Sidekick Pauli Gets Off Her Doggie Couch

Sidekick Pauli, my most faithful hiking pal, has entered her retirement years. She is covered in fatty tumors and some of them are in awkward spots. She likes to sleep…a lot. 🐾

However, she can be persuaded to get off of her doggie couch as long as getting off 1) involves a treat, 2) she is immediately hooked up to her leash (signal for walk), and 3) I have my car keys in hand (signal for going hiking)!

All stars aligned for her Saturday morning! Her dog smile was ENORMOUS as she trotted out to the car at a respectable 10:00 am.

We headed up to Dam #4 on the C&O Canal near Sharpsburg, Maryland. This would be a short hike for me, but a big, super, best hike ever for my aging Pauli girl!

Parking at Big Slackwater allowed me and Pauli-wog to hike a mile on the canal to Dam #4, then turn around and hike back … 2 miles total.

It was beautiful weather for January. Rain threatened, but with a balmy 58 degrees, I was happy to chance it.

The hike down to the dam was lovely. The Potomac River sparkled each time the clouds parted enough to allow a peek of sunlight through. A group of Mallard ducks quacked a warning as we neared, then took flight with a whoosh of wings and upsweep of river spray from their webbed feet on take-off.

Getting to the Dam, we explored the river bank, then headed back.

Sidekick Pauli seemed in a hurry…and practically dragged me back to the car. I noticed the temps had dropped, the sky now hid the sun completely, and a stiff wind had begun to blow. Sidekick Pauli was not pleased. She kept me walking at a very fast pace… where was my retiree now…good lord, was she trying to kill me???

Fifteen minutes and we were in the car! Then the rain came…turns out Pauli-waddle-doodle-all-day was trying to save me. 😄

Best hike EVERRRR…hike on!

First Day Hike 2020

Happy New Year!!

I couldn’t have made a better choice for January 1, 2020 than hiking with the Maryland Trail Dames.

We met at the Wilson Mill parking area at Little Bennett Regional Park in Montgomery County, Maryland. A lovely morning, to be sure, with bright blue skies and temps in the 40s. Gorgeous!

The only negative was an occasional cold wind that sent a few shivers through me.

Luckily, I had my windbreaker.

The trails were deserted when we started hiking, but after about an hour we encountered a few other folks out for a stroll…or in one case, a run.

Finishing our hike, one of the Dames, who I refer to as Rebel 1, had brought cookies, coffee, and tea! I have already signed her up to help with Trail Magic when the bubble hits Maryland this year. 😄

Then to top it all off…an Eagle swooped above us! What a great omen for 2020!

Hike on!

Finding the Sun

I don’t know what I was hoping to find, or hear, or think, or see. All I knew was, after dropping my sewing machine off to be serviced in sunny Martinsburg, WV, I was not going immediately home to Frederick, MD where thick gray mist still covered the entire valley. I found myself pulling into Yankauer Nature Preserve .

My first steps, on a trail covered in soft pine needles still cushy from recent rain showers, took me into a forest glittering with raindrops.

Each sunlit drop clung precariously, and in futility, before beautifully releasing to the Earth. Rejoined with all the other droplets, waiting for the sun to regenerate and empower them to rise once more! To be immense and visible to all who gaze up into the billowing towers of clouds… the gathering of millions and millions of droplets.

The trail mimics a labyrinth, winding to the west, then east, then around again. I am walking into blinding light of the sun, then a few moments on, I find only dark shade in front of me and the warmth of the sun on my back.

Around one turn in the trail I spy a hawk. It spots me too….and takes flight over the Potomac River, then circles back and around until he finds a suitable alternate roost far from me.

Strange, this period between Winter Solstice and New Year’s. Yes, timeless, but more than that. For me, it has been a time of seeing myself as if Picasso had painted me. All angles of my life at once, past, present, even my future self, all vividly present at once.

Too much time and not enough either. I think about how we all get stuck sometimes and wonder whether struggling through is really the right approach to get unstuck. Maybe, like the rain droplets, we need to put our trust in the universe, to a certain extent, and let go.

So…with that said…Goodbye 2019, I release you! It was a hard year, for me and for the world.

Hello 2020! Let me have more sense, show more compassion, and act more responsibly. Let me be regenerated and empowered to take on life!

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.

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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 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!

Flippity, Floppity, AT Hikers are on their Way!

Ahhh…all required writing for my grad class done, I can now get back to writing for fun!

Last weekend the Maryland Trail Dames represented at the annual Flip Flop Festival in Harper’s Ferry, WV.  I have to give a huge thank – you to Queen V for organizing this event! She told me to show up with a table and my camp chair…done!

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I rolled in at 7:30ish on Saturday morning to find that the Queen had already put up the canopy.  I pulled over to drop off the table then quickly found a parking spot.  Exiting my car, I was caught off guard by a gust of wind that whipped my car door back so hard I thought it would break.  Okay, then, let me just grab an extra jacket if that is the way it is going to be!

That was indeed how it was going to be on Saturday!  The wind would blow up the hill and literally force us to hold onto  the canopy, the table, our chairs, and the handouts so they would not be tossed up into the air.  We demonstrated quite a bit of agility, let me tell you!  In between gusts we managed to stake out the canopy…gonna give myself props for some of the knots I tied…held like a charm!

Sadly, the PATC canopy next to ours did not fare so well.  A particularly ferocious gust sent their canopy cartwheeling across the lawn!  They decided to move over to the lawn of Storer College afterwards…kudos on their decision as the wind did not let up.

We persevered, but decided eventually to ditch our canopy.   It was less stressful without the wind trying to shred it with every gust!

 

We ended the day in good spirits and vowed that the next day would be better!

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Great music, both days!

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Sunday began with no wind, but rains poured down.  I was not scheduled to show up until the afternoon, but checked in with Queen V.  Everything was okay, wet, but okay.  Game on!

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Queen V recruits future Trail Dames!

The crowd had diminished to near zero by 3:30 pm, so we called it a day and dismantled our glorious set-up. 🙂

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A long time ago, Queen V had been given the name “Bag Lady”….I believe she has been rechristened with it today!

Thanks to the several amazing volunteers from Trail Dames, we have many new women interested in hiking with us!

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Side note 1: Guys, I am glad you stopped by our table…however, if all you had to say was “oh the Trail Dames, I’ve been looking for a Trail Dame”… then go find yourself one somewhere else…We don’t play like that! 😀

Sidenote 2: If you are that person, who signed up for information by leaving us a link to your porn site…we don’t do those kind of events! 😀 😀 😀

Sidenote 3: If you are the guy that came over to mansplain how we had anchored our canopy ALL WRONG and we needed to untie everything and re-do it, then I want you to know that it NEVER CARTWHEELED ACROSS THE LAWN, bwahahahaha!

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I love you guys…Hike on!  😀

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Snowy Silence at Greenbrier State Park

I haven’t hiked alone in a very long time. I had forgotten how it felt.

We had a “weather event” last night that left a fresh coat of snow on the trees and ground. This, of course, made this trip into the forest quite magical!

I pulled in to the trail head parking lot at 8:30 am…not a soul around. Threw my microspikes, extra layer, and lunch into my backpack and entered a snowy wonderland.

Stream crossing first thing. I stopped and stood beside the creek after crossing. It had started to snow again. It was so quiet… the gurgling water, a few birds chattering in the brambles…the wind as it came over the ridge…but nothing else.

I closed my eyes and tilted my head up to the steel gray sky. Snowflakes landed on my cheeks and I thought how perfect this moment.

I whispered, to the woods … to myself, “It’s been too long.”

I walked through the falling snow, up the hill, towards the lake at Greenbrier State Park. Looking back at my foot prints, I wondered if they would be covered when I headed back.

I did not see anyone on the trail until I got to the lake.

Even then, only two guys fishing on the banks. We exchanged cheerful greetings, then silence enveloped the mountain once more. 🙂

Hike on!