A Series of Unfortunate Weekend Weather Events

Oh, a hike leader’s lament! Over the last several weekends the Mid-Atlantic has had some questionable weather. This led to the shuffling and rescheduling of hiking events. Ugh…when is there ever enough free time for hiking?

Whelp, I looked at my calendar…classes end May 13, semester wrap up is the following week, then back to prepping the house for the floor guy (not to mention summer classes). Hmmm 🤔

All hikes were rescheduled to the week that is ending today…and WHAT.A.WEEK! A whirlwind of work and hiking and everything else! 😄

Tuesday found the Maryland Dames and me at New Germany State Park out in the far western portion of Maryland. Friday we scampered over Catoctin Mountain Park, and today, Saturday, we had a Meet & Greet for new Dames!

New Germany was an absolute fantasy land. Bright green moss covered forests, thick with towering hemlock trees, beckoned while giant ferns unfurled, spiraling dramatically. Trillium, Gaywings, Soloman’s Seal, and May Apple blossoms burst upwards through the mulchy forest floor. It was spectacular!

Fern spores
Trillium
Gaywings

Catoctin Mountain Park was a different, but still delicious, experience! It rained just before the start of our hike and the scent of the mountain woods was fresh and soothing. Moss covered boulders, bright green foliage, and a variety of wildflowers and fungi kept the hike interesting…not to mention an unexpected Tornado watch! We skedaddled soon after that alert. 😄

Wild Geraniums
Bellwort

And finally, the Meet & Greet at Monocacy National Battlefield, Worthington Farm! A super morning meeting a few new Dames! Worth every bit of my Saturday morning!

Dametastic morning at WorthingtonFarm!

It was a busy week…but overscheduled hiking events? I’m in! Hike On!

Friday and Spring is Making a Move!

Started the week with a snowstorm and ended with a warm Spring day! Crazy and I am here for it 1000%! 😄

If you are getting hammered with snow or wildfires, I am truly sorry. For those of us in the mid-Atlantic, IT’S AFTER 8 PM AND STILL WARM!! GO OUTSIDE! 🌷

I made a swift exit after my last meeting earlier today to head to Rocky Gap State Park for a walk.

Glorious!

The redbud trees are almost in bloom, along with many other plants I cannot identify. It is always a pleasure to be present for the changing of the season. Everything will bloom, then go full green almost overnight. Don’t blink!

I hope you can get out this weekend. Oh hey…Take a bag and pick up trash along the way to celebrate Earth Day! Hike on!

Spring, Winter, Spring, Winter, …, Spring?

What’s in a name anyway? By calling it Spring are we hopeful to manifest that first lovely breeze that caresses us with oh, so much yummy warm love? Well, I think one of you has dropped the ball on the manifestation homework because it is still winter.

I never liked group projects… 😀

Today was not a good day to hike, but I went anyway. It was cold. It was windy. It was, at times, snowing…fast and furious. Did I question my sanity? To be honest, a little. But, oh, how exciting the world felt! It was intoxicating and I could not deny myself this opportunity to see Lake Habeeb in the drama of this windy, snowy day! Delayed gratification is not something I am really good at…so let’s go!

I parked by the Amphitheater and started the Lakeside Loop by heading towards the campground first. That side of the lake always seems to take for-e-ver to me with all the ins and outs of the lake. I figured by the time I passed the dam I would be looking forward to the straightaway that passes the Casino and Beach. I love the lake, but sometimes the lack of variety in the trail around the lake … not boring…just gets monotonous for me. Oh good lord, I sound like an ass…I am not really that hard to please!!! 😀

Oh gosh! It was such a fun hike! When I pulled into the parking area the wind was blowing snow so hard that my car was moving side to side! I decided to wait for the squall to pass spending some quality time eating my sandwich. The squall pushed on and I headed out under deep blue skies peeking out from behind gray low hanging clouds. The wind was brisk, stinging my cheeks with unforgiving iciness. I zipped up my coat ALL the way to the top and marched on!

In the campground area, bushes were greening up, creating a sweet Spring-like corridor. Periwinkle cascaded on either side and an occasional bunch of daffodils brightened up the dark shadows under the bramble.

Meanwhile, the wind picked up blowing back the hood of my coat (good thing I wore a winter hat)! Looking up, I found a few snowflakes drifting through the trees. Then, LITERALLY two seconds later, it was like someone dumped a bucket of snow … several thousand buckets, actually…from the west end to the east end of the lake! I could not even see to the middle of the lake, when I had been able to see all the across to the other side and beyond just a few moments before. It was wild! The snow stuck in my hair, blew into my eyes, and plastered my whole front side in no time! 😮

Just as quickly, it was gone. The sun came back out, the snow on my clothes disappeared, and on I went. That happened two more times while on the trail and it really was such a joy to stand there and let it take over. Of course, I was never in any danger…this was not a blizzard…just a passing squall. 🙂

Winter refusing to go out without a few more words, Spring refusing to give in to a very pushy, rude Winter. I think Spring is going to win eventually, but for now, in Allegany County, Maryland, it is still Winter! 😀 Hike on!

Labor Day at the Lake

Silly me forgot to block this day out for Office Hour appointments. Two in the morning and one late afternoon. I figured I would salvage my Labor Day with a hike around Lake Habeeb at Rocky Gap State Park in Maryland. Good call, if I do say so myself!

After hiking around half of the lake, I stopped under the shade of an oak tree near the shore. I stretched out my big red poncho, threw my shoes carelessly over into the grass, and leaned back to look up at the sky. Temperature in the upper seventies, blue skies, puffy clouds, a few yellow leaves littered the ground around me, and frequent breezes that kept the water splashing onto the bank.

As I sat there, two Jay’s started a heated discussion, accompanied by a chorus from the crickets. A family of kayakers floated past, father and small child closer to the bank; Mom chasing a dinosaur float toy that the wind was pushing just out of her reach. After several minutes she was successful in corralling Dino and all was well! In the background, like white noise, I could hear the joyous racket of children at the beach. Ahhh, the end of summer. It was absolute bliss!

In the woods, a variety of fungi lined the path. I felt beckoned to consider that I needed to let some things “die” to make room for new growth. Still thinking on that…

The breeze picked up…was that a chill? When did that dark cloud get here? Guess it was time to move on around the rest of the lake…and pick up my own pace! Hike on!

Cacapon State Park – Ziler Loop Trail

Quick summary – A good workout and wear long pants!

We have had some delicious weather here on the east coast courtesy of the the wildfires out west. The morning I set out to meet friends at Cacapon State Park it was cool and unexpectedly pleasant for July. We met up at the Batt picnic area for an easy access to the trail. We were in luck with a port-a-potty nearby, as well! 😀

A ranger pulled up as we were organizing our packs and stopped to chat with us about the trail. He also gave us a fresh trail map (appreciated) and let us know that Cacapon now offers “glamping” up on the ridge. Good to know!

We set off in the glorious early morning fresh air! Oh, it was nice to be in the woods in the early morning! Birds greeting the day, chipmunks scrambling through dry leaves, and my feet heading uphill. Uphill for a mile and a half! It was a steep climb, with a few opportunities to stop and chat. I noticed a nice rocky area one could stop and take a sit down break…we didn’t partake, but I was thinking ahead to a possible Trail Dame hike. That rest area would come in handy for the Dames!

A good place for a break!
Finally a view!

On we go, up, up, up! Once on the ridge the walking was easy, but the trail is incredibly overgrown with grass and ferns. The grass is thin enough to see the trail for a few feet before it disappears into wild growth. We took it slow and lucky me, hiking in the front, got to scope out the brush for any lurking snakes and catch those wispy cobwebs that seem to appear out of thin air! I carried out my task and we escaped any snakes that may have been hiding out. 😀

Junction with Ziler Trail

At the junction of the Ziler trail and the Ziler Loop trail, we saw a handmade sign for a view…so we explored it. And nothing. We went left, then right, and backtracked. No view in sight. Maybe a winter view? Or maybe the trail was overgrown and we didn’t see it? I don’t know, but the blazes were not in sight, so I was done! Back on the trail!

There is a shelter along the ridge which surprised us all. It was time for second breakfast, so we all decided that this was a blessed intervention in our hike through the jungle. 😀 😀 😀 The shelter sits along what looks like a fire road. I am now curious to find out where it goes. That would be easy hiking for some of the newbie hikers in Trail Dames!

Snack time over and back on the trail we plodded through more high grass. Eventually the high grass gave way to rocks and dirt. The trail now wound steeply down the mountain. It was rocky, with an abundance of those pesky loose pebbles, making the descent a bit tricky. The trail signs were hilariously spot on. 😀

Once down the mountain, the terrain calmed down. Thank goodness…I stretched my neck and rolled my shoulders…ahhh that felt good! Along the last stretch of the loop, we passed the cabin area, saw some pretty impressive rock features, and got to walk on some “Wobbly Bridges” (seriously, they were called Wobbly Bridge #1, #2, etc 😀 ). As we neared the parking area, one of my hiking pals said, “yep, it’s time to get my trail legs back!” Amen to that! 😀 Hike On!

Savage River State Forest – Red Trail

I woke this morning too early and ready to call it a day after feeding the fur kids. The sun’s rays came in the window, warming my back, prompting me to decide that after several days of dark, cool, rainy days I was ready for blue skies and a dose of Vitamin D. I wasn’t super eager to hike alone as I still feel the western Maryland trails are much wilder than the trails closer to Frederick (or the Appalachian Trail), especially the ones in the state forests. I sat, thoughtful, over a second cup of coffee. Should I just go to the lake?

Answer was a definitive no. I was ready for an adventure, a new place, and I was not disappointed!

I chose to head to the Savage River State Forest after reading some trusty reviews on AllTrails. A plus was that the trail head was not too far away. Thirty minutes! Just a friendly piece of advice here…do not drive all the way up to the Savage River Lodge as trusty Alltrails says to do. I found “no parking” signs everywhere up by the lodge, so, I backtracked down to the public parking area by the bridge. Room for probably eight cars in this lot…maybe more if everyone didn’t drive a big-ass truck. 😀 At least I wasn’t pulling off into a sketchy spot on the side of the road with thigh-high grass!

Parking Lot

The trail was not hard to locate as it crosses to the side of the lot. Passed the “Bear Aware” sign, which, by the way, always makes me second guess myself when I am hiking alone…especially in the Spring and in the morning! Actually, my thought process is something like “Sh**, should I stop now and come back with friends?…how likely is it that I will see a bear? F***, what if it is a momma bear and cubs??? Yeah, I should turn around…” F*** it, I took a breath and marched on…dang bears always run first. The meadow crossing was a wet one with early morning dew heavy on each blade of grass. Each step I took was a carefully planned movement and I succeeded in leaving the meadow with almost dry shoes. 🙂 The trail dipped into a Hemlock forest hugging the river. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!! The River wasn’t very big, more like a glorified creek, but it was beautiful. The birds were lively, filling up the morning with their songs. And the colors! Oh my…quite the sensory explosion! The sky was indeed blue, and wildflowers bright yellow, the grass and leaves a vibrant green, and the water was crystal clear as it cascaded away.

The trail had a few erosion issues by the river which could’ve been a real pain in the butt if it had been any wetter this morning. Steep ups had steps that had slid out of place. Thankful I had my po…OH for the love of God…

Can you see me…?
Can you see me now? Holy crap, startled the bejeezus out of me.

After passing that little friend, there were no more thoughts about turning around and going home. I had no intention of having to pass him again! Anyway, what I was saying was I was thankful I had my poles because the ups and downs with the erosion was a tricky affair! Whew…please let there be no more snake surprises!

The snakes stayed away. I did get snorted at by an impatient deer, but that didn’t bother me (too much). By the time I had reached the summit of Mt. Aetna (no view) I had let go of the fear that I was going to spook a rattle snake or a bear. 😀 This is a gorgeous area! Passed a few nice camping spots, so, when I got home I looked up camping in this area…the website doesn’t say you can’t, but the Mt. Aetna area is privately owned, which would mean a big NO. But, I can’t figure out if the camp sites I found are on private land or public state forest land. I would love to backpack in and camp here!

The route taken had some lovely trail with long stints in the Hemlocks…which are always delightful! Not much sun under the Hemlocks (Vitamin D remains deficient 🙂 ). In addition, it was still pretty cool with temps hovering in the lower 50s, but all my worries evaporated with each step…thank you, Mother Nature! Hike on!

We’ll Meet in the Middle (cross that Ole PA line)

I now live close enough to Pittsburgh to meet up with my nephew, Izzy, for get togethers! and so that is just what I did! He started driving my way and I started driving his…we met in the middle at Ohiopyle State Park!

Ohiopyle is about seven miles off of Route 40 West in Pennsylvania. One could build an entire vacation around this park…go camping, rafting, hiking, biking on the GAP trail that runs from Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, see lots of waterfalls, and even visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater! OH…and I didn’t even mention the cute town with many fun shops!

Izzy and I met up to hike and journal. It was a great day for that with warm, but not hot temperatures, a steady breeze, and sunshine! First things first…bathrooms! Yes, they were open in the Visitor Center! Score for us!

We snapped a really bad pic at the Visitor Center (which was immediately deleted from my phone once I became aware of just how bad it was) then headed to the north end of town to pick up the GAP Trail. We took a much better pic along the way. 😀 We had a small goal…walk down the GAP Trail, skirt down the west side of the river on the Gorge Trail, stop for food and journaling at Cucumber Falls, then return to the cars along the Meadow Run trail. If time we were going to also check out the natural water slides. Maybe 4-ish miles. Lots of time to lollygag the day away!

Thank goodness because lollygag we did! There were so many wildflowers blooming along the Gorge Trail that we were literally stopping every few minutes to take it all in! I have never seen such a wide variety of wildflowers. Gorgeous! Thank you, Mother Earth! Well done!

When we finally made it around to Cucumber Falls we were ready to sit, eat, and journal. A nice couple of rocks awaited us away from the mob collected up near the falls. Damp sandy soil surrounded our rocks. Putting my rain poncho on the ground in front of me, I kicked off my shoes and got comfy. I brought out my journal, my colored pencils, and let myself drift off into…that place. That place we all go when we stare up into the trees or up into the night sky or waves crashing onto a beach…yes, that place.

Izzy and I talked about ancestors and ancestral healing…yeah, we were in it to win it today let me tell you! 😀 We shared weird dreams we had experienced, thoughts on all kinds of topics that I don’t really talk much about to anyone else! 😀 😀 😀 When he pulled out his little tarot cards…I was like “Yeah, pass them over”. 😀

There is always someone in the family that you click with on a different level than everyone else in your family. Izzy is that person for me. He says whatever is on his mind, holds no judgement whatsoever, and is able to converse on anything that comes up. Oh, and he has a Master’s in Geology and was able to school me on all the cool limestone formations along our hike.

Here is to family! Here is to vaccinations that allow me to see family again! Here is to family who live relatively close! Here is to family who will come hike with me!

Grab someone you haven’t hung out with since pre-COVID and Hike On!

Saturday Stroll at Little Orleans

A stunning morning for a walk down along the Potomac River near Little Orleans, Maryland. This was a chilly morning and I almost talked myself out of a walk before I even finished my cup of coffee. Then I saw a friend’s post about how excited they were to be headed out to see the bluebells…well, that encouraged me to get up and get out!

My route around the horn this morning…about 5 miles.

This is a nice 5-mile loop…well, it’s not exactly a loop. That shape requires a more descriptive name…..hmmm, how about Pelican Bill loop? or Butterfly Catcher loop? 🙂

I pulled into the Western Maryland Rail Trail lot across from the Little Orleans camp store at about 8:30 am. Not a soul around except folks in the campground. Nice! I started down the smooth paved rail trail towards the canal. It was surprising that no bikes were out this morning. Oh well, better for me! The rail trail curved to the right and through a small tunnel before ending, rather abruptly, at the beginning of an old trestle that spanned the river. Okay…how do I get down to the canal??? Backtracked to the road crossing, which was the most likely suspect, and looked downhill. A PATC sign greeted me…so I went that way. 😀

That was a good guess and after a small, but muddy, stream crossing I was on the canal path! Lovely stretch of the canal!

I am not a huge fan of walking for a long time on the canal path as it is hard on my feet. Today, was no exception in that regard, BUT there was enough Springtime popping action around me that I was distracted by the absolute beauty of it all!

The redbuds were every where! You can see one in the pic from the little tunnel above. I passed many along my route. They really lit up the forest!

Oh, and then the big hit…Bluebells! I wait for them every spring, calculating when and where to go to see them. They seemed to be at peak bloom! I was over the moon to see them in bunches lining the canal and carpeting the river bank! One of my favorites!

A Bluebell jamboree!

Skirting around the horn of this hike, I passed the 15-Mile Creek Campground. This is a decent sized campground and right on the river. Spring and Fall are probably the best time for camping here. I imagine the bugs in the summer would be pretty unbearable! But hey, if you like the summer river life, go for it! 🙂 There is a boat ramp and with the towpath and rail trail it gives everyone something to enjoy!

I headed down the canal towards the old Indigo train tunnel. As I approached the opening a rush of cool air gave me the chills. I had momentary vision of a scene from one of the Harry Potter movies when Harry’s cousin, Dudley, is attacked by the Dementors in a tunnel near their house. 😀 😀 Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic! 😀 The tunnel is closed off, but it is still a neat side trip to look through the bars towards the light at the end of the tunnel!

And without any discussion on this…I am closing out this post with a cheesy t-shirt slogan…”The light at the end of the tunnel may be an oncoming train!” 😀 Hike on!

Neighborhood Greenspace Jackpot

I must have won some kind of karma lottery because I have hit the jackpot of all neighborhoods! This little neighborhood gave me all the feels when I first drove into it with its mid-mod ranch and split levels. Brady bunch much? Literally, I was in love! I gazed out my car window at the azaleas, mountain laurel, and TREES with such longing that I knew this was it for me.

I have started to explore the neighborhood on foot now that I have depleted my savings by buying a livable ranch fixer built in 1962. And let me tell you…every neighborhood deserves greenspace like this. Every single person deserves to be able to walk out their door and into the woods.

We started the walk right behind my house and followed a well worn path up to the old water tower. Then we cut down to Sunset Drive, hung a right, and walked to the dead end, where the pavement ends and the adventure begins! Interestingly, this trail is on AllTrails…I guess you would have to park at either Bishop Walsh School or maybe Allegany High School to access the trail. Allegany HS is pretty new and was built on the grounds of the old Sacred Heart Hospital. This neighborhood was where many of the doctors that worked at the hospital lived back in the day. I believe the old hospital closed in 2009.

Looking back at the gate we passed through at the end of Sunset.

Moving on past the gate, we followed a dirt road to the very end of the Haystack Mountain ridge. This took us up to the western side of The Narrows, a deep gorge in Cumberland through which old highway 40, the train tracks, and Will’s Creek traverses.

Looking towards Corriganville, Maryland and Pennsylvania
Looking towards “Lover’s Leap” across the Cumberland Narrows

This is a lovely neighborhood! It is sad that at the moment I am tied to my computer by work and cannot take this walk every day! But the end of the semester is near!! Hike On!

Walking among Hemlocks at New Germany SP

Being a newly minted homeowner in western Maryland has had me hopping the last few weeks. Painting, cleaning, get the boiler serviced, have the roof checked, then the chimney…and by the way, how about a washing machine break down? Oh, does anyone have availability to refinish wood floors BEFORE October???

Left it all behind today! Headed west on I-68 to New Germany State Park, which is now only 30 minutes away from me!!! This park is in Garrett County, Maryland and is a beautiful oasis of Hemlock trees. Cathedral – like actually!

Enter the magical forest, follow whatever path calls to you…they are all leading to ultimate zen! 😀

Stopping at the ranger station first, I was disappointed to find it closed. Dang pandemic. The last time I was here it was for a Trail Dame campout…and Ranger McDreamy was on shift that afternoon. Maybe I was hoping he was going to be here to greet me??? 😀 😀 😀

Sadly, no such luck. I continued down to the Savage Forest kiosk and picked up every single map and brochure for later reading as I eat a pizza that I am absolutely getting after this hike! Shoved them into the compartment on the driver’s side door then pushed on to the park proper and found an empty parking lot next to the Hemlock Trail. Perfect, Let’s go!

The Hemlock Trail is roughly a mile of beautiful forest. I followed it down to the Turnpike Trail…I can only guess the history of this trail is that it was a road…but I couldn’t find any info to support that from my trusty research assistant, Google, not to be confused with my hiking gal pal, Google. ANYWAY…it was easy to walk and pleasant as it runs just to the left of a lively brook that bubbled away as I made my way towards the Dynamite Shack Loop!

I cannot think, write, or say the word dynamite without thinking of JJ Walker saying DY-NO-MIIITTTEEE! 😀 That was a great show!

Little forest streams are so full of magic!
Fancy meeting you here! It seems you have lost your head!

The Dynamite Shack Loop started with Hemlocks, but included a very sunny long climb as it pulled away from the creek. I am not even going to try to pretend I am in shape at this moment in time…it sucked!!! I took a few breathers and enjoyed the blue sky and a few spring flowers. Once at the top there was a little extra credit loop that went a little further uphill. I cannot believe I took it! I was worried there might be a view I might miss! (update: there wasn’t)

Back on the main trail, it was now down, down, down, but gently and back into the Hemlocks. Ahhhhh, just as I visualized sitting down for lunch I turn a corner and there was a bench! What???!!! When does that ever happen?

I took that bench!

After a lunch of Peanut Butter & Jelly plus leftover blue tortilla chips, I packed up my wandering thoughts and headed downhill once again, now on the Dog Leg Loop…omg, these trail names! 😀 I could have cut over to the easier Turnpike Trail, but no, didn’t do it. This is go big or go home time! I stayed on the Dog Leg until it merged with the Acorn Loop (fyi, I saw no Acorns). That trail eventually merged with the Turnpike Trail, which took me to the Lake and the end of my hike.

I still had to walk down the road to my car, but it wasn’t too bad in terms of traffic. The day was still just as gorgeous as could be as I walked up towards the Lakehouse. Several folks were out fishing, a few rangers were clearing out the garden, and a family sat on the beach soaking up the sun. *happy sigh*

No Ranger McDreamy, I guess I will have to eat my disappointment. Now, where did I put the number for the pizza place? Hey Google… Hike On!