Camp out with the Dames – New Germany State Park, Maryland

A camp out with the Dames! A new state park to explore! Sidekick Pauli was coming! Triple yay ūüôā ūüôā ūüôā

I love to plan fun stuff for our Trail Dame chapter to do and this was no exception.  A camp out was a great opportunity to chill out on a beautiful Autumn weekend in western Maryland.  I had never been to New Germany State Park and was excited by the prospect of hiking somewhere new.

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The Lake at New Germany State Park

A few of the Dames are beginner backpackers and wanted to try out their gear over the weekend.  This turned out to be a super weekend for that too!

We all started arriving at the park on Friday afternoon.¬† Tent went up quickly, then I went up to the park office with Queen V to buy firewood…a campfire there would be!

The park office was not hard to find.¬† The ranger asked us if we wanted to go on a trail run he was going to lead that weekend.¬† Politely declining, and somewhat flattered that he had asked, we went to grab our firewood and return to camp.¬† Now, Queen V and I, well, we are lesbians,…but as we left, I leaned over to her and asked, “Was that guy hot?”¬† because I’m never quite sure, but my temperature was certainly elevated ūüėÄ and she practically cut me off replying “OH MY GOD, he was so hot!!”¬† Like, so hot, I was ready to attempt trail running…no lie.¬† He was fondly referred to as Ranger McDreamy (coined by Queen V) for the rest of the weekend! Ha!

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A pay phone? One can make two calls for free from this phone…911 or a number that links you to pastoral counseling…good to know ūüôā

Fanning ourselves as we returned to the campground, I found a few more Dames had their tents going up. Oh, what a site! We had taken over the small tenting loop. Our, all ours! Okay, one site wasn’t ours…it had been…then that particular dame decided not to come and gave her site away. ūüė¶¬† ¬†For SHAME!!!

Our first hike was Friday evening, a casual stroll from our tent site to the lake, then along the Orchard Loop and back…maybe 2 miles.¬† Just enough to start bonding with everyone and make the transition from busy life to restful weekend!

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Heading up the Orchard Loop

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Hemlock Trees!

Afterwards, I built a fire and hung out long into the night (maybe 9:30) with the Dames.  B^2 had brought pie, Roxanne brought home made caramel corn, and Queen V brought sausage for Sidekick Pauli! These women are the best!

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“Is that Queen V making bacon?” ~Sidekick Pauli gazing longingly over to Queen V’s campsite

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Indeed it was, Sidekick Pauli, indeed it was!

The next day we took a longer hike starting down by the lake, circling the other campground, then taking the Cabin Loop to the Turnpike Trail.  The trails are altogether lovely at this park and, in the winter, are groomed for cross-country skiing.

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The New Germany School House

Along the way, a must stop was the old school house.¬† Yeah, I’m a teacher, so historic places having to do with education are right up my alley! Don’t think I haven’t fantasized about being a teacher in a one-room school house. ūüėÄ

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Filtering water

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Follow up Lunch & Backpacking Chat

Later on during the hike, a few of the Dames tried out their water filters.  This was a great experience for these Dames! Do you remember the first time you filtered watered out of a creek and drank it?  The initial hesitation, the wonderment, then the satisfaction of drinking the water that you had filtered?  I saw all of this as I watched from my perch under a shady tree.  So proud of these gals!

We returned to camp for lunch and backpacking chat, which was then followed by a backpacking gear demo by none other than Venture Scout leader extraordinaire, Lola! Wow, her mini-van must have been packed with stuff.  And how absolutely selfless to bring it to our camp out and demo it! The backpackers, new and old, got a lot of great ideas during our day of learning!

Saturday evening the park was providing a “Star Party”.¬† Most of the Dames chose to walk back down to the lake except for Queen V and me.¬† I decided to drive because my old Pauli girl was pooped and wanted to sleep in the car.¬† The Star Party was awesome! We could see the Milky Way without any special telescope and many satellite fly overs (even the Russian satellite passed over).¬† Clear skies and very little light pollution made for a wonderful night under the stars!

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Looking toward the Lake House

It got a bit chilly as we all made our way back to our campsites in the dark.¬† We gathered round around a roaring fire and made s’mores to cap off the day.¬† ¬†I was so happy to crawl into the tent with my warm Pauli as the temps kept dropping. ūüôā Happiness is a warm puppy!

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Sunday was a lazy morning.¬† No hikes planned, just clean up, take down, and drive home.¬† I was very sad to leave! These Dames…amazing! Hike On!

 

 

 

 

May 28 Day 3 of Shenandoah Weekend!

Shhh…I did something totally against the rules today…sorry, sorry, sorry, it was a total blunder on my part, but no one saw us and we left NO trace.

More on that later. ¬†Let’s start at the beginning. ¬†Sidekick Pauli not wanting to get up!

At home she has hours of down time to kick back and relax. ¬†Here in the campground she was on constant alert. ¬†Add that to 7 up and down miles yesterday in the heat…and well, no smiles this morning.

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Don’t worry, once the “Bully Biscuits” were out, ALL was good! ūüėČ

I gave her some down time by heading south to Loft Mountain. ¬†She crashed in the back of the car and came out a new dog once we reached Loft Wayside. ¬†Even so, I figured an easier day of hiking wouldn’t be a bad thing.

It looked like a pretty nice hike could be had by taking the Frazier Discovery Trail up to the AT, then loop around Loft.  Straight uphill, so much for taking it easy! We found a spring of nice, cool water, which Pauli immediately claimed for the next few minutes lapping furiously.

The Frazier Discovery Trail has some pretty cool rocks along it, but I wondered what else I was to possibly discover.  Mostly wooded, I continued to slog uphill.  It was already hot and it was only 8:30 AM!

Reaching the AT, I found an awesome outcropping where we took a short break before continuing along the AT.  Short because I could feel myself getting skin cancer out there on the rocks.  Seriously.  It.Was.Hot. (and super sunny)

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Summit Smooches are a Sidekick Pauli specialty!

The loop around Loft Mountain on the AT ended at the Amphitheater. ¬†At which point I met up with a woman I had previously passed on the trail. ¬†She was camping at Loft and wanted to do the Loop, but she couldn’t take her dog on Frazier Discovery Trail since DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED!!! “Oh crap!” I exclaimed, “I just came up that way!” ¬†Now, for most people, maybe they wouldn’t care that they had just done something like TAKE THEIR DOG IN A PLACE SHE WASN’T ALLOWED…but I felt really, really, guilty! But there was no sign. ¬†I looked when I went back down the hill, because, seriously, it bugged me. ¬†There was a sign for “no bicycles” but nothing about no dogs. ¬†I can say, though, that my dog was on leash AND I cleaned up after her…left NO trace! ¬†But now that I know, well, I won’t do it again.

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Back at the campsite, the neighboring campers came over and warned me about a deer that is especially aggressive towards dogs.  Apparently, this is the deer who has been stashing her baby fawn in the campground area.  I happened upon this fawn yesterday over by the Big Meadow picnic grounds.  I got a picture with a zoom!

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Anyway, good for the deer! This place had become a cluster…and so many people had dogs off leash without any kind of voice control. ergh…

When I was a kid at camp, one of the activities we did was to close our eyes and just listen, making note of the sounds heard. ¬†I closed my eyes…wind in the trees, families conversing, buzzing, birdsong, rangers beeping at people out on the main road, motorcycles, Pauli turning over in the grass, and MusicMan’s radio…Hike On!

 

May 26 Day 1 of Shenandoah Weekend!

Definitely took my chances on finding a campsite in Shenandoah National Park on Memorial Day Weekend!  Hoped coming down on Thursday before the holiday weekend was early enough.  Otherwise, it was going to be a long day trip with lots of goodies in the car!

The best possible outcome would be a campsite at Lewis or Loft. Pulling through the entrance gate at Swift Run Gap, the sign stated that ALL campgrounds were open. ¬†A sigh of relief escaped me, but I was skeptical. ¬†The ranger at the gate assured me the campground would have radioed down if there were no more spots. ¬† Decided to head north to Lewis first. ¬†This was my first choice as it is a smaller, tents only, campground. ¬†Well, after circling twice and finding nothing, confidence waned a bit. ¬†I had a choice to make: ¬†south to Loft (20 miles) or north to Big Meadows (5 miles)? ¬†Yep, I went for Big Meadows figuring if there wasn’t a spot, then at least I could keep heading north … check at Matthews Arm…and if I was denied there as well, then I would just drive on out of the park and head home.

Not to worry! Big Meadows had ONE spot left! ¬†Not a great spot, but A spot. ¬†I’ll take it! Ummm…just a side note, not a complaint, full price should not be charged for this spot. ¬†It was challenging finding a flat place to pitch my backpacker tent without moving the picnic table and it is just below where all the cars park…which means you get light every time someone drives by at night!

After getting the tent pitched on a relatively flat area, I headed down to an overlook to send a text to Little Caesar, letting her know where to find me should there be an emergency. ¬†Saw my first bear at the overlook! And a cluster of stupid people…yay!

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God, I’m so hungry…*nom, nom, nom*

Back at the campground families were gathering, fires being lit, and music was playing loudly. *Sigh* ¬†I spread out the maps and finally decided we would finish off a micro-section of the AT I needed tomorrow, Pinnacle Picnic Grounds to Mary’s Rock. ¬†It would have to be an out and back hike.

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Sidekick Pauli takes her watchdog responsibilities very seriously!

I raised my head to look around. ¬†Hmmm, as long I as didn’t look towards those parked cars, it was kinda nice. ¬†Music wafted up into my campsite,

“But it was only fantasy.
The wall was too high,
As you can see.
No matter how he tried,
He could not break free.”

Hike on.

 

Fogged in at Tentsite #43 (Day 2 – Saturday 9/26/2015)

I left this story as Sidekick Pauli and I were preparing for a night in the tent. ¬†She was on her cushy mat covered with a fleece pad and I made myself as comfy as possible on my Thermarest pad. I had my 20 degree bag underneath and my 35 covering us both like a quilt. ¬†It was quite cozy as darkness fell and Sidekick Pauli’s little snores kept me company as I read my book with a headlamp. ¬†The soothing pitter-patter of raindrops soon had my eyes lids drooping, so I called it a night and drifted off into dream land.

Campgrounds!!! Boom-boom-whack-boom…a family had rolled in after dark and by the sound of it were constructing the Taj Mahal. ¬†No need to worry about the bears…back to sleep…

Peeking my head out of the tent in the morning I couldn’t see more than ten feet in front of me! ¬†That was pretty wild. I waited about an hour for a little more light to filter through the fog, then headed to the car. “Let’s go, Pauli! ¬†This is car camping, I need coffee!” ¬†and I found it at the Wayside…gladly paid $3.04 for a coffee they branded as a “large” but would have been classified as a medium (or a “grande” for you Starbucks folks ūüôā )

Need coffee...what a welcome site on a chilly, wet morning.

Need coffee…what a welcome site on a chilly, wet morning.

Then I headed south with the intention of finding a place to hike where the fog was not as heavy.  This turned into quite a quest!  I drove into the southern section of the park and found a few beautiful views.

Southern Section Overlook

Southern Section Overlook

We hiked a little of this and little of that as I drove back north towards Big Meadows, where it was just as foggy as I had left it! ¬†I decided we could walk down the road to Rapidan. ¬†I was NOT going into the Meadow in that fog…good God, I could have been lost for hours!!

I can't see anything!

I can’t see anything!

We had a good time and eventually the fog lifted in the Meadow, so we entered and found many beautiful wildflowers, in addition to an apple tree dripping with apples!  We were ready for lunch soon after stomping up, down, and around Big Meadows.

Walking into the Meadow on the Rapidan Fire Road.

Walking into the Meadow on the Rapidan Fire Road.

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Heading back to the tentsite I took in the spread of the Taj Mahal campers. ¬†Two huge tents, food everywhere, and the number of red Dixie cups would positively have the Leave No Trace peep’s panties in a twist. ¬†It even made me cringe…seriously, I think these campers produced more trash in two days than I produce in a month.

“Okay…stop judging them!!!” I made a conscience decision to STOP JUDGING them…I was camping. ¬†“Just let them camp, girl! It’s fine…everything is fine!” ¬†So I left it and enjoyed my lunch. ūüôā

And it was fine! ¬†Their kids came over and met Sidekick Pauli, and she adored them. ¬†Mom was very nice, as was Grandpa! ¬†How cool that the whole family was getting together for good times outdoors…I love that!

The fog had lifted, but it was still chilly. ¬†Here is the issue with bringing my dog on a rainy weekend…there is not much to do with a dog on a rainy weekend if tenting. ¬†I certainly wasn’t going to tie her to the tree and let her get cold, while I sat in a comfy chair reading my book. ¬†She wasn’t allowed inside anywhere…and we didn’t come out here to hang out in the backpacking tent…so only one thing to do…hike!

I picked up the AT where we had left it yesterday and hiked south to a cemetery, then looped back on a horse trail. ¬†Not a long hike, but long enough to stretch our legs once more before the rain started up. ¬†Which it did, right on cue at 5 pm. ¬†Even so, the tent was a welcome respite and kept us cozy one more night. ūüôā ¬†Hike on!

After our last hike of the day...time to relax in the den!

After our last hike of the day…time to relax in the den!

Fogged in at Tentsite 43 with Sidekick Pauli (Day 1 – Friday 9/25/2015)

Tentsite 43 – Big Meadows, Shenandoah NP

I had the site reserved well in advance. ¬†This was planned to be an outing with my nieces “No Bend Barbie” and “Jedi”, but No Bend is finishing up her Master’s in Geology and was way too deep in research to come…so we postponed until next May.

So I figured I would take Sidekick Pauli!  My first solo camping trip and a long time since Pauli has been on an overnight with me.  This would be fun!  We could chill out at the campsite, enjoying the crisp autumn air, watching the leaves fall, and take an occasional hike.  Hey, I even bought a new camp chair for the occasion at the REI sale a few weeks ago!

As our weekend approached I got nervous…too many nice weekends in a row…oh, the probability for a rainy weekend…

Right on cue, the forecast said occasional showers, then rain at 6 PM on Friday night. ¬†Okay, okay, I will get there early and set up the tent. ¬†We can get a hike in ¬†before it starts raining…

Cruising up to Sperryville, Virginia, I glanced at the wall of mountains before me shrouded in white…uh oh…

Well, I will just drive on up to the park entrance and see what is happening. ¬†As my car climbed up, the fog rolled in, and soon I was moving at about 20 mph, hands gripping the wheel, as shapes swirled in and out of the fog in front of me. ¬†Hmmm, It’s not raining…maybe we just need to gain a little altitude, you know, to get above the fog bank. ¬†So I flashed my pass at the gate and turned south on Skyline Drive headed for Big Meadows (still at 20 mph, but now with the addition of the hazards blinking merrily to the sorry souls who dared hug my bumper).

Turning into Big Meadows, I was mollified somewhat. ¬†The fog had lifted a bit and my optimism for an adventure had returned! ¬†Tentsite 43 let’s go!

Great site by the way.  Way back in the woods.  There is a picnic table, bear box and tent pad.  There were also a few little trails behind the site.  These trails made walking Sidekick Pauli late at night very easy!

After setting up the tent, We set out for Lewis Spring Falls.  This trail is a 3.3 mile loop which I was able to reach by walking from my site (a nice plus!).  The fog was again falling through the trees which made my traverse along the Appalachian Trail magical.

All of my previous doubts about staying the weekend disappeared as walked along the AT.

All of my previous doubts about staying the weekend disappeared as walked along the AT.

The trail followed the AT south past the lodge, then a right turn on the fire road, passing an exhausted looking family unit. “Hey, how are you guys?” I cheerfully greeted them…Dad says, “We’re great!”…Mom says, “Kill me now…” ¬†The teenagers were happy though! ¬†I left them to their resting spot and headed on to the falls.

This was going to make that Mom like her hike again! Did I just walk into a fairytale?

This was going to make that Mom like her hike again! Did I just walk into a fairytale?

Whoa…lots of switchbacks!!! It sprinkled a bit, but I had dropped below the fog and could now see distant peaks. ¬†Reaching the top of the falls, everything was wet and the rocks were slippery. ¬†I guess to actually see the falls I would need to descend a little more…but knowing my propensity for taking a tumble and that at the moment I was hiking sans hiking poles (and with a dog)…I decided not to go any further! ¬†I didn’t feel even the least bit sad about that decision either. ¬†Some people just love waterfalls, I am not one of those people. ¬†I like them, they are pretty, but I don’t have to see them in person…unless of course we are talking about Niagra…

An unexpected view on this foggy day!

An unexpected view on this foggy day!

I wondered why everyone was going back up the same switchbacks they came down…then I figured it out. ¬†When you loop, the trail gets pretty rocky. ¬†Holy crap! I hadn’t bargained on this for my easy, afternoon, 3.3 mile hike!! Careful, whew! I didn’t slide and I didn’t fall!!

Back at the site, I proceeded to make dinner.  As soon as I had finished cleaning up and putting things away, then rain started in earnest.  It was 6 pm.

Happiness is a warm puppy!

Happiness is a warm puppy!

We didn’t come out of the tent until after dark so Sidekick Pauli could have a little walk into the woods, so to speak. ¬†Then we were in for good! Into the fog…hike on!

AT-PA Swatara State Park to Yellow Springs Campsite 10.8 miles 5/25/2014

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Day 3 Sunday May 25, 2014 Swatara State Park to Yellow Springs Campsite (tenting) 10.8 miles On our way day down into Duncannon yesterday, while I was silently cursing that descent, I asked Google & Cindy what they thought of us flipping directions, starting at Swatara SP and hiking back to our cars parked at […]