May 29 Last Full Day Shenandoah Weekend!

Today I revisited a trail I had not hiked in 20 years.  The last time I was on this climb to Hawksbill, I had baby Logan on my hip.  He was about 2 years old and walking like a fiend! So I would put him down to walk for awhile, then carry him for awhile when those little chubby legs got tired.  🙂

I started from the upper Hawksbill parking lot, then after visiting the view at the top, looped down to lower Hawksbill, around on the AT, then up again on the Salamander trail.  Nice loop!  And Sidekick Pauli made three summits this weekend!!  Mary’s Rock, Loft Mountain, and Hawksbill – good job, doggie!

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“I’m a freakin’ mountain goat.” ~Sidekick Pauli

Coming around on the AT I ran into “JustSue” setting up a table of Trail Magic for the thru-hikers at Hawksbill Gap.  Trail Magic in the form of ham sandwiches, Little Debbie’s  and other delights.  I didn’t have anywhere to be very fast, so I stopped and chatted with “JustSue”.   She had her grandson helping her but he had run off down the trail somewhere so at the moment it truly was just Sue!  Sidekick Pauli also enjoyed meeting JustSue, but was ready to move after a bit, so we said our goodbyes and sidled on down the trail.  I left her in good spirits and was able to pass the joy to thru-hikers coming down the trail.  “TRAIL MAGIC AHEAD!!!”

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“JustSue” and her Trail Magic!

I love this section of the AT.  The rocks are beautifully adorned with fern, succulents, and other wildflowers.  The talus slopes (think rock slides) made me a little nervous with Pauli along and no hiking poles.  Thought I would have trouble negotiating through, but nope! We got through like champs, we did!

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Arriving at the intersection of the Salamander trail, a great rock awaited us providing a lovely spot for lunch.  With the added benefit of being able to lighten the load in the pack before climbing up to Hawksbill again! 🙂   Ever the opportunist.

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Salamander Trail to the left, AT to the right, Lunch!

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Salamander Trail…going up!

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Holy cow!!! I found the Keebler’s Elf House! I asked for cookies, but those darn elves didn’t answer my knock on the door. 😦

 

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One more look at the summit of Hawksbill, then back to the car we go!

We timed the route around and back to the car just right. Plop…plop…plop, ping, plop, ping, plop, ppppppppplopitypingpingplopplopplop…deluge!  Sidekick Pauli is amazing at getting me back to the car before it rains! We were high and dry!  Not so for many other sorry folks I saw dragging themselves back to cars parked too far away for comfort.  I could feel their shivers as I drove back to the campsite.

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Another Momma, not the Dog Hater, but not a dog lover either.  Escorted us kindly, but firmly, out of Big Meadows that morning!

After the rain and back at the campsite, guess who comes strolling with determination towards our tent?  The dog hating Momma deer.  Great.  I took Pauli to the car and waited, but forgot my hot coffee on the picnic table.  “Don’t mess with my coffee, Miss Momma of the Year!”

No trouble here, I’m just visiting!  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! 😉

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 27 Day 2 of Shenandoah Weekend!

Appalachian Trail Day: Pinnacle Picnic Grounds to Mary’s Rock

5:30 am, why is it that I cannot sleep in???

Put some water on to heat for tea with my little Esbit stove, then attended to Sidekick Pauli.  She refuses to eat plain kibble when we camp.  Don’t worry, I spiced it up with some doggie yum. 🙂

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Do you spoil your dog much? 

Headed out to Pinnacle Picnic Grounds to hike the section of the AT to Mary’s Rock (and back).  Full disclosure here…I didn’t want to run into any bears in the woods with Sidekick Pauli.  I didn’t know how she would react.  So part of my choosing this hike is because it is up on a ridge, and I figured the bears would be down low munching up all the green stuff they could find.

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Headed to Mary’s Rock (and back)

Even so, setting off down the trail at just after 7 am, I was verbally pointing out all the sights to Sidekick Pauli!  “Oh, look at that flower! Did you see the fog hanging in the top of that tree?” hahahaaaa  …and so on!

We didn’t run into any bears along the trail, thank goodness!  Although, after the hut, there was bear scat. That sent me, again, into Chatty Kathy mode for awhile.

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Looking north towards Mary’s Rock from the Pinnacle

This section of the AT has some beautiful views.  It also has some nice ups and downs! The day felt much warmer than it was as we rolled along the ridge towards Mary’s Rock.  However, I am marking this section as one to come back and do in the fall.  It would be absolutely stunning with the fall colors.

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Just so we are clear that this is the AT

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At Mary’s Rock

Sidekick Pauli had a delightful time meeting everyone on the trail EXCEPT stupid people with dogs.  There is a leash law for a reason people.  And don’t look at me like my dog is the problem!!!

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Sidekick Pauli at Mary’s Rock

 

Anyway, no reason to get too hot under the collar because we, well I, was already sweating buckets by the time we had hiked back to Pinnacle Picnic Grounds.  I was so hot, I literally soaked my head down before driving back to Big Meadows.  Ahhhhh refreshing!

So another micro-section of the AT completed! Hike on!

Shenandoah NP – Dickey Ridge Trail (10 miles)

Quick before it starts raining again, let’s go hiking!  I was all set to meet my hiking gals at the north end of the Dickey Ridge Trail (just outside of Shenandoah NP).  Arriving a bit early, I busied myself with pulling on my boots, putting stuff in my pack, then leaned back in my seat to wait. BearSpray and Lola had pulled up behind me and parked. I happened to look up and “Oh, A BEAR!!!”  I waved frantically at BearSpray hoping she see the bear too! She only caught the tail end of it as it lumbered into the woods.  😦

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Welcome to the park!

WELL, I have to tell you that got my hopes up very, very high for seeing another bear on our hike!

When the full crew had arrived we shuttled to the south end of the trail at Compton Gap.  It was colder and windier than some of us had anticipated…fur lined gloves anyone?

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The badass Fashionista! and that little crocheted knapsack…adorbs!

So off we went into the woods, following a fire road to the beginning of the Dickey Ridge Trail!

I was hoping for wildflowers…and a view or two.  Turns out the first mile was just trail and woods, a few common purple flowers, and wind.  But so beautiful! The green in the forest was so fresh, and the blue of the sky was sublime.  I kept optimistic!  Spring had come late to my neck of the woods in Maryland, so I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t see much spring in the mountains.  But still, it’s Mid May!!!

I was rewarded intermittently.  Walk for awhile, then ooooo ahhhhhh, click click with the camera phone, move on!

 

Coming down into Low Gap, another trail crossed ours.  There was no sign post, and we stopped for a minute wondering whether there might be a view if we took the trail to the left.   We opted to move forward on the Dickey Ridge crossing Skyline Drive and up the next hill.  I am still thinking about that trail to the left, though.  I feel like someone had mentioned that trail to me before…but it’s gone now.  Note to self to go back and explore later!

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S.I. Buttercup on her way down into Low Gap

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BearSpray keeps watch, while Lola checks the map 🙂

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Up the hill after Low Gap

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Smirk of Satisfaction after making to the top!

The wind blew us openings in the trees now and then allowing us to view the valley below us.  Beautiful! A winter hike would afford some amazing vistas from this trail!

After several miles, we were wondering whether we would get an open view at all.  After passing the Snead Farm Loop trail, there was a side trail that went steeply up.  It looked promising so Buttercup and I made our way up and…nothing.  Well, not nothing.  We saw this building.  Later I found out this was an FAA site (from the map).

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FAA site on Dickey Hill

Buttercup headed back down, then so did I …but then started yelling down to her “to the right, to the right!!!!!! Buttercup, to the right!” Yessssss! A payoff after walking through the enchanted green forest!

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Looking down on BearSpray from our perch above! Lunch spot!

We were enraptured.  Buttercup and I sat up on the hill, withstanding the cold wind while we ate our lunch, completely mesmerized with the view.  BearSpray eventually came up to join us from below and was equally blown away (with wind and view)!

This spot is only about a mile and a half south of the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, so very doable! One does need to climb up the hill, but seriously, worth it.

When we had gotten so cold we couldn’t stand it any longer we got back to trekking down the trail. Next stop the visitor center, then down the hill to our cars.

The last mile or so was surprisingly different and wonderful!

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The trail follows a gurgling stream (especially vocal after the rain we’ve had)…happy home for turtles.

The birds were singing, families were out exploring, and there was a feeling of absolute contentment along this stretch.  I felt I was being replenished after going up and down all those hills. 🙂

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The end of a wonderful trek in Shenandoah NP!

Sadly, no more bear sightings on today’s hike…but there is always next time! Hike on! 🙂

 

C&Ohhhhh Crap! My Feet Hurt! Canal

A couple of years ago I was hiking on the C&O Canal up by Shepherdstown, WV when I crossed paths with a woman who had hiked up from Harper’s Ferry.  I had never thought about hiking to Shepherdstown from Harper’s Ferry.  Since then I hadn’t really ever stopped thinking about it.  I mean, it would be really neat to walk to Shepherdstown and have a great lunch, wouldn’t it?  Well, wouldn’t it??? I finally got the chance to find out! And a few hiking pals willingly agreed to come along. 🙂

We met at the C&O Canal across the river from Shepherdstown, then shuttled to Harper’s Ferry.  Thanks to hiker pal Thelma we were sporting a national park pass and did not have to pay to park at the train station in Harper’s Ferry!  This was a good sign, as were the sunny skies, warm sun and bathrooms in the train station. 🙂

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We left our hiking poles in the car, joking about how tough this flat hike would be.  Queen V commented on the “strenuous” elevation gain as we walked up the ramp to the railroad bridge that crosses the river to the canal.  Crossing the railroad bridge, we descended the spiral staircase down to the canal and headed north to Shepherdstown.
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Chatting lightheartedly, we walked briskly and the miles flew by.  At the first campground hiker pal L promptly tried out a “chair” she found.  Dargans Bend at mile 64.9 called us in for a quick break and stretch, then we were off again! Still all smiles!
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The Potomac River was moving fast in the other direction. Small white capped waves bullied their way south, made ever stronger by the recent heavy rains and melting snow. As beautiful as the river was, after so many miles, it made me feel as if on a treadmill.  Walking, ever walking, were we getting closer?  Except for the small brown mile markers that counted  down the miles, there was no way of knowing.

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Thanks to Thelma for this pic!

 

Near mile marker 65 Queen V and I explored some old limestone kilns and soon after I was pulled off the towpath once again to explore a cave with Anna Marie!
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Then we stomped on to Antietam Creek campground.  Arriving at the campground, it was time to sit down and get off our feet!  That flat walking was taking its toll on all of us.  While we sat there at the campground I kind of drifted off into thoughts like, “I should’ve brought another pair of socks…I hope these sore spots on my feet aren’t blisters…shin splints? No not even thinking about that.” then I looked to the blue, blue sky and caught a glimpse of … is that a…yes, oh, then out loud I exclaimed “hey look!!! an Eagle!!”
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It soared majestically overhead, circling higher and higher, then moved on regardless of how hard we willed it to come and roost in the trees nearby.
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It was now time for us to move on as well, not too much more now!  We can do this! We passed mile marker 71, then 72.  Wait, wasn’t that supposed to be the last one!  We had come almost 13 miles.  My steps were slow now.  Just one foot in front of the other.  It was getting harder. My legs were stiff, and the threat of shin splints was ever greater.  No, no, no! That will not happen!  I took my head out of the pain and focused on the cold beer and taco salad that would be waiting for me in Shepherdstown.
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It worked…I slogged that last mile with dignity (as excruciating as it was to lift each foot and put it down on that blasted hard packed gravel covered canal). Arriving at the car I was definitely ready for comfort and cursed my lack of forethought in leaving my flip flops back in Harper’s Ferry.  I fell into Queen V’s brand new car, feeling slightly guilty at leaving mud on the passenger side floor mat.  But then we were moving.  Oh the pleasure of a car after a long, long, walk!

Hike on!

Breaking Out of the February Funk!

Even though February is the shortest month, it certainly seems to last forever. As I wait for the daffodils to arrive, however, a gift arrived! A gift only Mother Nature could give to us winter weary Marylanders.  (seriously, our winter has been incredibly mild except for that outburst of sheer crazy a few weeks ago, so I don’t really know why it feels like we need to rush on to Spring …but it does!!)  Anyway, a gift! A weekend that tempted us with delightfully spring like weather.  The birds were singing, the ice was melting, rivers flooding, and I ran for the hills.

I jumped the gun a bit and headed out on Friday when the weather only hinted at warmth that would not come until Saturday.  The smell of fresh mud permeated my nostrils as soon as Sidekick Pauli and I exited the car at Worthington Farm, part of Monocacy National Battlefield.  However, heading up Brooks Hill we found snow and ice.  Not enough for traction devices on my boots, but enough to require picking our way along at a snail’s pace until we got about half way up the hill.  Then the trail was dry!

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View of Baker Valley from Brooks Hill

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Bottom of the Hill…Again with the snow!

Of course, we again encountered the tricky stuff on the way down, but the day was just gorgeous.  You know when the breezes are not quite as chilling and almost feel warm?  That is how it was!  We would be chilly, then rounding a bend in the trail meet with a warmish puff of air.  Very exciting!  After coming down Brooks Hill, we rounded Ford’s Loop by the Monocacy river.  Super gooey, suck your boots off muddy!  The river had just recently receded into its proper banks and left debris and mud on the trail.  A sure sign of Spring!!!

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Sidekick Pauli surveying the flood plain

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Still high water! Sidekick Pauli was not pleased…this is where her beach usually is!

So that was fun.  Saturday came the real delight though! 65 degrees!!!!!! Wazooo!  Oh my gawd, let’s all go hiking!!!  I had errands in the morning, so I set off for Cunningham Falls State Park at about 2:30 pm.  Parking my car at the Catoctin Furnace on the east side of route 15, Sidekick Pauli and I followed the Catoctin Furnace Trail through the woods and over the pedestrian bridge to pick up the Catoctin Trail up to Bob’s Hill overlook.

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Glad I didn’t have to cross Little Hunting Creek today!

This is not a long hike, but a steep one!  After crossing the pedestrian bridge follow the creek to the Catoctin Trail.  It is a right turn up the hill and steep right from the get go!  The trail was slushy, but not terribly difficult to maneuver.  The trail gives hikers nice breaks between the steep sections, leveling out for awhile where one can meander along as if no effort was needed at all to climb to such a height.  Then, of course, just as you get comfortable, the trail heads back up again!

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This was the perfect place to hike on this Spring preview day!  I only saw a handful of other hikers (and I bet Shenandoah NP was packed!)

But was I done with this weekend???? NOOOOOOOO! Even though it rained off and on come Sunday, I was not going to stay inside.  Okay, well, I was…but then as I came out of Joanne’s Fabrics down on 40, I glanced at the mountains. Their summits were so beautifully draped in fog that I could not resist!  I turned down 40 headed for Gambrill State Park hoping to walk through the woods with the mist swirling about me.

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CCC Memorial in Gambrill State Park

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I was ecstatic, just magical.

What an absolute wonderful gift this weekend has been. Almost March! Hike on!

Blockhouse Point Conservation Area

Blockhouse Point is a great little park in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Sidekick Pauli helped me scout this hike so I could lead a group here.  By the way, those of you who read the last post of mine know that Sidekick Pauli went in for surgery for a lump that grew rather quickly on her neck.  Her surgery went great and they were able to get all cancerous tissue out!!  So it was cancerous, but prognosis is fantastic!  She will probably be scouting hikes with me for a long time to come! 🙂 🙂

I visited Blockhouse Point on three different occasions to get the feel of the place since it was brand new to me.  The first time my son and niece tagged along.  Of course, we were caught up  in conversation and got off on the wrong trail.  We had wanted to loop, but this trail did not do that.  Turns out we had gotten on the last leg of the Muddy Branch Trail! Made a note to look this trail up later for future adventures in MoCo!

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The second time was better planned out and Sidekick Pauli was in tow!  We headed down the Canyon Trail, crossed over to Blockhouse Point Trail, then out to Blockhouse Point.  This was before Sidekick Pauli’s surgery and she was delighted to pull me along the trail smelling all things new and exciting.  I was expecting a little more of an overlook, but the views of the river were tremendously satisfying!  Pauli was a little antsy, so I let her lead us back to the car instead of heading out to the second overlook on the Paw Paw trail.  It looked a bit cloudy and felt like a storm was moving in. Sure enough as soon as we got to the car, the skies opened up!  Thank you, Sidekick Pauli, for keeping me dry!!!

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The third visit I practically ran down the trails.  I wanted to scout out the Paw Paw overlook.  I am so glad I did.  It is definitely the nicer overlook.  Expansive views of the river to the northwest.  Very understandable why this point was used in the Civil War.  Another neat feature is the C&O Canal is just below the bluffs, so you can “spy” bicyclists, walkers, and horse riders all day if you like while you sit high above on the rocks.  haha!

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I do need to advise that the Turkey Fan Trail has been rerouted.  This caused me a little confusion the first time out there… not hard to figure out…just weird trying to put together where exactly you are on the Blockhouse Point Trail if you have never been to the area.  So a heads up!

Also, I’ve heard there is a way to do a big loop by following an unmarked trail behind Calithea Horse Farm, then pick up the C&O Canal.   Walking south on the canal to Pennyfield Lock, then up the Muddy Branch Greenway Trail.  Hmmm…more trails to explore!

And while I do like winter…I think I will wait for Spring! Hike on!