Weekend with the Dames!

Before the pandemic, I would organize an annual winter backpacking trip for the Maryland Trail Dames. We would hike to the Ed Garvey Shelter on the Appalachian Trail, set up camp, then continue to Weverton the next day.

After missing out on this fun event for two years, I was delighted to put this up on the hiking board for January 2022. The Dames were excited to shiver together once again! πŸ˜„

But bad weather intervened…fast forward to an early Spring shiver, instead! I was secretly pleased to not be camping out in January. It was 17 degrees one year and even with good layers it was still cold! Especially when nature’s calls at 2:00 AM! πŸ₯Ά

This weekend we had delightful weather…praise!!! We met at Gathland State Park around noon. I know, I know…I was really taking a gamble with parking at that time of day. I crossed my fingers and went with it. Happy to report we all found a parking space. I was grateful!

It was a lovely hike to the shelter. We had a few newbies with us, but I only got asked once “do you know how much further until we get to the shelter?” I call that a win!

We were surprised there were already several folks at the shelter when we arrived. And with complete disregard for hiker etiquette, they had put up tents on both the first and second level of the shelter. Ergh. We were tenting and had no need of the shelter. However, that whole tent in the shelter is a big no…especially at a shelter like Ed Garvey, which is pretty popular all year round.

It looks like a flat site…right?

Sure enough, it was a mob scene on Saturday night. I am glad we had gotten there early enough to pick the better tent sites. Some folks camped down along the trail as all sites were gone when they rolled in later in the evening.

***better = still slanted, but I managed to stay on my sleeping pad all night***

About 4:00 AM we got rain, just on and off, nothing much. It continued while we packed up and hiked out. Just a few drops, not enough to make us or our gear wet. Thankful is an understatement. Some of our newbies had gotten cold overnight…rain on top of that could have made an uncomfortable hike into a truly miserable one for them. πŸ˜•

It was great to get back to backpacking with the Dames. Looking forward to planning more fun adventures for this group! Hike on!

AT – VA: US522 to VA55 The Mountains are Waking!

Kicking off another Spring Break hike with blue skies, frigid temperatures to start, and, this time, a hike more strenuous than any I have done in a while. I was excited to return to this section of the Appalachian Trail between US522 in Front Royal to VA55. I was also a little anxious. Would my legs hold up? I was fairly certain they would, but I double-checked that I was packing ibuprofen. πŸ˜€

I met my hiking partner “Somewhere” at the VA55 trailhead. Wow, it was cold! I thought I would ditch a layer before hiking, but backtracked on that decision quickly as the cold, cold wind reached my innermost layer. Brrrrr! We shuttled down to 522, then set out a brisk pace. I am thankful for the body’s ability to warm itself! It was freaking cold for the first 20 minutes, then we warmed up nicely as a result of 1) the sun rising above the ridge, and 2) climbing the first hill. It was welcomed warmth!

This stretch had two climbs that reminded me that I need to get out on the trail more consistently, but they were doable.

*Translation – I handled them with only slight discomfort.* πŸ˜€

Thankfully, because I would have been appalled to literally fall over in exhaustion on this hike. Perhaps my ridiculous pride kept me upright? πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ Nah…It was a lovely hike. Bunches of Bloodroot pushing up through last season’s leaves greeted us on that first uphill. The lower canopy was greening and the trail itself was easy going for the first five or so miles. The only tricky part of this section is the hill just before reaching the train tracks near VA55. That hill is an eroded mess. That was the last hill for us and I was glad of it!

The day had added thrill when I met up with my first thru-hiker this season, “Backstroke”, a physicist who has just taken a job with the government. He caught up with us as we were headed to the Jim & Molly Denton shelter. We let him pass, but then walked a piece with him. We discussed teaching as we strolled along.

*insert…I know he probably slowed his roll a bit to walk with us, but even so, I was pleased to be able to keep up the pace and talk at the same time* πŸ˜€

He seemed intensely curious about teaching and is motivated to explore it as his career as a physicist unfolds. We had lunch with Backstroke at the shelter, then he was on his way! If you see him on the trail, be sure to say hi…he is super friendly and great conversationalist!

I look forward to the day when I chance to meet up with you along the AT! I will keep working these legs of mine…See you out there! πŸ™‚ Hike on!

AT – MD Back to Annapolis Rock

I question my judgment at scheduling a hike so early that I had to leave my house at 6 AM. This is the first day of my Spring Break and just what the heck was I thinking??? It was dark, it was cold, … , it was the FIRST DAY OF BREAK…hadn’t I just been telling folks how exhausted I was and how I couldn’t wait to sleep in? Honestly…ugh.

But got up I did. Coffee – yes, coffee again – yes. Out the door at 6 AM, promptly!

I-68 east to I-70 south, then up Rt 40 to the Annapolis Rock trail head. Surprise…I remember why I scheduled it so early. To avoid the parking lot fiasco…and I was successful! I was the third car into the lot, huzzah!

My fellow Trail Dames showed up soon after and off we went up the mountain. What a glorious morning! Blue skies and sun pouring down on us. Oh, and I was very impressed with the trail work that has happened in my absence from this stretch of trail. Nice work on the grading and stone placement, PATC Trail Maintainers! Absolutely beautiful!

Soaking up the Sun!

We chatted amicably about some exciting trips that our dames have planned for summer. One is headed to the 100-mile Wilderness in Maine! My plans are more sedate…heading down to complete the section with the Priest in Virginia. All of us are so pleased that we are post – pandemic and can start adventuring further afar to hike.

Arriving at Annapolis Rock, we found the place deserted. Perfect! I sat out on a rock and ate my sub that I had picked up on my way in at Sheetz. That is one VERY conveniently located Sheetz…and it has a drive-thru. You’re welcome. πŸ˜€

The nasty old man winter wind picked up while I sat there munching away. I stared that wind down and pretended it was a lovely spring day…until I devoured the last delicious bite of my sub. Then I picked up my stuff and scrambled back into the trees.

We saw several folks headed up as we were headed down. The skies by this time were covered in heavy gray clouds and the wind was picking up. Sorry for them, happy for us! Oooooooo…and we found our first Bloodroot sighting!! Hike on!

Bloodroot!

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

Well…this was a post COVID shutdown shock to my system! πŸ˜€

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. πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜€

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. πŸ˜€ 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!

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! πŸ˜€

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. πŸ™‚

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!

Shenanigans with Sidekick Pauli at High Point SP (Day 2)

Bullfrogs and Whipporwills woke me at 4:30 am this morning. It was lovely, but earlllllly!

Turns out it was a blessing being up that early. I had my breakfast, coffee, and was ready to shuttle my friend Bear Spray to an AT Trailhead. She was completing her first section in New Jersey!

I had a shorter goal. Hike from the Visitor Center to the Monument on the AT with Sidekick Pauli. πŸ™‚

It is a rocky, but beautiful short section of the AT, followed by a steep climb on a side trail to the Monument.

The weather was somewhat cooperating, cool, cloudy, and humid. The sky was heavy and dark with clouds that promised more rain this afternoon.

Along our AT trek we caught an occasional glimpse of the Monument, an immense obelisk at 220 feet tall marking the highest spot in New Jersey.

Arriving at the monument, we walked around the base. Clouds were slightly lifted in spots revealing green fields and small towns in the valley.

We returned by following the road down and around Lake Marcia. It was getting hotter and more humid now that the sun had come out!

Sidekick Pauli was delighted to get back to the car and wait for Bear Spray to finish her hike. I was just as joyous, taking time to read more of Radium Girls while lunching on avocados, crackers, and strawberries.

Such a privileged life πŸ™

Hike on!

AT – VA Dripping Rock to VA56 Tye River

Three Ridges Wilderness has been on my radar for some time now. I finally got the opportunity to hike this section Friday through Sunday of 2019 Memorial Day Weekend with the Maryland Trail Dames.

We met at the VA56 trail head parking lot, then shuttled to Dripping Rock.

Weather was optimal!

We headed south and were soon embracing a wonderful overlook without having done much work to get there.

Let’s just say we got our dessert first. I knew there had to payback, and soon enough we were rock hopping…at least the elevation was decent. Luckily, we ran out of rocks after crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway at 3 Ridges Mountain overlook. We were ready for a break!

Is that the infamous Priest in the background?

On to Reids Gap…easy, then Maupin Shelter…not so easy! All the beautiful blooming things kept me distracted and finally found myself in a lovely campsite at Maupin!

We met Fun Guy and Legacy at the shelter. Legacy is thru-hiking…Fun Guy is just running around in the woods for six months. He likes to hunt for mushrooms…hence “FunGuy”…ha, haha, …So much quirkiness on the trail!

We actually saw a ton of thru-hikers on our trek.

Next morning we made it a leisurely start. We relaxed, had our breakfast, no worries since it was only about 6 miles to Harper Creek Shelter.


OH.MY.GAWD.

Where in the world did all the rocks come from??? Am I back in Pennsylvania? That 6 miles felt like 10!!!

More great views, rhododendron, and lots of wildflowers.

We found a great spot for lunch and stretching at the summit. Thank goodness! πŸ˜‚

Coming down 2000 feet to the shelter was much worse than going up!

We were all very happy to stumble into Harper Creek after a hard day hiking! Luckily, we were there earlier than most and got a good camping spot.

A roll of thunder brought an early end to our celebration! Up went my tent as fast as I could go! Once it was up, I threw my junk in, then dove in after it!

Big, big, big storm. Lots of heavy rain.

I leaned back onto my side in a very warm tent. I could nap this one out.

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Splat. What the…?

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Plop. Oh shieeeeet. The Big Angus has decided that now is a good time to let the seals pull away from the zipper on the fly.

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*sigh*

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Splash. *put folded up bandanna over head and ignore*

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*Zzzzzzzzzzzz*

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Next morning, perfect! I mean besides packing up a wet tent…cause that pretty much sucked!

The trail down to the Tye River was easy peasy. πŸ˜ƒ No rocks!

We deserved that nice bit! 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.Β  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.Β  I pulled over to drop off the table then quickly found a parking spot.Β  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.Β  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!Β  The wind would blow up the hill and literally force us to hold ontoΒ  the canopy, the table, our chairs, and the handouts so they would not be tossed up into the air.Β  We demonstrated quite a bit of agility, let me tell you!Β  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.Β  A particularly ferocious gust sent their canopy cartwheeling across the lawn!Β  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.Β  Β 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.Β  I was not scheduled to show up until the afternoon, but checked in with Queen V.Β  Everything was okay, wet, but okay.Β  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. πŸ™‚

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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! πŸ˜€

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! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

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!Β  πŸ˜€

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I Think It May Be Spring!

Thank goodness, right? If your winter was anything like my winter…ugh.

Father Winter was a big tease with lots of potential, but no big exciting events. In Maryland, we would get icy mix, a little snow, then it would melt and we were left with a few damp, chilly days in the mid-40s. Brrr…rrr

Thank you Goddess of Spring for finally taking control!

Last weekend, I led a “newbie backpacker” trip. We had 4 new and 5 experienced backpackers. The newbies had completed two shakedown hikes prior and felt somewhat prepared.

We began our adventure at Shippensburg Road trailhead on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. Saturday started as winter…very cold and windy! We got moving!

As we hiked the seasons turned. A lovely day indeed!

In general, we took this stretch slower, and with more breaks than I would take if I were going alone. Which makes perfect sense for new backpackers. They had plenty of time for adjusting the pack, stretching, resting, and enjoying the woods!

We rolled into Tom’s Run Shelter mid-afternoon, plenty of time for the newbies to set up.

It was a cold night and one newbie had not brought the recommended 20 degree bag. She learned and will pack accordingly next time. Sometimes, we have to learn the hard way. πŸ™‚

Spring rebounded on Sunday! The trail was a slight disaster with tons of water flowing down it and many blowdowns that had to be climbed over, under, or around! Our newbie, who hadn’t slept much due to being cold the night before, just about petered out on the last hill of the day. We got some extra food in her and took it slow…she was determined to finish! She dug deep and conquered the last hill!

Everyone finished sucessfully at Pine Grove Furnace State Park with smiles (and a few emotional tears). I am so proud of these women! We stick together, push through our fears, learn from our miscalculations, and always Hike On!

The Cormorant’s Advice

When Goldenrod makes her entrance Summer is surely put on notice. Add a clear, crisp morning in late August, woodland sunflowers, and a few stray leaves starting to show a tinge of orange and it seems Summer best hurry to finish her conversation before being thrust unceremoniously out the back door!

I haven’t said goodbye to her, yet. This is my last really carefree Friday for a while, so, let me visit with my friend, Summer, before she bids farewell.

Meandering about Harper’s Ferry I am engulfed in the transition between summer and fall…and lost in an oh, so blue, sky!

A kindred spirit, in form of a deer, stopped to bid me good morning.

A train barreled by pointing out there is no time to lose and I must keep pushing forward.

The Shenandoah, moving swiftly past, agreed with the train. “Make haste! Summer is packing up!”

Standing firm, between the north and south banks of the river, stood a cormorant, perched on a rock perusing his options. “No need to be bamboozled by that rackity clack train and this impatient river” he called out, “they are set in their path and cannot change course.”

I took the cormorant’s advice. I took the long way, the curvy way, the way I did not know. The un-set path.

Hike On!