maryland Trail Dames.  As part of that commitment, I spend hours scouring maps, reading about trails, researching everything from water sources to nearest hospitals.  In addition, I recruit and train new hike leaders for our group.  I throw myself into it and occasionally forget that I also need to hike for me!

Today was my day.  I had a few hours so I headed to Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, Maryland.  This being an impromptu sojourn, I threw a box of saltines, tub of hummus, and a bag of skittles in my bag and called it lunch.  I also doused myself with bug spray.  Ticks, bugs, just steer clear, okay?

Due to limited time, I decided to start at the visitor center, then hike to the falls and back, about 3.2 rolling miles.  The woods welcomed me with shady coolness, spongy moist trail, and a lively bubbling brook. Ahhh yeah, this was gonna be awesome!

Deep breath, yes, that mulchy goodness smell! This is where it’s at.  I love all you Dames, but this is the bomb! No prepping, no checking, no being a leader.  Just me and the trail…and JEEEEEEEEZUSSSS, WTF IS THAT?

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This is NOT what you want to see when you are alone in the forest…ha…haha…*gulp*

*furtive look around to make sure the guilty party is not lurking around*

I continued on, trying to un-see what I saw, just as you are trying to do right now.  But you keep looking back at it don’t you?…DON’T YOU???  I mean, you just don’t see that everyday.  Thankfully.

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The rest of the hike was beautiful.  Birdsong filled the air… possibly extra happy to be alive today. 😀 Oh, and I got to the falls before anyone else was there! I had them to myself for a whole 10 minutes before the throng of dogs, kids, moms, dads, young loves, and tourists got there.

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I sat down and broke open my crackers and hummus, by myself, in the woods.  So good.  Hike on!

 

 

Hoosier Hikes: Indiana’s First State Park

Semester over, I jumped on my escape vector … I70 West to Indiana!

Most of my week was spent visiting with my sister, Rowena, in Bedford, and my Mom’s house on the farm in Springville. Tuesday, however, was reserved for hanging out with my son, Logan, who had the day off of work!

Logan met me at the Bloomington transit center after taking the bus down from Indianapolis. On the way up to the transit center, I had stopped off at Kroger for a few snacks…a tub of hummus and loaf of pita. We were set!

Off to McCormick’s Creek State Park! This is Indiana’s first state park established in 1916 and lies just off of Highway 46 between Bloomington and Spencer. I must also add that this is the first state park I ever remember visiting. I remember a family reunion at which I was allowed to drink whole bottles of pop WITHOUT sharing with anyone and a playground that included a “tornado” slide. 🙂

My son had never visited this park and I had never done any hiking here, so this was a great opportunity for both of us!

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We pulled into the gate, paid our $7 entrance fee, and found the trail head for Trail 5 to Wolf Cave. I believe I have mentioned the pragmatic trail naming in another post about a visit to Indiana State Parks… 😀

This trail is wide, flat, and impeccably maintained. I heard that one can rent an all terrain wheel chair at this park and go out on the trails in it. Impressive! Now, that I see the condition of the trails, it makes a lot of sense! Although, there are a few places along this trail that could be challenging regardless.

We started down the trail, admiring the sinkholes on either side of the path. Significant dips, honestly, it makes you wonder about the ground you are on! Sinkholes are typical for the southern Indiana karst landscape. This is limestone country and this park contains a limestone canyon, complete with waterfalls and interesting rock formations.

Reaching Wolf Cave, it looked unimpressive to me. A slit of an opening down low on the hillside. We crouched down and entered the cave. Ahhhh, a small puff of cool air hit my face, nice! We pushed a little further into the cave but did not go through to the other side because the opening requires a bit of wiggling…yeah, not really into the claustrophobic squeezing through small openings things. So we backed out crouching, into the sunlight, saying goodbye to middle earth for the moment.

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The trail took us around the hill and descended down to a creek on one side. Then, oh wow, the back of the cave loomed on the hillside! A natural bridge opening with chambers that jutted off to either side. This is beautiful! I would love to see it after a hard rain as it looks as if the water runs right out of the cave into the creek. Absolutely gorgeous area!

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We spent some time exploring before trudging back up the hill to the car. It was now getting muggy, so we took a short break before heading across the road to Trail 7 that would take us down the hill to the White River.

Trail 7, another beautifully kept trail, follows the edge of the canyon on its way down. There is one steep, rooty part of the trail, just before the river, but it is short and at the bottom, one can take a left to take Trail 10 across the creek and beyond. Of course on the way down, I managed to start choking on a bug that had made the unfortunate decision to plunge itself into my throat. That was seriously unpleasant and no amount of drinking water was washing that bastard down! I was tearing up, choking up, practically throwing up, and still…ugh. I finally shook the coughing after I found a place to sit and eat a snack of hummus & pita.

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My son was still standing and I asked if he wanted to sit on the bench to which he replied, “I don’t sit in the woods in Indiana.” I should have heeded that advice…chiggers got me on my foot and around my waist. Yes, I had on bug spray that specifically indicated that it repelled chiggers, in addition to ticks, mosquitoes, … WHY DO I GET CHIGGERS EVERY TIME I HIKE IN INDIANA??? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?

Putting aside my issues with bugs on this hike, it was lovely. It is obvious that a lot of pride goes into the maintaining of the trails at this park. Very much looking forward to a return visit! Hike On!

AT-VA Loft Mountain to Turk Gap…completing Shenandoah!

I ended the AT through Shenandoah where I began it long ago. Several years back my sweetie and I backpacked the Moorman River Loop which traversed the AT from Turk Gap to Blackrock Gap…loved that trip!

Anyway, here I was with the Dames at Loft Mountain pulling out my gear for a quick overnight on the AT. It was going to be a hot one!

Shorts? Check!

Prehydrate with Gatorade? Check!

Backpack packed light? OMG OMG OMG OMG 21 POUNDS!!!!! WHAAAAAT?

That has never happened…are you kidding me? 21 pounds?!! I’m so proud of myself 😂

Okay, let me collect myself, whew…

The first day was sweet! Gorgeous trail, interesting rocks, and tremendous views from Blackrock Summit.

Pulling down into Blackrock Hut, we got set up quickly. I decided that I was going to have a lazy weekend and took advantage of a mostly empty shelter! The ridgerunner, Papa Bear, showed up, in addition to a slew of thruhikers and weekend warriors.

Papa Bear was a great conversationalist and I soon found out we knew some of the same trail folk. This type of encounter is what I truly love about the AT. The trail connects us in ways we cannot possibly understand or anticipate; it is almost magical. 😊

A few of the guys tenting down the hill spotted a mama bear and cub on the opposite side of the ravine! We all ran down to watch them until they ambled off. Then it was to bed for me! Next morning I heard that the bears came back…the guys down the hill had to come out of their tent, yell a bit, made a bunch of noise until the bears again left. 😲

I heard nothing from the bears, but oh! The whipporwills! A lovely serenade long into the night.

The following day I treated the dames to slackpacking the last 8.5 miles. I would say it was a treat for me too, but recall my pack was ONLY 21 POUNDS!! 😄😄😄

It was a great decision. Four good climbs, temps climbing into mid-80s, and a delightful mugginess moved in. Yummy.

It was one of those days. Climb up 100 yards, stop to rest, up, rest, up, rest…

The wildflowers along the way made it bearable!

Turk Gap was a welcome sight! A few of us capped off the weekend at Loft Wayside before dragging ourselves back to the real world. Here’s to good friends, the trail community, and whipperwills…hike on!

AT-VA Turk Gap to Beagle Gap

I left off telling the story of our hiking weekend back in March to attend my dad’s funeral.  It has been hard getting back to writing on the blog since then.  I wasn’t particularly close to my dad, but he was an enigmatic force and all things “Albert” could have a lasting affect on all who knew him. Alzheimer’s paired with old age got him in the end…but what a life he led!

One thing I had in common with him was his love for the woods.  So it is back to the woods we go!

Earlier in the weekend, Shenandoah National Park had been closed due to snow and ice.  It had opened AFTER we had started hiking on the previous day hiking AT – VA Rockfish Gap to Beagle Gap .  What a difference a day made!

Driving to Turk Gap we dodged an army of squirrels intent on licking up something that was on the road, possibly salt.  The road was clear, the sky was blue, and the snow was still pristine in many spots.  Evidence of other hikers was there, but still lovely!

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Capital Cheezy Shot at the Trail Head 😀

This section took us down, down, down to a lovely stream valley, then up, up, up Calf Mountain.  In the snow.  Trudge, trudge, trudge…it was kicking my butt!  I was making my best effort to love winter, but honestly, after this weekend I didn’t care to see another flake of snow for a looooonnnnnnggg time!!

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This gorgeous view was the first road crossing at an overlook.  Regardless of how I feel hiking in snow today, I absolutely go all gaga for this kind of view!

I waited so long to write up this section on the blog that is is now long past winter and warm weather has arrived.  And I use the definition of warm from the Mid-Atlantic weather dictionary…hot, muggy, and what the hell happened to Spring???

So, it is with a bit wistful yearning that I revisit this section. 😀

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Climbing Calf Mountain … hiking friends helpful on this snowy climb! However, the snow had been melting all day. Out in the distance there are snow free mountains!

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After that climb I AM NOT hiking down 0.3 miles to take a gander at the Calf Mountain Shelter. Just no.

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Hallefrickenlujah!!!!! The summit of Calf Mountain! YES, YES, YES!!! Now where is my damn sticker?

After the Summit of Calf Mountain, it was pretty smooth sailing, thankfully!  One more lesser summit on Little Calf Mountain, then down the field to the cars closing out out our hiking weekend.

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Summit of LIttle Calf Mountain-JUST LOOK AT THE SKY!!!

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View from Little Calf Summit – A very nice closer! Well done Appalachian Trail, well done indeed!

Three great hikes with four great gals! Hike On!

 

 

 

AT – VA Rockfish Gap to Beagle Gap

March 24, still not spring!

The hiking weekend to kick off my spring break…ha!  The house we rented in Staunton, Virginia is lovely and made a great place to plan out alternative hikes…or as I like to think of them, plan B, C, D…

After the hike at Trimble Mountain, we knew that the chances of Shenandoah National Park being open in the morning were pretty close to ZERO.  Throw the maps out on the table and discuss a few possibilities.  None of them were as appealing as hiking the AT, which was Plan A.  We had already used up Plan B at Trimble Mountain, so we went with Plan C, an out and back on the AT starting at Rockfish Gap.  We would hike to McCormick Gap and back…about 7.5 miles.  In the deep snow that would be enough!

Yes, a plan!  We parked at the old HoJo’s at Rockfish Gap and made our way over to the south entrance and cut-off to the AT where we donned our microspikes and headed up into the woods.  Another gorgeous day!

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We were lucky several had passed this way before us packing down the snow a bit on the trail.  It was still icy, so microspikes had been a good call!  We trudged uphill, taking occasional breaks to catch our breath, let the heart rates return to normal, and to generally take in the quiet, snow-laden forest that surrounded us.  Until the crow saw us…he chattered non-stop, either saying hello or get the heck out of my territory… not sure which, but he was quite animated!

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Then I heard it. The hum, the slap of melted snow runoff on moving tires, Skyline Drive must have been opened.  At first one car, then silence.  As we neared McCormick Gap, the number of cars on the drive had picked up considerably…the word was out!

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We stopped for a break at McCormick Gap and made a decision to continue to Beagle Gap and hitch a ride back to Rockfish for the car.  The Hiking Weekend Adventure was in full throttle!

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I was excited!  Reaching the top of the mountain there are several communication towers and oddly enough, tractor seats.  I had seen them many times in pictures and looked forward to breaking there and having a sit-down before descending to Beagle Gap.  It was everything I expected and we all took a nice rest in those tractor chairs!

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The sun was trying to make its way out of the clouds.  Lola pointed out that a rainbow had formed around it.  I looked up, and up, and back, and up, and then…oh gawd…I was falling out of the chair! All I could think was, not today, please, not today, the ground is wet, the ground is muddy…no, no, no, this would NOT happen to me today!  I struggled to keep myself in the chair by one-arming myself off the ground, believe me, not a particularly ballerina moment in my life! 😀  But ladies and gents, it worked!

I arrived at Beagle Gap, high and dry…AAROOOOO!  Hike On!

 

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

Hiking weekend with some great trail gals looked like it was finished before it even began. 😦

A spring snowstorm had resulted in the closure of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. I gave Shenandoah National Park every opportunity to reopen Skyline Drive without success. It wouldn’t have mattered as much to me if we weren’t specifically aiming at hiking new Appalachian Trail miles. I seriously considered rescheduling the Air B&B. Lemons.

However, Lola, tried and true hiking friend, talked me down and so here we were at Starbucks in Staunton getting ready to embark on plan B!

Four of us headed out to find the Trimble Mountain Trail in George Washington National Forest. It was a beautiful crisp day with a fabulous blue sky and temps in the 40s. Snow covered the mountains giving them a soulful depth I was not used to seeing and it filled me with enormous joy!

We found the trailhead and set off into the woods breaking the smooth surface of snow. No other footprints preceded ours. It was a special feeling.

It was also exhausting! We climbed up for half the hike the around the ridge and back down steeply for a total of 4 moderately tough miles.

However, It was equally gorgeous! An exhilarating, way to kick off our hiking weekend! Lemonade for all! (Or maybe hot chocolate) Hike on!

A Force Play by Spring – Then the Mother Nature Smackdown

I’ve been out; I’ve been about; I’ve been in a tutu, in hiking boots, in trail runners, in wind gear, covered my face with the balaclava, and basked in the warm February sun.  However, I have not hiked in snow this winter…BECAUSE THERE WAS NO SNOW THIS WINTER!

See, no snow on March 9th at Gambrill State Park!

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TGIF Hike with the Maryland Trail Dames – Log Sittin at Gambrill State Park along the Catoctin Trail.

And look, practically Spring at the Celtic Canter 5k in Westminster, MD on March 10th!

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The Maryland Trail ‘Lassies’ rocked out this 5k!

The weekend of March 17th was even better!  Another TGIF hike with the Dames was windy and cold to start, but it warmed up.  And Sunday, March 18, was a glorious day on the trail…60 degrees, sunny, absolutely delicious hiking weather!

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TGIF with the Maryland Trail ‘Kitties’ at Cat Rock in Catoctin Mountain Park.

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Crossing the 340 bridge coming back into Harper’s Ferry on Sunday. JUST LOOK AT THAT SKY 🙂

Yeah, Mother Nature decided to wait until we were all so excited for Spring…teased us with warm temperatures, sunny days, and daffodils.  Yet, despite all times she could have done something great in November, December, January or February…she decided to let Winter have its day  … in March…and right now there are 6 inches of white crap on the ground with a call for 6 more inches today.

Thank you, Mother Nature, you know I have a hiking weekend coming up in three days.  An AT section hiking weekend, with a couple of gals, for which we rented a house in Staunton, Virginia.

So I would suggest that you, Mother Nature, direct your Sun to start shining its warmth in the direction of Beagle Gap, Humpback Rocks, and Reids Gap.  Okay?

Thoughts and prayers appreciated, and if you feel like shoveling snow let me know…HIKE ON!! 😀