And Then, Out Came The Sun!

Oh boy, to say we’ve had a spell of rain in the Mid-Atlantic would be a half-truth. I feel for all those hikers out there on an AT thru-hike or section hike. They just haven’t had many dry days in the last month.  

When backpacking I seem to be able to dig deep and splash on when inundated with the wet stuff.  Flashing back to my section hike of the Georgia section of the AT…8 out of 10 days it rained. Most memorable rain event was being stuck in the Tray Mountain Shelter during the derecho in June 2013…

As a day hiker, I seem to lack that same willpower to hike when raining.  So I have been literally crawling in my own skin as rain continued to pour down over the last several weeks.  There were windows of opportunity, during which I would hurriedly scamper down a trail to get back to my car before the next sky dump occurred.  Most of the time I’ve been lucky!

And then, out came the sun! We got a bonified reprieve today, huzzah! So even though I’d awakened with a migraine, I remained optimistic, popped some meds and took off for Catoctin Mountain Park. 

I parked at the Visitor Center, then headed off down the trail towards Headquarters. I planned a loop hike to Chimney Rocks and Thurmont  Vista.  

Slightly squishy trail

My feet stumbled a bit on the rocks as my brain still struggled with bad migraine juju. As I rounded the corner at Headquarters and headed uphill my feet got in sync with what my brain was telling them to do and the going got much easier despite going up, up, up! 

Oh, and the Mountain Laurel, wow! It was abundantly flowering. Just lovely!

Once on the ridge, I was able to breathe deeply the scents of a forest made more delightfully pungent after many days of hard rain. Inhale…ahhhhhhhhh!  New blowdowns had exposed bug-ridden interiors and the birds voiced their happiness with delirious abandon. A glorious morning to be alive!

I took a sit down at Chimney Rocks. Shedding my boots, I made myself comfy leaning into the coolness of my stone seat. Getting lost in the blue of the sky while letting my thoughts filter through my head like the parade of puffy, white clouds making their way across the sky was a luxury.  I had no idea how long I sat there, and didn’t care. I got up when I got up!

The time at which I left Chimney Rocks was apparently the perfect time to continue on down the trail as I passed seven hikers headed for the spot I had vacated.  

Sturdy new benches all along the trail, and shiny new trail signs!

Making a quick pass of Wolf Rocks, I headed off in the direction of Thurmont Vista. 

At a fork in the trail, I passed a large group of hikers headed to Wolf Rocks…so glad I was going against traffic!  I had Thurmont Vista all to myself!

Down the hill to the next Trail sign. “Visitor Center 1 mile, Hog Rock 1.5 miles” Decision time. Big Loop (8.5 miles) or Little Loop (5 miles)? I looked at weather app on my phone…hmmm, possible thunderstorms at 2 pm (time was 1:52 pm).  I looked at the sky…some darker clouds over to the west. I looked at the trees, breezes picking up and some trees had flipped their leaves. 

Well, I wasn’t going to push my luck after such a delightful morning! Here’s to getting to the car without having to outrun a thunderstorm! Hike on!

A Round Trip Ticket from Catoctin Furnace to Bob’s Hill Overlook

This has been an amazing Autumn day.  It started with bright sun and temps in the sixties…a perfect day to climb Bob’s Hill in Cunningham Falls State Park.  This was my first time up to Bob’s Hill, although I am familiar with the area having climbed to Cat Rock, Chimney Rocks, and other high points in the Catoctin range.

Filling the bladder with water and tucking a couple of sandwiches, in addition to some cheese for Sidekick Pauli, into the pack, I realized it would not be so easy to slip out of the house with only one dog in tow!  Little Caesar helped me placate the other canines with a plan that had us walking all three dogs around the block, then quickly leading two, who were not going, back into the house, while Sidekick Pauli got into the back of the car! It worked!

If you are headed to Bob’s Hill, then I would suggest parking at Catoctin Furnace.  It is free to park at the furnace, and it is a pretty interesting site to look around.  The Ironmaster’s house, which is in ruins, is well worth a look see.

The Ironmaster's house ruins

The Ironmaster’s house ruins

Head up the short hill from the parking lot to pick up the trail that will lead to the Manor area of Cunningham Falls State Park.  This is a short trail, about 1/4 mile, but has some interesting features such at the Bowstring Arch bridge.  This beautiful, historic bridge takes you across Little Hunting Creek as you head toward the elevated bridge crossing Route 15 (pretty much a super highway!).

There are several hiking trails in the Cunningham Falls SP/Catoctin Mountain Park area. A great map of the trails is provided by the National Park Service.

Once across Route 15, Sidekick Pauli and I took a little break at the creek.  The sun was breaking through golden leaves making the water sparkle as it spilled over the rocks.  Sidekick Pauli couldn’t resist stepping into the cool stream as she bent to take a drink.  After trying the water in several spots, finding them all absolutely delightful, she turned to me with a big smile on her face!  Ready to go, Papa? Oh yes, ready to go!

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We walked along the creek looking for the blue blazes that mark the Catoctin Trail.  We found it without too much difficulty and headed to the right and up the hill.  I was surprised and pleased to find that I did not need to stop to catch my breath on the way up to Bob’s Hill overlook.  A few times I stopped briefly to take in the fall splendor and listen to the wind as it roared up from the valley.  The wind was ferocious at times, pushing the trees aside allowing me a glimpse of crystal blue sky.  Ahhhhh!

All the way up to the overlook we were alone! It was wonderful!

We checked out the overlook to the right first.  Then we backtracked and headed to the overlook on the other side.  I don’t know which I liked better!  We sat down to eat our snack at the second overlook.

It was one of those moments that you want to stay in forever.  The gusting wind caused several leaves to let loose and fly.  The sunlight made the color of the leaves sparkle as they were carried by the wind off the mountain and down into the hollow.  I felt all at once like I was part of the mountain.  I let the wind push against me and instead of turning away from it, I looked up into it, feeling it make my eyes tear up and sting my cheeks.  I took a deep breath as it blew, the freshness of it filling me up.  I did a sideways glance to check on Pauli and found she too had her nose turned up to greet the wind!  It was just one of those moments.

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Leaving the overlook several minutes later we continued toward Cat Rock.  I had no plans to visit Cat Rock today, but I wasn’t ready to turn around and head back to the car yet.  Plus, we were now on the ridge which was easy walking!

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Easy walking means I was able to just let my thoughts wander.  I thought about life, work, hiking, dogs, cats, … then something popped into my head that made me pause.  A woman said to me the other day that she wasn’t a strong hiker because she was so slow.  It bothered me.  It bothered me because strong is not the same as fast.  I consider myself a strong hiker, but I hike at a steady 2 mph pace in the mountains.  I have been hiking for a long time, have confidence in my abilities, and know when I should challenge myself and when I should turn back.  But I am not fast.

I thought about this because I was thinking this hike up Bob’s Hill is a moderate hike.  I think anyone could do it.  When I say anyone could do it, I mean, anyone could do it in a time that is right for them.

I want to yell passionately at that woman to stop berating herself.  I wanted to tell her, “If you run out of breath…stop and breathe! Look around the woods; enjoy the moment!  Take your time and love that you are on the mountain! This is your life!”

Hike on!!!!

5/3/2014 Locked Bathrooms & Trails Turned to Creeks at Catoctin Mountain Park

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This day.  Oh goodness, THIS DAY! Hiking at Catoctin has never been this much of an adventure…but I WAS with Bag Lady and other Trail Dames… I arrived a little early and saw that B^2 was already in the parking lot.  I gave her a quick wave and told her since the visitor center wasn’t […]

4/10/14 The Other Side of the Mountain

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“Yeah, there aren’t any views over there.” said the ranger at Catoctin Mountain Park.  She, the ranger, said this to Bag Lady and me last Saturday after we asked her about the other side of Catoctin…the side with Owen Creek.  Oh, no views, we thought…but what we thought that meant was less elevation, a more […]

4/5/2014 Saturday at Catoctin Mountain

Earlier in the week Bag Lady, yes…the same Bag Lady from the AT Maryland back pack last fall, put out an all points bulletin for a hiking partner this weekend.  She wanted to go face her nemesis from that trip…Lambs Knoll. She also wanted to train for an upcoming hiking trip in Alaska.

You just went “wow!” didn’t you? Me too….Alaska …Totally cool!

I was in! But turns out she wanted to shuttle so we didn’t have to do an out and back hike. I couldn’t do that as I wanted to bring Sidekick Pauli!  So we decided to hike a big loop at Catoctin Mountain Park instead.

Now this was probably more my desire than Bag Lady’s since my hike at Catoctin got cancelled last week because of an absolutely ridiculous late spring snowstorm. 😉

We met at the visitor center, then started down the trail at about 9:45am.  We were hiking an 8.5 mile loop with a stop at Chimney Rocks, the picnic area just before Hog Rock and the falls before trekking back to our cars.

The first mile went smoothly and soon we were climbing up the rocky trail to Chimney Rocks. Weather was decent with an occasional chilly breeze that made me happy that I had brought both a hat and my gloves!

On the way up we met a guy doing a training hike with a full pack.  He was training for Colorado!

Wow!  Everyone is going to hike someplace really neat this summer!!!

I was glad I didn’t have on a full pack! I was already sucking a little wind with a day pack.  Up, up, up…reached Chimney Rocks in good time.  We took a short break, then continued to Hog Rock.  Along the way we passed Wolf Rocks and Thurmont Vista.  We did not stop at either.  We were ridge walking now and it was nippy! Winds had picked up and it was no longer sunny.

A Short Break at Chimney Rocks

A Short Break at Chimney Rocks

As we walked I took in the destruction left by the ice storms.  The forest was littered with downed trees and widow makers were left along the trail. I silently mouthed “please don’t fall on me” every time I had to walk under one!

We took a nice sit down break at the picnic area before Hog Rock.  I ate my PB&J and put out water for Sidekick Pauli.  Bag Lady gave Sidekick Paulia slice of real meat (salami? Pepperoni?).

Sidekick Pauli makes friends with Bag Lady

Sidekick Pauli makes friends with Bag Lady

Oh good Lord.  The look on her face! I am vegetarian…well, not exactly…I eat fish…anyway the point is that she has never had real meat!  Sidekick Pauli definitely has a new best friend!

We finished lunch and headed across Park Central road to Hog Rock.  Supposedly you can see Chimney Rocks from Hog Rock but I have never spotted them and today was no different!  I looked a second time searching the opposite ridge…nope, couldn’t find them.  Maybe another day! Onward!

We crawled down the mountain, visited the falls, then took the rolling path back to the visitor center.  There we found out that there is a shelter you can reserve on the other side of the park where the trails are a bit more level.  We both thought about a Trail Dames beginner back pack!! Fun! Fun!

Hike on! 🙂

McAffee Falls

McAffee Falls

3/29/14 Another Cancelled Hike for the Trail Dames? Argh!

Well…this has turned out to be a hiking week BUST!

I had two hikes planned this week for the Maryland Trail Dames, one for Dames looking for a challenge and one for beginning hikers.  Both, yes, both got cancelled due to the weather!

On Wednesday, I had scheduled an 8.5 mile loop hike at Catoctin Mountain Park.  This is a strenuous loop which allows hikers to visit Chimney Rocks, Wolf Rock, Thurmont Vista, Hog Rock, and Cunningham Falls.  It is a beautiful stretch of trail.  On Tuesday, like much of the eastern seaboard, a weather system brought in snow.  It wasn’t very much snow, like 3 inches, but it froze overnight when the temperatures dropped into the teens.  This would make the steep climbs absolutely horrendous for those of us without microspikes.  On Wednesday, winds also became a factor with wind chills dropping to near zero.  So SLASH, SLASH, and it was cancelled.  So disappointing. 😦

But this is what we would have seen if we would have been able to go! 🙂

 

Chimney Rocks

Chimney Rocks

Today, Saturday, I had planned a nice gentle hike for Dames at Worthington Farm (part of the Monocacy Battlefield). When I scheduled the hike I imagined warm spring breezes, sunshine and spring flowers popping up along the trail.  In my head I could see the river flowing in a lazy fashion while birds flitted about singing to each other as they built their nests.  But NO, we have to endure this outlandish rainy weather that has resulted in flood warnings!  Guess hiking next to the river was out of the question. SLASH! Another one bites the dust!

However, let me just give you a little glimpse of what delights awaited us if we could have gone!

View of Baker Valley

View of Baker Valley

 

I am so bummed!  Just itching to get out with the Dames on an adventure!  Our next hike is scheduled for April 12 at Sky Meadows SP in Virginia.

If you are on the trail that day and see a bunch of women having the time of their lives, then stop and say hi! Guaranteed that bunch would be us!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

But you know what would be even better (if you are a woman over 18)?  You could join us!  http://www.meetup.com/Maryland-Trail-Dames/

Hike on!

 

8/24/13 A Great Day on the Mountain

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I didn’t know for sure when I left the house with Sidekick Pauli where I was going to go. I just knew I was headed to the mountains. Turns out my car followed the well worn road to Catoctin Mountain Park. This is definitely my goto place to find solace. It never disappoints. We started […]