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!

Back on the Trail with the Dames!

Being the organizer of Trail Dames isn’t all fun and games! 😀 During the pandemic, I needed to reduce the number of Dames per hike to 5 (6 tops if we had two hike leaders attending). This was not always supported by all Dames and I heard my fair share of complaints! However, most of the Dames were supportive of the measures taken to ensure the safety of all.

The Dames are picking back up now that vaccinations are increasing! Starting in May, we will increase to 8 Dames per hike, then by the time the hot days roll around, depending on health metrics, we may go back to allowing 10 per hike (our usual). And…shameless plug…if you are a woman OR know a woman in Maryland who wants to get outdoors and hike with a bunch of supportive women, then go to https://traildames.com/Maryland.html to find out more!

Last weekend I led the Dames on a hike around the lake at Rocky Gap State Park. It started rather briskly with temperatures in the freezing range. Of course, our hike started on the shady side of the lake and I quickly made the choice to don my gloves as the cool breeze was turning my fingers into icy pops!

The trail looked like it had been mushy, mucky mud the day before. It was frozen hard for us and we were thankful as our feet stayed dry. The walking was tricky through all the frozen potholes, though! No mind, we were distracted by morning song of the Red-wing Blackbird and the perfect reflection on the lake of a flock of honking geese coming in for a landing. We spotted a Killdeer and Osprey as we continued our path around the lake.

It was turning out to be a beautiful early spring day! Blue skies that make one stop and gaze at the sky, sun rays that warm ever so gently, and the company of a wonderful group of women!

We took a sit down break at the Canyon Overlook. This spot is back among the evergreens. *inhale* Ahhhh…the smell of a coniferous forest! The rocks were still cold, the air was fresh, and my peanut butter and jelly sandwich tasted fantastic! Once we sit down in the forest to eat, it feels like a field trip to me. Like a second grade adventure…and I love that!! 😀

Walking around lakes are deceiving! It always looks shorter than it really is…so many little coves to walk around. The sun was with us on the northwest side of the lake. Evidence of spring was starting to show … little tiny sprouts of green, a small yellow flower hiding in last fall’s leaves, and spring peepers! A welcome sound in these parts!!

Queen V was along for this adventure, which means there is going to be some kind of shenanigan! This time was no different and she had the Dames pose with a Turtle Crossing sign. Completely appropriate for this group of trail crawlers! 😀 So, so glad to be back on the trail with these women!! Hike on!

Trail Dames of Maryland!

COVID’s Unintentional Realignment

Over the last year, I went through the stages of COVID like many folks I know (and maybe you too). It started with disbelief at the situation before us, then anger that life had been taken out of our control. After the anger subsided, I began to bargain with life…like okay, I won’t hike at the popular spots, but I am still going to hike…then just plain old acceptance that hiking in the Frederick area was a disaster of overcrowding by weekend hikers trying to escape. And acceptance that life had changed.

Two teachers in a small house. My classroom was a bedroom upstairs. My partner’s classroom downstairs in the Dining room. Outside our window, the Dairy Maid employees smoked and cursed and played loud music. Semi trucks barreled down our street shaking the house, their roar obscuring my voice as I attempted to explain College Algebra to students over Zoom. In the beginning, I could laugh it off. It was an adventure in teaching! After a year of the same it wore on me. It also wore on my ability to remain positive. I stopped talking. My partner took up the slack, but I was okay with silence.

We started to take long drives to escape. Normally, we would head to Virginia…Shenandoah National Park specifically. Now we couldn’t … the crowds were insane. So we took I-68 into western Maryland one weekend. That turned into two, and then three, then I lost count. We started talking about buying a house to get away from Frederick. Then one weekend in November, we drove through a beautiful neighborhood, grabbed each other’s hand, and jumped.

I have been living here in western Maryland for less than two weeks, but this is such a good place and will be an amazing place once I make it mine! Now that my animals are more comfortable in the house I have started to venture out to explore! It has been a beautiful week in the mid-Atlantic with mild temperatures and sunny skies. So, before March decides to throw a snowstorm at me…

I took a nice walk along the C&O Canal this week. I started at Spring Gap and walked west toward Cumberland. Interesting history through here and I look forward to learning more about the canal in this area. There are the remains of a Pump House on this stretch which, back in the day, would maintain the level of the water in the canal.

The pump house of yesteryear
Pump house today

I also found a few signs of spring, but I had to look really hard!! A few budlets on what I really, really hope is a rasberry bush and some on a small tree, as well. Oh! and I heard a Spring Peeper!!!

Canal House

Today, I headed over to the lake at Rocky Gap State Park. A needed diversion after priming the walls in my dining room (thank goodness I do not paint for a living). I walked along an old road, then around part of the lake. I had no big ambitions, but wanted to be in nature for at least an hour. It was gorgeous!

The old road
Tree spirit can’t be held back! 😄
Lake Habeeb

Post-COVID is bringing a new normal to my life. I look out my back window and see mountains! I would have never imagined one year ago that this is where I would be … but I am ever so glad for the unintentional consequences of COVID! Onward to new adventures – Hike on!

Another Try with Trail Runners

Trail runners…I keep wanting them to work for me. So far, all of my attempts at wearing trail runners have ended up in falling down, blisters at the ankle, and plantar fasciitis flare-ups. To be fair, I have a lot of boot drama as well, but have found that Salomon Quest hiking boots to be a win for my feet.

So, why try again? For one, I would like to find a nice alternative to hot waterproof boots in the summer months. In addition, trail runners are lighter than hiking boots.

When backpacking, my camp shoes are an old pair of Altra Superiors and they are perfect comfy shoes for after hiking all day and they double as nice stream crossing shoes since they dry quickly. I did not intend for the Superiors to be reserved for camp only…originally purchasing them to be used for regular hiking. However, one 5-mile loop at Sugarloaf Mountain had my plantar fasciitis flaring up like nobody’s business! Trail runner dream squashed! 😀

The old Superiors, though, have enough positive features that I recently started looking at Altra’s again. I found a new Altra design that looked promising, the Olympus 4. These were not carried in my local REI store, so I ordered online…didn’t fit…returned and reordered…didn’t fit…returned and reordered 😀 😀 😀 ding, ding, ding…a winner at size 9.5 ( 1 full size larger than my boot size). I wore them around town a few times. Felt great!

Yesterday I took them out for a trail test. I headed down to a local trail at Monocacy National Battlefield Worthington Farm. This trail has a good hill with rocks, a steeper decline, and some muddy areas down by the Monocacy river. A good intro trail for a test.

The Olympus 4 did a good job! My skinny ankles stayed put, my heels were cushioned nicely when walking over rocks, and in general, it was a successful first run! Even better than the shoes, I was given a show by three cool birds, a Carolina Wren, Belted Kingfisher, and a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker! And to cap off my hike, the moo cows came trotting across the field to say hi!

I do love cows!

The next trail I take the Altras out on will be longer, steeper, and rockier. I am not sold yet…but I am optimistic that I may have found a trail runner contender! Hike on!

2021 In Search of Fresh Dirt

Good day all!

My last blog post was written in June. I lost all motivation for pleasure writing this year or I was just exhausted or both. I am a teacher at a community college and every waking minute was spent tracking down students, creating virtual content, and just trying to keep my head above water. Hiking is my antidepressant and an antidepressant needs to be taken regularly, like any prescribed medicine. Hiking became sporadic in 2020 and that hit me hard. In addition, I was teaching in front of a computer, not walking around a classroom, so even that little bit of exercise was squashed. 2020 was a shit year…let’s move on. 😀

This year, even though still living with the pandemic, I hope to explore more of western Maryland. I am also setting a schedule for updating the Girl Gone Hiking Blog. I like to write…not particularly adept at it…but I like it and that is enough. It is enough for any of us, actually. If you like to draw, or sing, or do math, or walk, or do whatever, then please, for all our sake’s, DO IT! If 2020 has shown us anything it is that life is always shorter than expected and reality is crafted by each of us. So, make art, sing loudly, calculate away…and as always, Hike on!

AT – VA: James River VA501 to Long Mtn Wayside VA60

Well…this was a post COVID shutdown shock to my system! 😀

After driving down for a little over three hours from Frederick, MD, and another two hours placing cars, we hit the trail while the hot afternoon sun beat down on us. The parking lot at VA501 was easy to find and I was happy to exit the hot pavement and enter the just as hot, but at least shady, woods!

Day 1 we hiked in to the Johns Hollow Shelter. Blessed with a fine running stream, I took a good amount of time refreshing myself before cooking dinner. The shelter is in a delightful location with several almost level places to put a tent. Except, of course, for the place I put mine! But I was exhausted and fell asleep quickly.

View from my slanty tentsite

As usual, I awoke a few hours later after darkness had closed in on the forest. Since morning would not wait for certain things, I finally, after debating for at least 20 minutes, had to commit to getting out of my tent.

Okay, okay…I’m up, I’m out…oh, wow, it is really, really dark.

I made my way across to the privy and happened to look up. There was a perfect crescent moon shining down. It was framed by the upper most branches and leaves of several trees…perfectly timed…well done Mother Nature!

Once back in my tent, I could not fall back to sleep and tossed, turned, and created a ton of noise from my sleeping pad which has not become less noisy with wear FYI. Finally getting into a somewhat decent position I started to doze off. It must have been early…like 2 am…a yip, then a yowl, then a whole orchestrated sonata sung by a local coyote group. Beautiful!

The view from the creek

I know you will find this surprising, but I did not wake up refreshed and ready for a 9 mile day.

Day 2 was an up, up, up day. We climbed about 2000 feet up. It was our first climb and we got up while the sun was still low in the sky and breezes were frequent. With proper breaks here and there we made it to the top without any terrible memories burning in my memory. A beautiful view awaited us!

About halfway up the mountain there was a payoff!

We stopped at Salt Log Gap for a sit-down break. I got just two things to say…1. Someone said there was a spring. If that is true it is so far downhill that you’d be nuts to go looking for it. 2. Careful of the stinging nettles, but if you do get swiped try hand sanitizer on it. That worked wonders on the areas where I was attacked!

The second mountain of the day…ugh. Bluff Mountain is no bluff! The trail went up the sunny side of the mountain and it was a hot afternoon sun. Several thousand breaks later we rounded a corner to find the memorial for Ottie Cline Powell, an almost 5-year old boy who wandered away from his school in November 1890, got lost, then died on Bluff Mountain. His remains were found by a hunter in April 1891. This choked me up and I cannot get this kid out of my head even now. Poor, poor baby. 😦

Summit of Bluff Mountain

I was so glad to get to the Punchbowl Shelter. Such a pretty sight with a pond filled with chatty bullfrogs. 🙂 I went about setting up my tent, minding my own business, when the black flies descended. Oh my gawd, this was awful. Like on level with chiggers awful. I got so many bites. 😦 Bug spray didn’t phase those little suckers one bit. I capped off Day 2 with three ibuprofen and a benadryl.

I am loving my new tent…Big Agnus Tiger Wall UL2. The pond is in the background.

We TRIED to get out earlier on day 3 so we were done hiking earlier due to the heat. A group of five…we did try! And maybe we were out a little earlier??? Anyway, the day’s elevation looked decent and I was optimistically promoting a day that would allow our fired up muscles a day to recover somewhat. Hahahaaaaa 😀

Love this! A boost in the middle of hot exhausting day

The elevation wasn’t bad in comparison, but it still managed to get at me. The heat and humidity was suffocating and I could smell rain. Picking up speed around the Lynchburg Reservoir, yessss! This was good, this was easy!

Rounded a corner…Oh for Christ’s sake. What horse of the Apocalypse are we on now?

A monumental disaster of epic proportions lay before us. A tangle of huge blowdowns over a ravine. Every woman for herself! I decided to crawl under and through it dragging my pack behind me. It worked!

Feeling superior, I temporarily forgot that this was a miserable hike and plodded on down the trail happily the victor. 😀 There was even an congratulatory creek with rushing cool water about a mile after. Huzzah!

The day got long again and my feet were screaming with every step once we reached the bridge across Brown Mountain Creek near the shelter. I wasn’t the only one having physical turmoil and we were glad to be done for the day.

Brown Mountain Creek

The Brown Mountain Creek area is fabulously wild and gorgeous. In the early 1900s, a community of African American sharecroppers lived here. I looked and found evidence of homes long since abandoned. I am surprised and disappointed that there is no roadside history sign about this community at VA60. I went Googling for information once I got home and found “Brown Mountain Creek – Before the AT”.

I settled in for the night, best sleep on the whole trip under a big old oak tree. I had some quite disturbing lucid dreams about little Ottie. I woke up suddenly during one of those dreams to a lightning bug blinking his light as he passed my tent…a good sign. I got up and looked out ….ohhhhhhh…*sharp inhale*…the lightning bugs! I was mesmerized, and after the dreams I had, a little emotional.

The last day was a short hike out to VA60. Sitting in my tent, early in the morning, while the lightning bugs were still blinking, I wrote:

I am humbled by these mountains. Blisters on my heels burn with every step. Black fly bites have formed hard spherical mounds that itch like the dickens. Stinging nettles brushed my legs with a touch that was anything but gentle. My COVID shutdown body is tired and demoralized. Another day my mountains.”

Now healing, beer in hand, and looking forward to another day…Hike on!

Old Bridges Beckon – A Jaunt to Western Maryland

Mother’s Day seemed a perfect reason to go for a drive. A long drive out to western Maryland. My partner and I packed a lunch, left Sidekick Pauli to catch up on her sleep, and headed for west on I-68.

First stop…Rocky Gap State Park with plans to have a picnic lunch…got there and it was a bit nippy. So screw that sitting outside, we ate in the car and watched the birds. 😀

Back on the road, we had no destination. I was now riding shotgun and it became my responsibility to find somewhere to go. A new place…oh, the Casselman Bridge! Every time I drive to Indiana I think about stopping, then NEVER do! This would be a perfect opportunity!

20200511_133557.jpg

Why the different spelling?

20200511_133420.jpg

So we ditched I-68 for 40 through Grantsville, Maryland. The weather was warmer now with blue skies for miles! We pulled off at the parking area after admiring several cute bungalows and grimacing at a Trump flag in Grantsville. Overall, an adorable town. 🙂

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The bridge was pretty neat. At the midpoint, looking right, I could see the old bridge on 40, then further out the bridge on I-68…time marches on, improvements made for more travelers headed both west and east. I preferred the Casselman Bridge. I personally like the slow way. Hike on!