AT – VA Dripping Rock to Rockfish Gap

Backpacking with my gal pals last weekend! How is it to know these women, these outrageous trail bitches who understand this is not a frivolous hobby? We understand each other in a deep way even our life partners don’t get. We see the desire burning in each other’s heart for the outdoors, for the forest, for walking in and not having to walk out right away. Hiking and backpacking is something we do because it is what makes us whole! and it is what makes us reasonable human beings in all the other areas of our lives.

With that in mind, we all piled into Akela’s minivan, WHICH HOLDS ALL SEVEN OF US AND OUR GEAR!! Headed south to Dripping Rock, one of us has forgotten her cell phone…turn around, back to Rockfish Gap…OKAY, now we headed for Dripping Rock … for real! 😀

A sunny, but very chilly morning, at 20 degrees! Thankfully, climbing first thing. It is a lovely stretch of trail up the mountain. Some of us hike a little faster, some a little slower, … all of us hike with optimism, smiles, and support for one another.

The views at the top were amazing, of course! We stopped for lunch at the highest point of our hike. A nice break on the sun splashed rocks until the sun went on hiatus and the wind decided to pick up and play chicken with us. Okay, okay, we are going, seriously! Gloves and hats back on! Ladies, someone has an issue with letting us soak in the sun!

We felt good as we started down towards Paul C. Wolfe Shelter. Golden leaves covered our path in spots as we hiked one way, then the next, zigzagging down the mountain on a kazillion switchbacks. A big nice trail for the most part!

It was a great day filled late Autumn forest magic. A gust of wind showered us with leaves, a beam of sunlight warmed us for a few minutes, a deer silently sneaked a peek at us, and birds called out to each other as we passed. I arrived at the shelter free of all regular life stuff. No place but here, no time but now.

I got my tent up and had dinner as the forest went dark. The moon was almost full giving me all the happy vibes. 🙂

A couple of dads and their sons were camped at the shelter. “NO worries about bears tonight”, I thought, as those boys ran up and down each side of the creek having the time of their lives.

I crawled into my tent, broke open some ‘hothands’ to warm up my tootsies and my sleeping bag, then fell promptly to sleep…at 7:00 pm. Woohoo! Hiker midnight!

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Morning now nigh…Dang, it is always a tough time getting out of the bag on a cold morning!! Deep breath and up I was. Packing up warms you up, so move, move, move! And, oh crap, I have to filter water…oh, but what a nice view I had!!

Hot oatmeal warmed my insides and coffee made me a little more coherent, then it was down the trail we went. It was much warmer on Sunday morning and with temps climbing we were soon plenty warm. The trail had some disaster blow downs which gave us an aerobic edge to our hike. We were shedding layers like crazy! “Lost&Found” had to do an extensive striptease on the trail since she needed to get her long johns off…if that would have been me, I know a fricken entire boy scout group would have appeared! Luckily, she got it done without any such embarrassment!

We spent several minutes at the Lowe cemetery. Akela suggested that it would be a good cleanup project. I have to agree. A tree had fallen over a few graves in the back of the cemetery.

Next stop was Mayo Homestead…a very nice place it must have been with that big fireplace! I can imagine riding a horse up to the cabin and seeing smoke drifting up out of the chimney. A promise of freshly baked bread or other delight waiting for me!

Along the last stretch we met ‘Walking Spirit’, a south bound thru hiker. He was sitting by a nicely flowing spring, enjoying his break. That is what is great about solo hiking. You hike, you break, you eat, you sleep, all without needing to check in with anyone. On the flip side, you get to an amazing view or beautiful tree and you want to share the awe with someone, but all you have is you.

I love solo, but my trail gals…awwwww yeah… that’s my heart!

Hike on!

Trail on Tuesday!

Election Day for many, not here in my immediate area…but still a day off for me.  So I hooked up Sidekick Pauli with her leash, harness, and coat (35 degrees, brrr) and hit a trail down at Monocacy Battlefield!

Sidekick Pauli was elated!  She is now 12 years old and prefers hikes of under two miles so this was a perfect match.  We pulled into Worthington Farm, part of the battlefield, just after sunrise.  The colors on the trees, now past peak, cast a muted, dusty glow over the battlefield.  A low fog had risen before we arrived, but the dew was still heavy in the grassy areas, so I chose to head down the long driveway that splits the fields.

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Sidekick Pauli wanted to pull me off into the wet grass at every turn and judged me somewhat harshly for taking the path of least resistance.  Just look at her face…haha 😀

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Ohhhh, it was chilly…my ears and fingers were tingling.  I sped up to match Pauli’s pace and quickly warmed up.  Nothing like having a dog along to keep you moving.  Patience is not one of Pauli’s better qualities, so when I slowed down to look at a pretty leaf, and then the fungi, and then more pretty leaves, and then the river, and then at the sky…and then…and then…well, she wasn’t particularly pleased!

 

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20191105_090913.jpgI could not be hurried.  I breathed in the crisp air, reveling in the woody scent of Autumn.  The sun splashed warmth across the fields,  and I stood quietly and soaked it up (Pauli also enjoyed this).

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One of THOSE mornings when time sort of stops, when nothing else matters, and the world just seems okay.

Hike On!

Bean Blossom Bottoms

I cannot believe that, in the past, someone actually tried to drain this marsh to use the area for farming. Lucky for us and for the wildlife, the land was donated to the Sycamore Land Trust. Bean Blossom Bottoms is now a protected marsh land home to many, including the rare Kirtland’s Snake.My son recommended we visit, so after a lovely lunch, we headed down.The Land Trust has completed repairing/replacing the boardwalk through the march. 2.5 miles of boardwalk!The number of water snakes we saw was impressive! We also saw tadpoles, wildflowers, and a baby bunny.I am sure crawdads call this place home by the looks of these mud towers. Or, do you think it could be something else?If you are in the Bloomington, Indiana area, then I recommend a visit. A marshy adventure…plus, you have to drive gravel roads to get here…a delight! Hike on!

Avoca Ambling at the old State Fish Hatchery

Walking down an old road in the lull of the afternoon.

Squinting and, oh boy, it’s kinda hot.

A rushing stream blue-gray with lime now disturbed by my thirsty dog.

Birds quarreling with noisy abandon…watch out! One just whizzed by my head!

Murky ponds reclaimed by cattails, clover, and wildflowers.

All under an Indiana summer sky.

Hike on!

Pine Lick Trail – Green Ridge State Forest

Green Ridge State Forest is, as yet, untapped hiking opportunities for me. I set out to scout the Pine Lick Trail with a couple of other hike leaders from the Maryland Trail Dames.

After meeting at Forest HQ off of I-68, we piled into my car to find the beginning of the trail.

Google maps got us to an approximate location, then we were on our own. Luckily, we spotted a blaze from the car! Nothing that looked like a trail…yet.

Dropped pin
Near Pennsylvania
https://maps.app.goo.gl/2NrhSACYwG25eUQ37

Spotting a trail sign down in the woods, I high stepped over some poison ivy and other brush to investigate. Success! We had found the trail!

Now to park…sketchy at best.

The Pine Lick Trail meets up with the MidState Trail here. The MidState Trail goes north to Buchanan State Forest in Pennsylvania.

We took a pic at the Mason Dixon Line, then set off going south. It was 6 miles back to HQ. We were excited to see what we would find!

A few small hills, then level, flat, soft trail. What a delight!

There were several trail signs to keep us motivated and frequent blazes. 😀 Very easy to follow the trail, even though it was overgrown in many places!

What the heck does “SNAG” mean?

We passed a massive, lovely campsite…and it only costs $10 a night!!!

Just after, a beautiful meadow, then we descended to the bottom lands near “Fifteen Mile Creek”. The trail follows, and crosses, the creek many times. This included rockhopping, crossing on one super sloping bridge (a sign later on said this bridge was closed), and some log crossings.

Just before the super slopey bridge, we had come across a swimming hole that looked mighty inviting. Making plans for a “Dog Days of August” hike and swim adventure!

I was surprised that we did not see any bears! We flushed out a wild turkey accidentally, crossed paths with a few newts, salamanders, lizards, and one Wolf Spider…but no bears.

Coming upon the Pine Lick Shelter, we stopped to check it out. The area behind the shelter looked like a jungle.

We stopped for lunch at a backcountry campsite on the banks of the creek. Then it was up, up, up a very eroded hill. It felt like if we made on wrong move we would slide all the way back down!

As we neared I-68, and yes, the trail gets so close to the highway you could literally jump over the guard rail!

Before that, however, we again met with overgrown trail.

Parting the way with my hiking poles, we slowly made our way through. No snakes, yay!

On the other side of the bridge we lost the trail for about 10 minutes because it was so overgrown. However, we knew we were in the right area, so once we did find a blaze, we backtracked to see if we could determine where we had gone the wrong way. We are pretty confident it was just after coming under the bridge. The trail goes left up the hill, we had continued to follow the creek. (Our way was less overgrown…I do not regret our path!)

Up, up, up again!

Three hot climbs later and we were happily, finally, back at the car! We recorded our trek at 7 miles. Here are the official specs…hike on!

Shenanigans with Sidekick Pauli at High Point SP (Day 2)

Bullfrogs and Whipporwills woke me at 4:30 am this morning. It was lovely, but earlllllly!

Turns out it was a blessing being up that early. I had my breakfast, coffee, and was ready to shuttle my friend Bear Spray to an AT Trailhead. She was completing her first section in New Jersey!

I had a shorter goal. Hike from the Visitor Center to the Monument on the AT with Sidekick Pauli. 🙂

It is a rocky, but beautiful short section of the AT, followed by a steep climb on a side trail to the Monument.

The weather was somewhat cooperating, cool, cloudy, and humid. The sky was heavy and dark with clouds that promised more rain this afternoon.

Along our AT trek we caught an occasional glimpse of the Monument, an immense obelisk at 220 feet tall marking the highest spot in New Jersey.

Arriving at the monument, we walked around the base. Clouds were slightly lifted in spots revealing green fields and small towns in the valley.

We returned by following the road down and around Lake Marcia. It was getting hotter and more humid now that the sun had come out!

Sidekick Pauli was delighted to get back to the car and wait for Bear Spray to finish her hike. I was just as joyous, taking time to read more of Radium Girls while lunching on avocados, crackers, and strawberries.

Such a privileged life 🙏

Hike on!

Shenanigans with Sidekick Pauli at High Point State Park (day 1)

New Jersey! I will get a few more miles of AT in NJ this week and Sidekick Pauli will be right with me. 🙂

We drove up here in a pouring rain. Not the best start to a few days of car camping. I seriously thought we might be literally camping in the car tonight, but the rain stopped just as I was checking in. What luck!

I got my tent set up and hung out with my pal Bear Spray. The low hanging fog on the lake made all the edges of the trees soft and mysterious.

Bullfrogs grunted while birds sang jubilantly. Pauli went between keeping watch and napping peacefully beside me. Perfect.

After a bit, we took a walk around the lake. The campsites are very nice here!

Arriving back at our site, we ate dinner. I had a tofurkey sandwich and potato salad. I was loving that potato salad…but dinner was cut short by a roll of thunder which set me into high gear cleaning up! Oh well, that potato salad will have to wait until tomorrow. 😢

Rain is falling on the tent and Pauli is now snoring beside me. This is the best life! Hike on!