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!

COVID’s Unintentional Realignment

Over the last year, I went through the stages of COVID like many folks I know (and maybe you too). It started with disbelief at the situation before us, then anger that life had been taken out of our control. After the anger subsided, I began to bargain with life…like okay, I won’t hike at the popular spots, but I am still going to hike…then just plain old acceptance that hiking in the Frederick area was a disaster of overcrowding by weekend hikers trying to escape. And acceptance that life had changed.

Two teachers in a small house. My classroom was a bedroom upstairs. My partner’s classroom downstairs in the Dining room. Outside our window, the Dairy Maid employees smoked and cursed and played loud music. Semi trucks barreled down our street shaking the house, their roar obscuring my voice as I attempted to explain College Algebra to students over Zoom. In the beginning, I could laugh it off. It was an adventure in teaching! After a year of the same it wore on me. It also wore on my ability to remain positive. I stopped talking. My partner took up the slack, but I was okay with silence.

We started to take long drives to escape. Normally, we would head to Virginia…Shenandoah National Park specifically. Now we couldn’t … the crowds were insane. So we took I-68 into western Maryland one weekend. That turned into two, and then three, then I lost count. We started talking about buying a house to get away from Frederick. Then one weekend in November, we drove through a beautiful neighborhood, grabbed each other’s hand, and jumped.

I have been living here in western Maryland for less than two weeks, but this is such a good place and will be an amazing place once I make it mine! Now that my animals are more comfortable in the house I have started to venture out to explore! It has been a beautiful week in the mid-Atlantic with mild temperatures and sunny skies. So, before March decides to throw a snowstorm at me…

I took a nice walk along the C&O Canal this week. I started at Spring Gap and walked west toward Cumberland. Interesting history through here and I look forward to learning more about the canal in this area. There are the remains of a Pump House on this stretch which, back in the day, would maintain the level of the water in the canal.

The pump house of yesteryear
Pump house today

I also found a few signs of spring, but I had to look really hard!! A few budlets on what I really, really hope is a rasberry bush and some on a small tree, as well. Oh! and I heard a Spring Peeper!!!

Canal House

Today, I headed over to the lake at Rocky Gap State Park. A needed diversion after priming the walls in my dining room (thank goodness I do not paint for a living). I walked along an old road, then around part of the lake. I had no big ambitions, but wanted to be in nature for at least an hour. It was gorgeous!

The old road
Tree spirit can’t be held back! 😄
Lake Habeeb

Post-COVID is bringing a new normal to my life. I look out my back window and see mountains! I would have never imagined one year ago that this is where I would be … but I am ever so glad for the unintentional consequences of COVID! Onward to new adventures – 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!

Finding the Sun

I don’t know what I was hoping to find, or hear, or think, or see. All I knew was, after dropping my sewing machine off to be serviced in sunny Martinsburg, WV, I was not going immediately home to Frederick, MD where thick gray mist still covered the entire valley. I found myself pulling into Yankauer Nature Preserve .

My first steps, on a trail covered in soft pine needles still cushy from recent rain showers, took me into a forest glittering with raindrops.

Each sunlit drop clung precariously, and in futility, before beautifully releasing to the Earth. Rejoined with all the other droplets, waiting for the sun to regenerate and empower them to rise once more! To be immense and visible to all who gaze up into the billowing towers of clouds… the gathering of millions and millions of droplets.

The trail mimics a labyrinth, winding to the west, then east, then around again. I am walking into blinding light of the sun, then a few moments on, I find only dark shade in front of me and the warmth of the sun on my back.

Around one turn in the trail I spy a hawk. It spots me too….and takes flight over the Potomac River, then circles back and around until he finds a suitable alternate roost far from me.

Strange, this period between Winter Solstice and New Year’s. Yes, timeless, but more than that. For me, it has been a time of seeing myself as if Picasso had painted me. All angles of my life at once, past, present, even my future self, all vividly present at once.

Too much time and not enough either. I think about how we all get stuck sometimes and wonder whether struggling through is really the right approach to get unstuck. Maybe, like the rain droplets, we need to put our trust in the universe, to a certain extent, and let go.

So…with that said…Goodbye 2019, I release you! It was a hard year, for me and for the world.

Hello 2020! Let me have more sense, show more compassion, and act more responsibly. Let me be regenerated and empowered to take on life!

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. 🙂

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.

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!

,

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)

Oh Fall…slow down!

I looked at the date of my last post…a sharp intake of breath…a month ago!!!

It has been an unforgettable fall season. 🙂  Lots of hiking, lots of working, lots of going to school…not a lot of time for writing unless it is for one of those reasons!

So a quick recap of the highlights. 🙂

Shenandoah River State Park

Shenandoah River State Park

October 17: We headed down to Shenandoah National Park in early October to leaf peep.  After seeing the line at the northern entrance, we gladly diverted and visited Shenandoah River State Park instead.  Lovely park and a very good decision!  We visit Shenandoah National Park all the time and quite honestly, prefer it without the traffic. 🙂

White Rocks, north of Gathland State Park on the AT in Maryland

White Rocks, north of Gathland State Park on the AT in Maryland

October 25: Sidekick Pauli and I took an afternoon hike to White Rocks on the AT in Maryland.  I realized I had been doing way too much desk sitting as I climbed up to White Rocks!!  We had a lovely lunch at the rocks before walking back to Gathland State Park. 🙂 🙂 🙂

2015 October 31 Antietam Battlefield

Antietam Battlefield

October 31: Led the Trail Dames on a walk among the lost souls at Antietam Battlefield. Perfectly beautiful day to enjoy and be thankful for all we have been given.

Wet, wet, wet on the Rose River Trail in SNP

Wet, wet, wet on the Rose River Trail in SNP

November 7: Rose River Falls Loop in Shenandoah National Park with the Trail Dames  IN THE RAIN.  Sidekick Pauli didn’t mind the rain and neither did I.  I wasn’t leading this hike so I walked along carefree as can be!  And we finished by celebrating a fellow dame’s birthday with blackberry cobbler and ice cream! Yes!!

Star Party at Sky Meadows State Park, VA.  Just look at those set ups!

Star Party at Sky Meadows State Park, VA. Just look at those set ups!

November 14: Let’s all go to a Star Party!! Kudos to the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club (NOVAC) for sharing their super high caliber telescopes with us at Sky Meadows State Park.  I saw Jupiter, Uranus, a double star, the craters on the moon, and a lot, lot, more! So awesome. 🙂

Thomas Farm...my go to after work!

Thomas Farm…my go to after work!

I have enjoyed being outside this last month and am soooooooo looking forward to my Thanksgiving break!

#OptOutside on Black Friday! 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!