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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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. 😦
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.
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 😀
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.
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!
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!
Why the different spelling?
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. 🙂
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!
In the spirit of writing bad poetry, I give you my Hiking Haiku…and this may become a regular Monday thing while we are under “stay at home” orders due to COVID-19. I urge you to also write bad poetry and a hoky haiku or two! Hike on!
COVID-19 continues, so my hiking strategy of hitting the trails at the most opportune times for solitude goes forward with full force!
I got out this week to a local mountain park while it was raining and foggy. No thunderstorms, so I was extremely pleased to don my wet weather gear and head out. The parking lot was empty save for some super motivated trail runner…well, I don’t how motivated he was, because he was leaving when I pulled up. Could be that he got to the trail, was put off by the rain, and left. Don’t know, don’t care 😀 😀 😀 I was going hiking!
The dim foggy woods elicited magic on this morning. Birdsong penetrated the soft drip-drop of rain with a flute-like symphony of unimaginable clarity and tone. Enraptured, I was drawn into the forest and down the trail. Water cascaded forth from springs and bounded down and across my path. I inhaled deeply and let out a contented sigh.
Hello Fiddle Fern family! I see you too, May apples! Oh, hey there, Dogwood!
The mountains are waking up! No one was on the trail this morning except me and I was glad of it.
Days like these…enchanting, bewitching, and gratifying!
I live in a wonderful place with a lot of close by opportunities to get out for a short walk now and then. I am not pushing my COVID-19 boundaries…rather not get into trouble with the Hoganmeister…Governor Hogan…or get anyone sick or get sick myself.
All alone at Chimney Rocks
However, I know how to pick place and time for solitude on the trail. That is one of the benefits to being a regular hiker, I know where the secret places are and/or the times when everyone else stays home.
Only one in the Gorge at Rocky Gap
Solo lunch by the Lake
Occasionally, I have taken Sidekick Pauli and she is loving it! She is going to be 13 on May 10, is covered with lumps, and is graying around her muzzle, but she still enjoys a mile or so on a trail. 🙂 Especially when wildflowers are beginning to bloom! We took this micro jaunt along the C&O Canal in western Maryland…not a soul in sight.
I am fortunate to have outdoor resources so near to my house. I can get there and back without stopping for gas, to go to the bathroom, or anything else. Added benefit is that I am reconnecting with solo hiking. I definitely miss hiking with my Trail Dames right now, but once this is all over, we will hike again.
In between the outdoor jaunts I am on lock down with almost everyone else. I am a teacher and the show must go on…but it has not been an easy transition to online instruction for me or my college students. I am sure it has been an interesting transition for you as well.
If you are a healthcare worker, a bus driver, a grocery store employee, or any other occupation deemed essential…I salute and thank you. You all are getting all the rest of us though this pandemic and your sacrifice is immeasurable.
I am not adapting to quarantine well! Are you? I am luckier than most as I have a stable job of math professor at a community college. Although, this last week, which has lasted about four months, has kicked my butt…physically and emotionally. I teach students who struggle with math. I teach these students in a face to face setting and forcing them into a situation that they are not even remotely prepared for is…well, a gamble. I am dealing with this new virtual reality…but I need my real material world more than ever.
I hope to get out on a lesser trafficked trail this weekend. I want to sit in the forest. I want to smell the moist soil and new shoots of grass pushing up through the mulchy forest floor. I want to touch the moss covered boulders and lean against a huge tree, close my eyes, and just be. I need my material world. I need to see and hear and touch and sense all things wild and free. Hike on…but exercise caution. Be well my hiking friends!
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!
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!
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!