Back on the Trail with the Dames!

Being the organizer of Trail Dames isn’t all fun and games! 😀 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!! 😀

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! 😀 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? 🤔

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. 🐾

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. 😄

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. 😀 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!

Beavers Been Busy at Seneca Creek State Park!

Today’s hike at Seneca Creek State Park convinced me that I have just about fully recovered from a sciatica injury. An injury that resulted from too many hours in the car driving back from Hoosierland at Thanksgiving.

Since then I have been in physical rehab land…not much hiking there!

I was a little concerned that a hike of six miles might be too much. I did some extra stretches and went anyway. 🙂

Glorious day out with my good hiking pal, Lola. The weather was chilly to start. Frost made meadows glitter seductively. I stopped several times to snap photos…and to consciously check in with my body. All good! Down the trail we go!

The sky was bright blue and birds chirped happily. It warmed up enough to shed a layer. I also ditched the gloves and the hat!

Walking around the lake, Lola pointed out the handiwork of the local beaver population. They have been BUSY!!

We looked everywhere for a dam,but never found one. We never saw a beaver either, which I found quite curious with the abundant quantity of felled trees!

I stopped to sit and stretch once we had rounded the lake. Those beavers. All that work, all that sheer tenacity to try to fell trees way too big, and from the looks of it…not even one decent dam on the lake. Could be my spirit animal 🙂 🙂 🙂

Happy New Year and 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.

AT – VA Compton Gap to Rt. 522: My 5 Favorite Things!

My 5 favorite things from yesterday’s day on the Appalachian Trail – not in any particular order! 🙂

1. We, the Maryland Trail Dames, were blessed to see a woman break the record for running the AT through Shenandoah National Park!

2. A deer quietly walked by us, stopping for a moment to take us all in.

3. Creek crossings!

4. Meeting ‘Disco’, a flip-flop through hiker making his way down to Springer Mountain.

5. The pictures and stories by Ms. Harron’s 2nd Graders at Ressie Jeffrey Elementary that are displayed in the kiosk at the Rt 522 Trailhead in Front Royal! Love, love, love…read every story!

I am just so happy to see the trail and love for nature nurtured in children!

This is what trail magic looks like to me 😍 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!

,

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! 🙂 I inserted a link to a video of his performance. 🙂

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. 🙂 🙂

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

 

In the Meadows High and Low

Sky Meadows is such a lovely state park in Virginia.  This park was a choice I made without a lot of thinking about it.  The weather was forecasted to turn cooler and I was in need of a walk alone…well, with Sidekick Pauli, but without other humans.  A total introvert retreat!

I parked away from the main parking lot.  Partly because I really didn’t want to see a lot of people yet, but partly because I needed to put my boots on, get my pack together, then get Pauli.  A bit easier without being in a tight parking lot.  So, I pulled right towards the picnic area just after paying my entrance fee at the gate.  No one was in this little lot yet!

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I hadn’t parked here before and found it to be a great spot with easy access to the Hadow Trail.  We took this trail around the lower meadow.  What a glorious morning! The wildflowers were thick along each side of the trail and throughout the woods.  Goldenrod, thistle, and other beauties whose names elude me waved gently in the breeze making the background of blue skies pop as if I were looking at them through polarized lenses.  And the scent of Autumn wafted by occasionally making me burst with happiness!  The change in seasons is coming!

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When the Hadow Trail intersected with the Boston Mill Road, we turned left to pick up the South Ridge Trail.  Well, I could tell it was still summer as the sun rose higher in the sky and we did the same.  Whew, broke a sweat!  Sidekick Pauli needed two water breaks before we made the ridgeline by taking the North Ridge Trail up the final ascent to the AT.

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Once on the ridge it was just bliss.  The breezes picked up and even felt slightly chilly! We left the AT to swing around through the upper meadow to the Paris overlook.  I didn’t want to come down the mountain.  It was so lovely looking down on the surrounding countryside with my feet propped up and mind wandering.  Sidekick Pauli took up residence under the picnic table, coming out only for cheese.

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It was here, my bliss bubble started to spring a leak.  This was September 11.  I had intermittently thought about that day on my way up the mountain.  Here at the top, my mind finally settled on those memories.  I didn’t lose anyone that day, thankfully.  But the day was awful and scary.  My son was 7 years old, so in a rare unification between his dad and me, we decided no media was the best media.  He knew what had happened before I picked him up from school, but as a 7 year old, he only knew so much.  He was scared too.  We lived in Bethesda, Maryland at the time, and the planes flew very low over the house all day.  My son would panic if we went upstairs because he was afraid the planes would fly into our house.  So unless we needed the bathroom, we stayed downstairs.  One of my sisters lived in New York, and of course, no way to know…but we figured she was fine…I mean, we reasoned, what would she be doing near the WTC anyway?  Another sister, who was a foreign service officer, was doing language training in Arlington.  She hitched her way back into Maryland, along with thousands of others.

It is a day I will never forget. The internet has made way too many images from that day too easily accessible.  I cannot un-see some of those images.  I can’t imagine the horror that first responders encountered.  I don’t want to even think about it.  So many people, in a flash, gone.

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I once heard that one should not mourn the dead, but instead mourn the living.  Wait, that may have come from a Harry Potter book…no matter.

A rather big wind, that blew my pack off the table, brought me out of my dark trip down memory lane.  I packed up and we hiked down the mountain.  I felt sad and I felt happy, a strange way to be.  But as long as I am gifted with this life I intend on living.  Hike on.