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!

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
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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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New Year, New Goals, Day 1 x 10^5 of Sciatica!

Hey all!  A new year, a new beginning! Sciatica is getting better and I keep heading out to the woods to test out my back and left quad (which still feels all tingly, like it’s asleep).  So far, very positive!  It has been a long haul since November 24, when the most unfortunate day occurred, which left me cursing my life!  However, I am thankful for all these new stretches and exercises that I am learning in physical therapy, as they are helping enormously.

So with all the down time, I was frustrated, no doubt…especially when the semester ended and I headed into Winter Break.  I wanted to get to the woods and hike. And let me just stop here and … full disclosure … I was in a dark place.  I felt like the pain was not going to go away.  I tried to not share my darkness with anyone, and instead moved that dark energy into little projects to move me forward.  I lit a lot of candles…

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…and I reconnected with my crafty self creating a little Winter Solstice scene with embroidery to celebrate the longest night and the return of the Sun.  While working on this, I was able to visualize myself well and back on the trail! It was a fun week of doodling with thread and needle! 🙂

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Then, still kinda stuck in that liminal space between sort of hurting and sort of feeling good, I took a New Year’s Day hike with my sister and niece.  A short hike that stretched my legs and soothed my soul.  Afterwards, I made a merit badge for my niece (thinking all the while it could have been for me 🙂 🙂 )

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OMG! and then, I could feel the Universe moving in my direction again!  I won an emergency first aid kit from Emergency Response, LLC! What a lift to my psyche! So surprising, and Saleena even dropped it off at my house.  yasssss! 😀

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Now in the New Year mood, I looked to my journal.  Last year I created a journal page to track my miles hiking.  About 350 miles in, the page layout started to tick me off because if I didn’t make a certain number of miles, then I couldn’t color in the next block (see pic below).  I stopped tracking with this layout and just started listing the miles in my planner.

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As a result, this year, I have created a different layout and I am already loving it! This layout is so much more affirming than last year’s as I can reward every hike I take, instead of miles hiked.  SMILES not MILES…hahaha, I just remembered I posed in front of a banner that said something like that at Neel’s Gap in Georgia!  In addition, this layout will help me keep track of all the Maryland Trail Dame hikes I lead.  I am confident this is going to work better this year!

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I just realized, they all look like little merit badges 😀 I like this muchly!

Do any of you track miles or hikes you have taken?  I would love to see your layouts or hear what works for you! Much merriment in 2019, Hike on!

Kentuck Trail & The Promise of Fall

The promise of Fall! Crisp air with a chilly bite that leaves goose bumps running up your spine and down your arms.  A bright blue sky framing the yellows, reds, and oranges popping forth on the end of branches hanging with the weight of summer gone on too long. That cool, mulchy, smokey scent in the air.  The harvest season, the pies, the pumpkins, the magic! Oh, Fall, don’t make me wait much longer!

I am waiting, somewhat impatiently, for sweater weather.  Despite the humidity, the constant rain, low hanging gray clouds, Sidekick Pauli and I could take no more inside time broken up with quick strolls around the block.  Today, we were on our way west to Ohiopyle State Park to scout a trail for an upcoming Trail Dame camp out.

I questioned my decision to head out in the entrails of Hurricane Florence as I drove through heavy fog and pelting rain crossing the mountains near Frostburg, Maryland.  After coming down a couple hundred feet, though, my path was affirmed by a Bald Eagle swooping down to the shoulder of the highway! What a beauty! (and yes, I do believe in signs given to me by nature…so on I went)

Ohiopyle was crowded, of course, but I was headed up a bit to the Tharp Knob Picnic Area.  I found only one other car in the parking lot…and bathrooms… 🙂  See, it was meant to be! 😀 😀 😀

The plan was a short hike to the campground and back.  Long enough to stretch my legs, short enough for Sidekick Pauli, who has some limitations to consider…back issues, and so on.  This hike took us up to the overlook first, where we sat on a bench enjoying the breeze coming up from the gorge.  From the overlook, I could see the town of Ohiopyle hugging the Youghiogheny River (pronounced Yawkigainy…here is audio!).

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The whole scene…town, river, and even a train…made things feel right with the world. 🙂  After a few minutes, Sidekick Pauli wanted more, so we headed down the Kentuck Trail to the campground.  My shoes sunk into the soft, water-laden, trail as I requested Pauli to wait while I picked my way down the first hill.  There were three blow downs to cross over, around, or through…which meant three more on the way back! 😉

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Headed for a Blowdown

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Moss & Leaves…ahhhh! Breathe it in!

Sidekick Pauli did not have any trouble with her back today and she looked like a puppy as she clambered up and over one particular blow down!

Soggy August, and now September, left a lovely variety of fungi along the trail.  I took the time to look carefully and appreciate each small thing in the forest as I walked.  Being here, in the woods, with my dog, as the seasons change…this is a blessing! Hike on!