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.

A Shorter Loop at Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland

Rain, muggy, then rain again! My last week before returning to teach summer classes was less than ideal. While I got out for a few spins around downtown Frederick, I was missing the woods.  Sunday came with the gift of opportunity!  I chose to go to Sugarloaf Mountain!

Sugarloaf is a classic place to go hiking…translation…it can be super crowded and the port-a-potties always smell…

However, there are times when introverts like me can actually enjoy the mountain.  Go early and preferably on a weekday, although super early usually does the trick.  Park behind the mountain on Mt. Ephraim road and head up the Blue or Yellow trails.  It is a gravel road, but well packed down.  In addition, improvements have been made so the creek now flows underneath the road bed!

I was out the door with Sidekick Pauli at 6:30 AM, and after a few stops, was on the trail at 7:20 AM.  There was not a soul around!!! Yessssss!!!!

Mt. Ephraim Road

Mt. Ephraim Road

I parked at the usual spot on Mt. Ephraim road and headed up the Blue trail to White Rocks. The whole area was fogged in leaving the woods with mist hovering in the branches of trees and spider webs glistening with water droplets. Very moody, like something out of a BBC period production.  Too bad it doesn’t come out well in the photos because it was pretty outstanding!

Starting the Blue Trail just off Mt. Ephraim Road

Starting the Blue Trail just off Mt. Ephraim Road

It was also incredibly humid. Cool, but humid! Sidekick Pauli was delighted to find a spring dumping out directly onto the trail.  I was delighted to find a few stepping stones so I could hop over said spring!

Arriving at White Rocks, we found we were still fogged in.  We sat for a few minutes becoming part of the quietness that surrounded us.  When we got going again the birds were beginning to chatter to each other.  Ahhh, can’t beat being out here in the early morning!

No view at White Rock so Sidekick Pauli is searching for...?

No view at White Rock so Sidekick Pauli is searching for…?

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Foggy Woods

The Blue trail winds down, then up to one of the lesser summits at 1015 feet (Mt. Ephraim road is at 500 feet).  The summit is marked by a big rock pile.  I added a rock to the pile and kept on.

Lesser Summit 1015 feet

Sidekick Pauli at the Lesser Summit of 1015 feet

Coming down the mountain, it looked as if the trail has been rerouted to accommodate new switchbacks! Nice!  Soon after the switchback I spotted a dog barreling down the trail.  “I have a dog.” I called out in a stage voice that hasn’t gotten much use since high school.  The owners, thankfully, were able to call back their dog and get him on a leash. Sidekick Pauli is not fond of people or animals that intrude into her personal space without invitation!  Crisis was averted and we continued down the trail once the dog and its owners passed by.

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Having limited time and I chose to take the yellow trail back down to Mt. Ephraim Road.  A new trail to explore, a welcome change!  A nice trail too!  Even though this is the “Horse Trail” it was wide and easy to walk.

Great Trail! Just for horses? Looks like cars too.

Great Trail! Just for horses? Looks like cars too.

No obvious pock marks, not a lot of horse poo, but occasionally there was a disgusting, muddy puddle of water.  This was not unexpected after the rain in the area this week!

Yuck, Yuck, Yuck!

Yuck, Yuck, Yuck! Sidekick Pauli…DON’T even THINK about it!

The complete loop, Blue from Mt. Ephraim road to White Rocks, then to the Yellow trail back to Mt Ephraim road, was about four miles.  Long enough to get your mind in the right place, but short enough to not wear you out (just in case you have to go home and help with housework…)!

Grab the dog in your life and hike on! 🙂

A Walk to Celebrate My Reason for the Season 12/26/2014

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Let me be right up front…I don’t go to church.   My church is the forest where I can feel the presence of God in every breeze that blows through the trees.  However, when it comes to the holidays, I miss being part of an organization that sets time aside to celebrate the birth of […]

The Red, White, and Blue Challenge! 7-4-2014

What the heck is the Red, White, and Blue  Challenge, you ask?

Okay, I totally made it up…so it is my own little challenge at the moment…but here is the plan.  Find a red blazed trail, a white blazed trail and a blue blazed trail to hike on the Fourth of July weekend! The constraint…the trails have to be in three different areas or parks and all have to be hiked on the same day. I love this idea! This is absolutely going to become a yearly tradition and maybe more people will join in…I can even see this as an event to raise money for programs that are dedicated to getting kids and teens out into nature!! Such a dreamer am I! 🙂 🙂 🙂

So here it is: Red Trail at Gambrill SP, White Trail, AT, from South Mountain Inn to Washington Monument (and back), Blue Trail at Sugarloaf Mountain.

Total mileage: ~10
Total Elevation: 2400-2700 feet (not sure about the Red Trail…it is short but on the side of a mountain…guessing 300 total for that leg of the hike)

I plan on starting early to beat the heat. Smart idea, right?! Sidekick Pauli is doing the challenge with me…my dog and favorite hiking companion!

So..Grab the holiday bandanas, we are going hiking! 🙂

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