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!

I can smell summer from here!

I am in the last week of my semester, both at my own community college where I teach math, and at my grad school where I am working on  second masters (for promotion…and the learning…).  Four days, peeps, FOUR DAYS!

I am ready for a break and am patiently crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s until Friday when I can officially close out this semester. It’s soooooo close I can barely stand it! 

My days have been filled with math, math, math, along with brief intermissions by the great outdoors.  No time for a big post today. Just want to share some pics of recent hiking adventures! 

Ahhh summer, I see you coming and I am all set…hike on!

C&O Canal near Shepherdstown, WV

Me (BoobOnARock) & BearSpray at Bob’s Hill overlook

Leading a TD Hike – Crossing Burnside Bridge at Antietam National Battlefield

Me (BoobOnARock) &Sidekick Pauli at Monocacy National Battlefield

Lunch spot at Sky Meadows SP

Leading a TD Hike on the Appalachian Trail in Maryland (between Pogo campground and Wolfsville road)

1st Day of Break…Airdry at Rivermist?

Monday. Disappointment for some, but for me? My first day of break…ahhh…two whole weeks before summer session begins.  And the sun! It’s back!
I poured a cup of coffee and traced my steps back to the dining room table. Plans for the day moved in and out of focus as I sipped that life giving elixer. Yes, a perfect morning.  hmmm…

What was that God awful stench? Turning my head slightly it hit me like an open sewer.  PAULI! WHAT THE HECK? I JUST GAVE YOU A BATH! OMIGAWD YOU SMELL *insert gag reflex* …JESUS! GET OUTSIDE!!!

Pulling some heavy duty paper towels out of the box and dipping them in hot water, I did my best to remove most of the offensive matter.  But that sharp stench wasn’t giving up without a fight!

Now, I had a plan.  Get out of the house! I had a few things to wrap up at school…let me just do that.

Fast forward 4 hours…

Back to the house, grab stinky Sidekick Pauli and head for Central Dawgma to give her a bath! Then to Rivermist Park for a walk and doggie air dry. The plan had come into full focus.

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Look how freaking adorable she is!

Rivermist Park has a walking trail that is perfect for folks new to walking on trails or who are looking for a quick stroll or those who walk with wheels or families with young children on trikes OR those with a dog that just got an emergency scrub down and need said dog to dry!!!
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It’s really a pretty nice little trail. Completely paved, but there are several dirt surface spurs to the Monocacy River. Walking along the trail with the trees leafed out and grasses growing wildly, it feels much more remote than it is actually.

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Big buffer between trail and townhouses

The trail is just down the hill from Walmart on Rt. 26 in Frederick. There is a place to put into the river here and the trail starts just under the Monocacy Blvd overpass.

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Looking back at parking area


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The muddy Monocacy River

Lovely variety of birds…a friend of mine came owl spotting here and was successful! Me? I saw no owls, but I don’t really hunt for them. When I see one, or when one decides to bless me with its presence, it’s magic…and obviously, is a symbol of some sort in my life…hahaaa!
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We walked, the dog and I, to the end of the trail which is in a neighborhood, then turned around and walked back.

Hurrah, the dog is dry! And guess what? Coldstone is right around the corner! Yes, I do deserve it. Hahaaaa! Hike on!

Meandering at Blueridge Center for Environmental Stewardship

What are plans anyway? Originally, I was headed to Sky Meadows. Lack of gas in the tank and money in the pocket had me rethinking that decision while rolling down 340 towards Harper’s Ferry.  Oh…yeah…Blueridge Center, I haven’t been there in years!

Turn left at the gas station just after crossing the 340 bridge, then a couple more miles I’m there. Perfect!

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There was a small parking spot left at the back of the lot. Okay, not really, but close enough! My car fit and I could open my door without hitting the car next to me…win!

Decided to pull on the waterproof boots since the trails had to be muddy.  Seriously, after a week of rain some things are a no brainer.

Fyi, good decision…you can applaud. Haha!

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Signed the trail log,and everyone, please do this, it helps them with getting grants, then down the Farmstead Loop Sidekick Pauli and I went.

We passed a small pond and an old homestead.  What’s that? Dappled sunlight on the trail! Hallelujah,  the sun is back!

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I figured we would follow Farmstead to the bridge at the creek, cross the bridge and picnic up by the bigger pond.

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Um, where’s the bridge? Well, I wasn’t so committed to the picnic by the pond after being so bluntly affronted by Mother Nature’s handiwork. Hmmm,  I’ll continue on Farmstead!

I did look to see if there was a better place to cross upstream, but no. Not today.  I am curious what this creek looks like when there hasn’t been a week of rain!

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Instead I turned onto the Pine Run Spur.  This was pleasant.  It met up with the Farmstead Loop at the top of the hill which took us to Mountain View.  This little side trail is worth it! Gorgeous view over the meadow to yes, mountains! Bluebirds flitted across the meadow chirping at each other.  We sat on the bench provided and just took it all in.  Lovely!

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Meandered back to Farmstead, then a few steps later shot off to the left on Jonathan’s Rock Trail.

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It may be just a rock to you and me…but to Sidekick Pauli it’s a mountain!

After completing the Farmstead Loop,  we circled back around to pick up the Derry loop which brought us back around to the small pond we had passed coming in. 

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I wasn’t really ready for the hike to end, but I had exhausted the network of trails on this side of the creek!

Trudging back up to my car, I was making plans to come back to reaquaint myself with the rest of the trails at Blueridge!

Happy Mother’s Day…you too Mother Nature! Hike on!

The Search for the Missing Caverns (Schoolhouse Ridge, WV)

We could write a book, Queen V and me.  Hers would have a “Little House on the Prairie” spin, while mine would be more of the “Nancy Drew” formula variety…but still.

Yesterday’s adventure started as a pre-scheduled Trail Dame hike up to Boliver Heights in which everyone had canceled except Queen V.  We took that opportunity to go rogue. So after a gentle climb up and down Bolivar Heights,  we went looking for the abandoned camp on Schoolhouse Ridge.

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We entered an area that we assume “unofficial” cars are not allowed…but there is no gate or fence keeping out curious pedestrians…hike on!

The dew laden grasses in the battlefield had soaked our shoes, so I was pleased to be hiking up a gravel road.  The air was crisp, the sky was blue, and a few leaves were showing off bright yellows and reds of autumn.

I was looking forward to revisiting the abandoned camp which Little Caesar and I had stumbled upon last year.  There is nothing quite so exciting as to inadvertently hike into something unexpected and forgotten.  It seems to open a box of memories locked in place and time.  Not my personal memories, but a collective of memories created by what I have read or seen of the time period.

We reached a fork in the road, which way?  I don’t remember so we go to the right at first, then finding nothing, turned back and took the left fork.  Ah, there it is!

Queen V states “Better to ask for forgiveness, than ask for permission.”  as we pass the first long, low building.  There are some official park vehicles behind a chain link fence.  I give little attention at first, then look again.  Oh, it was a swimming pool! Queen V steps forward pointing out how it has been filled in and oh, look there is the baby pool!

Turning our backs on the pool area we head to the other end of the building.  Here we find another shack with signage!

We are now both on our phones “googling” for information on this park.  I find nothing because I have T-Metro (T-Mobile).  Queen V is victorious, somewhat, in her search. This was an early Jellystone Campground!  We continue to poke our heads into each building, searching for clues to the past.

Just an average girl climbing up on a cement block to take a peek. Go Queen V!

Just an average girl climbing up on a cement block to take a peek. Go Queen V!

Scramble under the bushes, poke, poke, ….Oh My STARS!!! Hey Boo Boo, How about a pic-a-nic basket?!!!  THIS IS THE BEST FIND EVVVEEEEERRRR!!!

Can you believe it? The best! We are both just giddy at this point and our curiosity is at full throttle.  What else was here?  What else are you finding on Google?

“Caverns…there were caverns!” reports Queen V.   “Caverns?” I ask, just to be sure I heard her correctly.  Oh yes, now the hunt for the missing caverns began.

I found this online...there are caverns!

I found this online…there are caverns!

We hiked further up the road.  Veering right at the next fork we found the cracked, old pavement ended and our wade through thigh high grasses began.  It was still a road, just unpaved and not frequently used. We found a power hook up, like an RV or trailer would use when camping and looking around discovered we were in one of the old campground areas.  Overgrown and forgotten, including the bath house.  But no caverns.

We hiked up past the maintenance area, into another campground loop long forgotten.  More power hook ups, but now with an addition of water pumps!  And security lights floating above the trees that looked like flying saucers. 🙂

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But still no caverns! Online resources stated the caverns had been “adjacent” to the campground, so they had to be here somewhere!

We stomped up and down and all around Schoolhouse Ridge until our stomachs were growling and our feet were sloshing in our shoes.  Still nothing! Where could the missing caverns be located?

We headed back downhill, not satisfied with our search, we discussed next steps.  “We can leave a car here in the parking lot, then drive further up the road…there has to be something!” I said confidently.  Okay, good plan! Let’s do it! So we did.

We took my car and drove about a hundred feet up the road to the Train Museum.  I turned in and we found ourselves in the middle of yet another adventure! Only $2 to take the train ride???  OH WE ARE DOING THIS…wait, do we have any paper money? I found three crumpled dollar bills and Queen V found a dollar’s worth of change in her wallet…train ride on!

“Hey, do you know about the caverns around here?” I asked the conductor.  Of course he did and told us he would fill us in after the ride. 🙂 🙂 🙂

This guy had information on the caverns! After the train ride, he happily gave us a little history lesson.

This guy had information on the caverns! After the train ride, he happily gave us a little history lesson.

I think we had more fun than the kids on the train!

I think we had more fun than the kids on the train!

The Train guy’s story:
The campground closed in the 1970s. “It would have been miserable up there in the summer. No trees then, just out there in the middle of the field.” He shows us an old post card. A view from above, happy campers lounging by the pool with the long low house in which Yogi now resided. “Oh yeah, the caverns are up there, but they filled them in too…they were collapsing anyway. Pretty dangerous.” he finished.

We still want to find those old caverns…but for now the missing caverns will have to remain missing for us! Hike on!

Great Hike Near Frederick, Maryland on the AT (6.4 miles)

Got a couple of hours?  Have you ever visited the original Washington Monument?

Well, you could just drive up but why???  This is a nice out and back hike to the Monument on the Appalachian Trail (AT).

Park at the Rt 40 parking lot for the AT (new 40, not the old 40 that goes past South Mountain Inn).

Head south on the AT passing over I-70 on the bridge.  I drive under this bridge frequently … it was super exciting to walk across this bridge the first time I took this hike!  You will love it and if you have kids, they will definitely be loving the semi tractor trailers zooming just below their feet! They might even get a few honks! 🙂 🙂

Bridge over I-70

Bridge over I-70

Once over the bridge, the AT squeezes between two houses.  Respect the boundaries for the AT!

Cross the road and continue on the AT as it heads slightly uphill and passes the Bartram Trail.  The Bartram Trail links to Greenbrier State Park.

Many animals make their home along the trail, deer, bear, and even turtles!

What a cute little guy!

What a cute little girl! If the turtle had red eyes, then it would be a boy.

This is also a nice trail for dogs.  Sidekick Pauli loves to hikes here!

After about a mile, the trail crosses Boonesboro Mountain Road.  Be careful! Traffic can come though here pretty fast!
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The rest of the hike is wooded and shady with two power line crossings.  Some of the trail is smooth easy walking while other parts are rocky.
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Most of the hills are small and increase elevation slowly, that is until you get just past the second powerline crossing.  At that point, the trail makes its final climb up to the Washington Monument.
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The first time I did this hike I packed a picnic lunch and walked the 3.2 miles to the Washington Monument.  Sitting in the shade of the apple tree, I ate my picnic lunch while taking in the view of the Monument and Boonesboro in the valley below.  Then I backtracked 3.2 miles to my car in the Rt. 40 lot.  It was very peaceful!
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Enjoy!

Get Outside!

and Hike on! 🙂