AT -VA Gravel Springs Gap to Elkwallow Wayside 

I led this hike for the Maryland Trail Dames.  Seven women had RSVP’d and I knew for sure that four were coming because three were riding in my car and another was following in her own car.  Twenty-four miles south, after entering the northernmost gate at Shenandoah National Park, I pulled into Elkwallow Wayside.

I saw MamaPuma waving at me as she stood beside her big ass awesome pick-up truck. I pulled around, and we all quickly worked out who would ride with who back to our starting place, Gravel Springs. BUT WAIT! We must all go to the bathroom! Jees, is it at all possible for a woman to need a public restroom and NOT END UP waiting in line?!! ūü§Ē

Okay, now in the cars, we headed to Gravel Springs.  “Just after mile 18, look for mile 18!” I called out.  Several minutes later, just after mile 18, cars ahead of us slowed. “Look! Look! Look!” I exclaimed jabbing my finger at the right windshield.  A mama bear lumbered slowly across the road, stopping to look over her shoulder.  I followed her gaze. Oh, there are cubs!  Her babies still cowered on the opposite side of the road clinging to a tree! 

A bear! Right before Gravel Springs! Maybe we would see them again! ūüėÄūüėÄūüėÄ

We parked, and of course, we were all very excited about the bear! I was on high alert as we started down the trail thinking mama and her cubs might cross our path. 

Coming to the first crossing of Skyline Drive, I let a little sigh of both relief and disappointment escape. Oh well, maybe next time bears. 

The AT is very well behaved, with a gentle incline, for the first two miles south of Gravel Springs, with a beautiful view just a bit before Little Hogback Overlook.

Then it was one, two, three, four…whew, five, six, seven, …ugh…eight switchbacks to reach the summit of Hogback Mountain. And no view. Whaaaaat!? A trail post promised a hang glider site which never materialized. That is a crime upon Mother Nature herself!!! No view. Harrumph. 

Still amazing though with fog floating through the tops of trees, the forest floor a carpet of verdant green, and the last of Azalea blossoms clinging together as if protesting the end of spring. Very Hansel and Gretel.

Once more across Skyline Drive to a very cool lunch spot! What a find!

Claiming this as my Spirit Tree!

It was all downhill now! The last mile was an easy slide into Elkwallow where we again mobbed the bathroom, then celebrated with Blackberry ice-cream! Hike on!

Thanks to Overkill for this instaClassic!

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AT – VA Ashby Gap to Manassas Gap

Connecting dots.  I started this section last year around the same time, then fell trying to dodge a cicada killer bee.  Cracked my knee, hobbled back to my car, and promised myself I would be back!  Luckily, this time around I had some hiking pals with me, so no out and back silliness!

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Look at the size of this tree that came down! Wow!

We met at the 725 trail head at Manassas Gap, then shuttled back to Ashby Gap to begin our trek.  After crossing Route 50, we came face to face with a young deer.  Go back in the woods, Bambi! Route 50 is a split highway with high speed traffic…no place for a deer!

The first mile or so, after meeting up with Bambi, was climbing.  Worth it! We came out in the high meadows of Sky Meadows State Park which were in full bloom.  Lovely!

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The High Meadow

We cruised along through Sky Meadows, taking our first sit down break at the intersection of the North Ridge trail.  And then, guess what???  An older Virginia gentleman, who had come up the North Ridge trail, recited a poem for us.  Always something interesting happening along the AT.  Haha! So cool! Definitely made my day! ūüôā I inserted a link to a video of his performance. ūüôā

Poem on the Appalachian Trail

This hike had two memorable pieces for me and that was one of them.  The other was the visit to Dick’s Dome shelter,  a geodesic dome.  It looked like an Icosahedron to me…yep, math girl here! I was delighted by the equilateral triangles and just being in the dome. ūüôā ūüôā

IF I could somehow manage to spend a sabbatical researching mathematics along the AT…well, I’d be all set! Hike on!

 

May 27 Day 2 of Shenandoah Weekend!

Appalachian Trail Day: Pinnacle Picnic Grounds to Mary’s Rock

5:30 am, why is it that I cannot sleep in???

Put some water on to heat for tea with my little Esbit stove, then attended to Sidekick Pauli. ¬†She refuses to eat plain kibble when we camp. ¬†Don’t worry, I spiced it up with some doggie yum. ūüôā

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Do you spoil your dog much? 

Headed out to Pinnacle Picnic Grounds to hike the section of the AT to Mary’s Rock (and back). ¬†Full disclosure here…I didn’t want to run into any bears in the woods with Sidekick Pauli. ¬†I didn’t know how she would react. ¬†So part of my choosing this hike is because it is up on a ridge, and I figured the bears would be down low munching up all the green stuff they could find.

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Headed to Mary’s Rock (and back)

Even so, setting off down the trail at just after 7 am, I was verbally pointing out all the sights to Sidekick Pauli! ¬†“Oh, look at that flower! Did you see the fog hanging in the top of that tree?” hahahaaaa ¬†…and so on!

We didn’t run into any bears along the trail, thank goodness! ¬†Although, after the hut, there was bear scat. That sent me, again, into Chatty Kathy mode for awhile.

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Looking north towards Mary’s Rock from the Pinnacle

This section of the AT has some beautiful views. ¬†It also has some nice ups and downs! The day felt much warmer than it was as we rolled along the ridge towards Mary’s Rock. ¬†However, I am marking this section as one to come back and do in the fall. ¬†It would be absolutely stunning with the fall colors.

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Just so we are clear that this is the AT

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At Mary’s Rock

Sidekick Pauli had a delightful time meeting everyone on the trail EXCEPT stupid people with dogs. ¬†There is a leash law for a reason people. ¬†And don’t look at me like my dog is the problem!!!

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Sidekick Pauli at Mary’s Rock

 

Anyway, no reason to get too hot under the collar because we, well I, was already sweating buckets by the time we had hiked back to Pinnacle Picnic Grounds.  I was so hot, I literally soaked my head down before driving back to Big Meadows.  Ahhhhh refreshing!

So another micro-section of the AT completed! Hike on!

AT – VA US522 Chester Gap to Jim&Molly Denton Shelter (and back)

Cabin fever, the very quickly approaching Spring semester, and a goal to hike half of the AT through Maryland in one day this summer had me flying down 340 headed for Front Royal, Virginia and the trail head at US522.

I left my house in the dark, hoping to step on the trail at sunrise…I was using this hike to set a baseline for training for my “Half MD” goal this summer. ¬†The shorter winter days meant it might be starting to get dark at 4 PM. ¬†Since I was hiking alone I really didn’t care to be hiking back to my car in the dark!

As it turned out I started hiking at 8 AM.  It was already past dawn, but it was still not completely light outside.  I love to be in the woods in the early morning.  Everything is so quiet, then the birds wake up and chatter at you up and down the trail.

Stepping on the trail just after dawn.

Stepping on the trail just after dawn.

The trail up the mountain sidled up against the National Zoological Park Conservation and Research Center.  Once at the top, the trail pulls away from the Park and cruises nicely along the edge of the mountain before descending to cross a gravel road that headed up into a neighborhood of mountain houses, some of which were quite large!

Stream crossing! Luckily the ice had melted on the rocks...although I did have my spikes in tow!

Not a great pic…but a stream crossing! Luckily the ice had melted on the rocks…although I did have my spikes in tow!

The elevation map made the climb look daunting with a climb of 1000 feet in the first two miles, but it didn’t really seem to register with me on this early morning. ¬†What I did think about, on my way up, was how this morning felt like freedom. ¬†It really did. It had all the promise of the first warm day of spring…adventure without a time limit! ¬†I was just out for a walk, just to see how far I could go. ¬†I was loving it!

Winter view south back to Shenandoah National Park.

Winter view south back to Shenandoah National Park.

After the road crossing, I found a nice log to sit on and take a break.  The temps were rising, but the sun had yet to make to this side of the mountain.  My log seat was quickly freezing my back side, so a quick break it was! Headed on to the shelter for a longer break!

Lunch at the shelter had revived me! It was now 11:45am and I had a choice to make…walk another mile down hill to VA638 or turn around now and walk the 5 miles back to my car. ¬†One more mile downhill would have meant one more mile uphill and a total mileage of 12 miles for today…I was so close to doing it! ¬†But I decided to turn south after leaving the shelter …towards my car…shoot for the 10 miles …take time to enjoy the walk!

Walking back through the snowy woods.

Walking back through the snowy woods.

I had forgotten how good it feels to hike alone. ¬†This hike just left me with such a great feeling of … jees, I cannot describe it…just an amazing amount of control over my life and a great sense of freedom! ¬†Loved it!

Hike on…sometimes with others and sometimes by yourself…hike on!

AT – VA Compton Gap to US 522 with the Trail Dames

I will remember this day as hiking through the sky with Dames, then descending into the valley with Angels.

Before all of this, however, was donuts.  Tenacious D was driving and I had hitched a ride to the trail head since my car is no longer to be trusted on long trips.  I felt very grateful to have a ride down to Virginia for this section hike and stopped at Dunkin Donuts on my way to meet Tenacious D for coffee and donuts as a token of appreciation for the ride.

Wow, it was raining. and cold. and windy.  Glad I put gloves and hat in the back pack before I left!

We were the last to arrive at the trail head…Tenacious D says being a bus driver for so many years makes her just drive slow all the time! ¬†I didn’t mind, we weren’t more than 3 – 4 minutes late, and the drive had been lovely. ¬†We pulled over and rolled down the window as Dirigo (the hike leader today) approached. She asked “Can you all help shuttle?” “Sure!” ¬†Another Dame jumped in and away we went up into Shenandoah National Park.

We met up with everyone at Compton Gap trail head, about 10 miles into the park. ¬†Donning our layers, rain jackets, hats, gloves, and grabbing our hiking poles we set off into the foggy woods. ¬†Pretty easy walking, although it began to rain making me wish I hadn’t left my big red poncho back in my car before riding down with Tenacious D. ¬†Oh well, my rain jacket, plus layers did a fine job anyway!

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Tenacious D enjoying the trail!

The forest was magical with the heavy fog.  Lines between heaven and earth were smudged giving everything a soft ethereal glow.  It felt like we were part of the sky.  Then my eye would catch a tree with its brilliantly colored leaves in the forest reminding me that the sky had descended on the mountain, we had not risen to the sky.

We reached Possum’s Rest, which on a clear day has a beautiful view, without much trouble. ¬†Today, all one could see was the fog. ¬†Coming down from Possum’s Rest was a little tricky! ¬†We were climbing down from the ridge and it was a sharp decline, even with the switchbacks, littered with wet leaves and rocks. ¬†It was slow going…but no one fell, no one slipped!

Just before reaching the Tom Floyd Wayside, we heard barking.  Lake Front Royal is a neighborhood which backs up to the AT, so the dog was probably over there.  Happy to get out of the rain we sat down for lunch at the shelter.  A PB&J and half a bag of cheezits later I was feeling quite content.  I stretched out my legs and sat there looking out into the mist.

Tom Floyd Wayside

Tom Floyd Wayside

There is was…that barking again…louder this time. ¬†We discussed where the dog could be, then brushed it aside as we packed up and left the shelter. ¬†Headed downhill, then all of the sudden there it was, a small older beagle, lost, cold, wet, shivering, and very scared. ¬†She came right up to me. ¬†It was clear she needed help. ¬†At first we got her to follow us, but soon realized she needed to be carried as her paws were rubbed raw. ¬†I carried her for awhile,

then Python cleared out her backpack and together we fit her inside. ¬†She loved that! So cozy! ¬†And that is how Python packed her out. ¬†As we continued towards Rt. 522 we passed directly by a few houses in Lake Front Royal. ¬†Python asked a guy out on his deck if he knew anyone who had lost a beagle. ¬†He didn’t but turned to get his wife. ¬†Turns out the wife¬†works in a vet clinic and offered to take the dog so they could follow up on the license number and scan for a microchip.

So you see, the Dames had become Angels arriving at just the right time and place for this lucky little pup.  I am ever so happy she spent the night inside, safe and warm.

A Journey Taken

A Journey Taken

Hike on.

4/11/13 Headed out backpacking tomorrow!

Putting some finishing touches on my backpack. I can’t pack everything tonight because I’m taking cheese and so everything is in the refrigerator right now. I hope I don’t forget to put stuff in the backpack!!¬† I’m a little worried because I think it’s going to be a lot heavier than what it was when I did the shake down hike last Saturday. I decided to take the stove and the water filter so that means I can take less water! o hopefully I’ll drop a little weight there!¬† It’s about 8:30 now … I’m getting a little tired so I’m going to just knock out and go to bed.¬† Next message from the trail!

4/10/13 Take the Stove?

Okay…dilemma! I am not sure whether I want to take my stove this weekend backpacking or not. Little Caesar is my usual chef … But she is not going. I am so green at using a stove! But I need to get over my stove anxiety and learn to cook for myself on the trail! I will admit, I don’t even cook much at home! So here is my plan. I am going to get fuel this afternoon and try out the stove tonight. Honestly, my little Muka seems like it will be extremely easy to use. If everything goes well, then I am taking it! The weather will be a bit chilly in the mornings this weekend … So hot oatmeal and tea will taste very good!!