Labor Day at the Lake

Silly me forgot to block this day out for Office Hour appointments. Two in the morning and one late afternoon. I figured I would salvage my Labor Day with a hike around Lake Habeeb at Rocky Gap State Park in Maryland. Good call, if I do say so myself!

After hiking around half of the lake, I stopped under the shade of an oak tree near the shore. I stretched out my big red poncho, threw my shoes carelessly over into the grass, and leaned back to look up at the sky. Temperature in the upper seventies, blue skies, puffy clouds, a few yellow leaves littered the ground around me, and frequent breezes that kept the water splashing onto the bank.

As I sat there, two Jay’s started a heated discussion, accompanied by a chorus from the crickets. A family of kayakers floated past, father and small child closer to the bank; Mom chasing a dinosaur float toy that the wind was pushing just out of her reach. After several minutes she was successful in corralling Dino and all was well! In the background, like white noise, I could hear the joyous racket of children at the beach. Ahhh, the end of summer. It was absolute bliss!

In the woods, a variety of fungi lined the path. I felt beckoned to consider that I needed to let some things “die” to make room for new growth. Still thinking on that…

The breeze picked up…was that a chill? When did that dark cloud get here? Guess it was time to move on around the rest of the lake…and pick up my own pace! Hike on!

Back on the Trail with the Dames!

Being the organizer of Trail Dames isn’t all fun and games! ๐Ÿ˜€ During the pandemic, I needed to reduce the number of Dames per hike to 5 (6 tops if we had two hike leaders attending). This was not always supported by all Dames and I heard my fair share of complaints! However, most of the Dames were supportive of the measures taken to ensure the safety of all.

The Dames are picking back up now that vaccinations are increasing! Starting in May, we will increase to 8 Dames per hike, then by the time the hot days roll around, depending on health metrics, we may go back to allowing 10 per hike (our usual). And…shameless plug…if you are a woman OR know a woman in Maryland who wants to get outdoors and hike with a bunch of supportive women, then go to https://traildames.com/Maryland.html to find out more!

Last weekend I led the Dames on a hike around the lake at Rocky Gap State Park. It started rather briskly with temperatures in the freezing range. Of course, our hike started on the shady side of the lake and I quickly made the choice to don my gloves as the cool breeze was turning my fingers into icy pops!

The trail looked like it had been mushy, mucky mud the day before. It was frozen hard for us and we were thankful as our feet stayed dry. The walking was tricky through all the frozen potholes, though! No mind, we were distracted by morning song of the Red-wing Blackbird and the perfect reflection on the lake of a flock of honking geese coming in for a landing. We spotted a Killdeer and Osprey as we continued our path around the lake.

It was turning out to be a beautiful early spring day! Blue skies that make one stop and gaze at the sky, sun rays that warm ever so gently, and the company of a wonderful group of women!

We took a sit down break at the Canyon Overlook. This spot is back among the evergreens. *inhale* Ahhhh…the smell of a coniferous forest! The rocks were still cold, the air was fresh, and my peanut butter and jelly sandwich tasted fantastic! Once we sit down in the forest to eat, it feels like a field trip to me. Like a second grade adventure…and I love that!! ๐Ÿ˜€

Walking around lakes are deceiving! It always looks shorter than it really is…so many little coves to walk around. The sun was with us on the northwest side of the lake. Evidence of spring was starting to show … little tiny sprouts of green, a small yellow flower hiding in last fall’s leaves, and spring peepers! A welcome sound in these parts!!

Queen V was along for this adventure, which means there is going to be some kind of shenanigan! This time was no different and she had the Dames pose with a Turtle Crossing sign. Completely appropriate for this group of trail crawlers! ๐Ÿ˜€ So, so glad to be back on the trail with these women!! Hike on!

Trail Dames of Maryland!

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? ๐Ÿค”

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. ๐Ÿพ

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.

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. ๐Ÿ˜„

Then to top it all off…an Eagle swooped above us! What a great omen for 2020!

Hike on!

Pine Lick Trail – Green Ridge State Forest

Green Ridge State Forest is, as yet, untapped hiking opportunities for me. I set out to scout the Pine Lick Trail with a couple of other hike leaders from the Maryland Trail Dames.

After meeting at Forest HQ off of I-68, we piled into my car to find the beginning of the trail.

Google maps got us to an approximate location, then we were on our own. Luckily, we spotted a blaze from the car! Nothing that looked like a trail…yet.

Dropped pin
Near Pennsylvania
https://maps.app.goo.gl/2NrhSACYwG25eUQ37

Spotting a trail sign down in the woods, I high stepped over some poison ivy and other brush to investigate. Success! We had found the trail!

Now to park…sketchy at best.

The Pine Lick Trail meets up with the MidState Trail here. The MidState Trail goes north to Buchanan State Forest in Pennsylvania.

We took a pic at the Mason Dixon Line, then set off going south. It was 6 miles back to HQ. We were excited to see what we would find!

A few small hills, then level, flat, soft trail. What a delight!

There were several trail signs to keep us motivated and frequent blazes. ๐Ÿ˜€ Very easy to follow the trail, even though it was overgrown in many places!

What the heck does “SNAG” mean?

We passed a massive, lovely campsite…and it only costs $10 a night!!!

Just after, a beautiful meadow, then we descended to the bottom lands near “Fifteen Mile Creek”. The trail follows, and crosses, the creek many times. This included rockhopping, crossing on one super sloping bridge (a sign later on said this bridge was closed), and some log crossings.

Just before the super slopey bridge, we had come across a swimming hole that looked mighty inviting. Making plans for a “Dog Days of August” hike and swim adventure!

I was surprised that we did not see any bears! We flushed out a wild turkey accidentally, crossed paths with a few newts, salamanders, lizards, and one Wolf Spider…but no bears.

Coming upon the Pine Lick Shelter, we stopped to check it out. The area behind the shelter looked like a jungle.

We stopped for lunch at a backcountry campsite on the banks of the creek. Then it was up, up, up a very eroded hill. It felt like if we made on wrong move we would slide all the way back down!

As we neared I-68, and yes, the trail gets so close to the highway you could literally jump over the guard rail!

Before that, however, we again met with overgrown trail.

Parting the way with my hiking poles, we slowly made our way through. No snakes, yay!

On the other side of the bridge we lost the trail for about 10 minutes because it was so overgrown. However, we knew we were in the right area, so once we did find a blaze, we backtracked to see if we could determine where we had gone the wrong way. We are pretty confident it was just after coming under the bridge. The trail goes left up the hill, we had continued to follow the creek. (Our way was less overgrown…I do not regret our path!)

Up, up, up again!

Three hot climbs later and we were happily, finally, back at the car! We recorded our trek at 7 miles. Here are the official specs…hike on!

Snowy Silence at Greenbrier State Park

I haven’t hiked alone in a very long time. I had forgotten how it felt.

We had a “weather event” last night that left a fresh coat of snow on the trees and ground. This, of course, made this trip into the forest quite magical!

I pulled in to the trail head parking lot at 8:30 am…not a soul around. Threw my microspikes, extra layer, and lunch into my backpack and entered a snowy wonderland.

Stream crossing first thing. I stopped and stood beside the creek after crossing. It had started to snow again. It was so quiet… the gurgling water, a few birds chattering in the brambles…the wind as it came over the ridge…but nothing else.

I closed my eyes and tilted my head up to the steel gray sky. Snowflakes landed on my cheeks and I thought how perfect this moment.

I whispered, to the woods … to myself, “It’s been too long.”

I walked through the falling snow, up the hill, towards the lake at Greenbrier State Park. Looking back at my foot prints, I wondered if they would be covered when I headed back.

I did not see anyone on the trail until I got to the lake.

Even then, only two guys fishing on the banks. We exchanged cheerful greetings, then silence enveloped the mountain once more. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hike on!

First Snow

The first snow is magical. We were only forecasted for rain and ice primarily…so when the soft, white flakes started to slowly drift lazily from sky to earth I felt my spirits soar.

The snow steadily filled my yard. Covering up mounds of mulch needing to be spread, the dry, dormant rose bushes, and gravel pathway. All was quiet. I lit a few candles and settled into winter.

Overnight, the skies, now empty, cleared to dark blue broken by long silvery gray-white clouds that moved with haste from west to east.

Morning is now. I greet this day, my day, my 51st anniversary with Mother Earth, with wonder.

Let the light in. Say a prayer of gratitude. Hike on.

Lovely Morning at Antietam

Well, this has been a winner of a morning in western Maryland! Crisp, I kid you not, CRISP air greeted me as I followed Sidekick Pauli out into the yard this morning. Like Autumn…what an absolute blessing after the pea souper of a week we have had!

Sweetie and I headed over South Mountain for a walk at Antietam National Cemetery. I have been to the battlefield many times, but never the cemetery. It did not disappoint.

I sought out the graves for Indiana soldiers killed in battle and perused for last names that I knew from home. The only one I found was ‘Evans’. I moved on through the pines and circled around to the other side of the cemetery. Here I found a grave that seemed oddly out of place.

This grave belongs to Goodloe Byron, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971-1978. His term ended when he died of a heart attack while running on the nearby C&O canal. He was an avid runner having completed several marathons…and seemed to believe he could eat whatever he wanted. Unfortunately, not so.

He ignored warnings from his physician who told him that treadmill tests from 1974 to 1978 indicated his coronary arteries were gradually closing. The last treadmill test in January 1978 indicated severe abnormality and was positive for heart disease. The physician advised Byron to stop running until further tests could be done.

Hmm, okay…let that be a lesson to us all!

Anyway, interesting story, but still not sure why he is buried with civil war soldiers.

Exiting the cemetery, we drove down to Burnside Bridge and stolled down the Final Attack trail and Union Advance trail.

Refreshing cool breezes kept us perfectly content with life as we rounded through sunny fields and then into cool dark woods. We found plump ripe rasberries, a variety of wildflowers, and blue birds.

Ahh, this is the kind of morning that makes me want to live forever! Heed that lesson from G. Byron’s premature death and Hike on!

How to Handle a Hot February Humpday

1. Leave office, which by the way, was one- hundred and fifty-seven degrees, to go home for lunch.

2. Change into cooler clothes… meaning scan closet, or rather dig into the deep, dark, spider-ridden corners for clothes not seen since last August.

3. Make decision to wear clothes that you can run to the mountains in after work.

4. Call your codependent hiking friend and tell her to meet you at the trail head at 5pm. (FYI she came from a funeral… No lie…*silently crossing myself* )

5. Get to trail, get rained on, smell the pines!

Hike on!

,

The Deep Freeze Delights of Winter

Well, happy new year and happy outdoor adventuring to everyone! Here is hoping your toes are warm, your furnace is cranking, and the pipes haven’t burst at your house.

I kicked off the new year with the Trail Dames, heading out on the best possible day last week…yay! Temps rising into the twenties!!ย  What an absolute delight.

I led the Dames on a 6 mile loop at Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, Maryland.ย  This is one of my favorite hiking spots and home to Camp David for you political junkies.ย  Occasionally, the trails are shut down when the President is at Camp David.ย  This isn’t very often with the current administration.ย  So stomp on down the trails, no secret service to stop you!

Our route started at the Visitor Center.ย  We were all giddy with the blue skies and promise of increasing temperatures, despite it being 17 degrees as we pulled into the lot and greeted each other.ย  The Visitor Center opens at 9 am…important information if you like to hit the bathrooms before heading down the trail.ย  Dames LOVE bathrooms at the beginning of a hike!!! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

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Shedding Some Layers!

We started uphill first heading in the direction of Thurmont Vista.ย  This warmed us up!ย  We took our first break at the Vista, then continued around to Wolf Rocks.

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We made a half – ass effort to investigate the top of Wolf Rocks, but with ice and snow covering most of the rocks we retreated without argument andย  stomped on to Chimney Rocks.ย  We took a longer break at Chimney Rocks.ย  It is a nice spot for a break since there are many rocks to sit upon.

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Retreat from Wolf Rocks

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Winter View from Chimney Rocks

Kudos to the park maintainers because they have now blazed the trails in a variety of happy colors and put in benches for restful contemplation of the universe in many spots along the trails.

Leaving Chimney Rocks, it was all downhill, steeply, to park headquarters, then a rolling mile back to our cars.ย  It was a beautiful way to kick off 2018!

May all your hiking goals be met this year (in spite of the frigid start).ย  Hike on!