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!

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Why the different spelling?

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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!

Hiking Haiku Monday

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!

Step gently into

Trees, Sky, Grass, a winding path 

Up the hill, come with!

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Rain, rain, come my way…

…I’ll go a’hiking with no one in my way! 🙂

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!

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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.

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Days like these…enchanting, bewitching, and gratifying!

Hike on!

A Little Walk Here, A Little Walk There

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.

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Spring awakes

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Social Distancing

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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.

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Only one in the Gorge at Rocky Gap

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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.

Be safe and Hike on responsibly!

A Material Girl in a Virtual World

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!

 

January, hast thou forsaken us?

Here in the mid-atlantic, the sometimes chilly, but mostly not, January weather has kept me guessing on when to hike, what to where, or whether Old Man Winter is staying at my sister’s house in Minnesnowta this year.

January is named after Janus, a Roman god, who among other things, presided over transitions…so maybe the days of spring aren’t totally out of the question? 🤔

Anyway, I have enjoyed three more lovely hikes this month. An outing at Seneca Creek State Park, with the Maryland Trail Dames, and two romps with Sidekick Pauli, one at Monocacy National Battlefield and the other at Antietam National Battlefield.

At Seneca, the weather was mild enough for us to take an extended sit-down, picnic-style, break on the banks of Clopper Lake. Lovely, if not slightly odd, for January!

The next outing at Thomas Farm (part of Monocacy NB) with Sidekick Pauli, gave us warm, breezy weather, more like March than January. Pauli was delighted and pulled me from one groundhog hole to the next! Her message of “Get up, you fools, it’s Spring out here” was ignored by plump, warm, sleeping groundhogs who I could imagine replying “WE, only WE, get to decide whether spring is come. Go away silly dog!”

Oh well, Pauli was not deterred, and continued to spread the news, welcome or not. 🐾

The third hike, to Antietam, was on a damp morning following a rainy night. Fog was rolling over the mountains and rising from parts of the battlefield. A magical beginning!

Sidekick Pauli and I walked down Rodman Ave headed to Burnside Bridge. Small tidbit about Janus…he also presided over transitions from war to peace, so Antietam seems a good choice for a January hike!

Birds raucously chatted with one another and swooped across the road in front of us so close that their eyes, intent on the mission, were clearly visible. Hawks and vultures soared high overhead, appearing, then disappearing into the fog as they searched for breakfast.

The bridge beckoned as we rounded the last bend in the road. We diverted off the pavement onto the gravel path, then walked across the bridge to look up into the branches of the Witness Tree.

This is a place I always come back to several times a year. There is just something about this huge Sycamore, the keeper of tales untold, that keeps me in awe, in wonder, in reverence, …, I am searching for the right word but it eludes me. I stand under that tree and can feel the non-linearity of time.

It is incredibly powerful.

Hike on.

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!

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!