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!

AT – NC Max Patch to Garenflo Gap

July 20, 2018 – July 21, 2018

After hiking into the NOC and staying the night, most of the Dames went home. Lola, “Akela” and I scooted up to do another micro section before doing the I-81 shit show north to Maryland. OH, WHAT A SECTION!!!!!

We drove up to Garenflo Gap to park my car first thing in the morning. The last short section of “road” to the parking area is more like a rutted out driveway up to someone’s mountain hideaway, but the parking area itself was great! However, Akela vowed to never drive her Toyota minivan up it again. 😀 No worries there, my RAV4 made it just fine.

Off to Max Patch!

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Oh my! This is my new favorite place on the planet! I’m sure it was made even more memorable with the fabulous weather. Big puffy clouds in a blue, oh, so blue sky, floated with the breeze as we reveled in the fresh cool air which had settled on the bald.

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Glorious!

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There was a lovely campsite just over the high point of the bald, then several more after we descended off the bald into an area that looked very park-like. Lush green grass, tall trees, almost Eden. We made note to include this section when we come back to head south into the Smoky Mountains. A little further down the trail is Roaring Fork Shelter which also looks to be a delightful place to make camp!

All the way to Lemon Gap the trail was just a delight to walk. So different than the trail between Fontana Dam and the NOC! We were ready for a change and the trail delivered!

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After Lemon Gap, we started back uphill and discussed hiking past the next shelter to the campsite listed on Guthook’s App. It seemed logical, I mean we weren’t tired and, add to that, big storms were moving in tomorrow. I would like to be out of Garenflo Gap, and down that sketchy rutted road before those storms moved in!

Well, of course, once we made the first campsite, we kept on to the second. The trail was overgrown waiting for that controlled burn we read about on a sign at Lemon Gap!

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Now we were pooped! It was about 6??? Time doesn’t mean a whole lot to me on the trail, but I know it was after 5 o’clock when we pulled into the campsite. We had filtered water at a very low running stream that crossed the trail on the way down the mountain, my Katahdin sucked it right up, but Akela had to take a few more minutes to fill up her bag to use, oh what was it, a Sawyer? Anyway, it took a while. I love my Katahdin in times like these!

We set up camp, made dinner, enjoyed the sunset, then crashed!

Sleeping soundly into the night, ahhhh!

*sleeping soundly*

*possible snoring*

*dreaming of bears*

“Kylena…”

I was surprisingly not startled by Akela kneeling outside my tent in the middle of the night.

“What?” *notices wind has picked up*

“There’s a really big storm moving in.”

“okay.”

“A really big storm.” *lightning flashes…rumble of thunder*

“okay.”

I’ll just say here, that I am not at all bothered by storms. I grew up in the Midwest and tornado warnings were just part of life. We lived in the woods and I loved a good storm. I don’t really want to be in a tornado, but a good thunderstorm is weirdly comforting to me.

The thunder rolled over the mountain singing me to sleep. I did keep track, for a while, to the time elapse between lightning and thunder and quickly realized, while a good lightshow was upon us, the storm itself wasn’t right ON us.

Akela wasn’t so sure. However, she eventually got back into her hammock. Maybe she went to sleep eventually. 😦

I was up early as usual, still raining, then another storm moved in. Akela and I texted back and forth…nice to have cell service at times like this! I packed up everything in my tent, except the pad I was sitting on, waiting to make my exit as soon as the rain let up.

I have been through this before…everything in the pack, pack cover on, rain poncho on…rain slows, then stops. Go time! Back out of tent with poncho on, place pack so cover keeps somewhat dry, deflate pad, disassemble tent…shove into pack pockets and get the heck off the mountain!

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Nearing Garenflo Gap (thanks Akela for the pic!)

The rain did not return as we hiked down the mountain to my car waiting at Garenflo Gap. Sunlight coming through the trees filtered down in rays creating an almost postcard like scene. Thunderstorms don’t last forever! Hike on!

AT – NC Fontana Dam to the NOC (part 2)

7/18 – 7/19/2018 Stecoah Gap to NOC

After a night at the Hike Inn, we were smelling good, feeling rested, and ready for another overnight on the trail.  I had looked forward to this section all year…Cheoah Bald!! A real bald!

Breakfast could have been fabulous.  I dreamed of scrambled eggs, toast, hash browns, and coffee.  Alas, nothing was open when we wheeled out of the parking lot headed to Stecoah, so I made do with trail bars and Gatorade. 😦

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Let’s Go!

It did the trick somewhat.  My stomach was not in its best form today.  The restaurant we went to the previous night did not have any viable vegan options, so I chose what I thought was a dairy-free meal, since that is the big culprit to my system.  Regrettably, it was not dairy-free! I tried my best to scrape off all bits of dairy…but no luck and as I climbed out of Stecoah Gap I was feeling it.  It did not keep me back, but it kept me in check all the way up to Cheoah! Not my best day hiking!

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They said there would be water somewhere at the gap.  This is totally true if you want to climb down like 700 feet to get it.  I’ll pass!

My hiking gals were none the wiser, thank goodness!  I climbed, and climbed.  That is one long uphill!  It got a bit hot, so we stopped and used my backpacker fan (which I procured for free at the Summit).  That fan was a BIG win!

Then as the trail leveled out, I caught a glimpse of something amazing through the rhododendron bushes.

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The bald, the bald!!!! We HAVE ARRIVED! 😀 😀 😀

Amazing, and just like that, all memories of that hard climb evaporated into the bright blue sky!  I pulled out my big red poncho to spread on the ground, then sprayed myself down with bug spray…no ticks on me, please.  Falling back on the poncho I undid the laces on my boots and kicked them off, perfect!

Now it was time to relax a bit.  Big climb over, I took it all in.  The blue of the sky, the big, white puffy clouds that drifted lazily from right to left.  The breeze as it made its way through the towering grasses, the bees as they hummed about me, the soft scent of hay and clover, the birds chirping to each other, the butterflies as they floated by,  and me.  I was able to hear, no, …really hear, and see, and feel, and smell! Oh, what a day! What a place! I felt I was a lucky person, indeed!

 

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After the bald, it was a short downhill roll to the shelter.  And guess who was waiting for us?

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No guesses?

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Uncle Charlie’s crew…sans Uncle Charlie…who had, indeed, ditched out due to his bum leg and hitched his way into the NOC.  Who was, according to brother and son, currently rafting down the river loving life! Oh, Uncle Charlie! So happy you were having a great time! 😀

I pitched my tent down the hill, then immediately had to visit the privy, which was like a kazillion feet above me on the hill.  Oh, the humility. Ugh.

It was a good sleeping night! haha 😀

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Making our way down to the NOC!

The walk downhill to the NOC was not as bad as I thought it might be after my experience coming into the NOC last summer on the opposite side (which had major erosion due to fire damage).  This side of the hill was a piece of cake compared to that!  I kept waiting for the “jump-up” listed on the map.  I finally decided to check Guthook’s App…turned out we were sitting just downhill from the “jump-up” taking in a lovely view while eating some snacks!  Wow, didn’t think anything about it…I mean does it even warrant a nickname like “jump-up”???

The rest of the way down took a long time, for sure! and our feet were beat! For the last two miles, I fantasized about soaking my feet in the river.  We could hear the happy din of people playing on the river as we made our way around and down the mountain.  It added to my desperate fantasy!  I needed to be at that river like a mile ago!

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The Dames 🙂

And then we were there.  And if you have ever backpacked into the NOC, then you know how good it is for your morale…people treat you like a superstar! They want to talk to you about the trail, they are in awe that you are carrying a backpack, on and on…All the good vibes! Hike On!