Labor Day at the Lake

Silly me forgot to block this day out for Office Hour appointments. Two in the morning and one late afternoon. I figured I would salvage my Labor Day with a hike around Lake Habeeb at Rocky Gap State Park in Maryland. Good call, if I do say so myself!

After hiking around half of the lake, I stopped under the shade of an oak tree near the shore. I stretched out my big red poncho, threw my shoes carelessly over into the grass, and leaned back to look up at the sky. Temperature in the upper seventies, blue skies, puffy clouds, a few yellow leaves littered the ground around me, and frequent breezes that kept the water splashing onto the bank.

As I sat there, two Jay’s started a heated discussion, accompanied by a chorus from the crickets. A family of kayakers floated past, father and small child closer to the bank; Mom chasing a dinosaur float toy that the wind was pushing just out of her reach. After several minutes she was successful in corralling Dino and all was well! In the background, like white noise, I could hear the joyous racket of children at the beach. Ahhh, the end of summer. It was absolute bliss!

In the woods, a variety of fungi lined the path. I felt beckoned to consider that I needed to let some things “die” to make room for new growth. Still thinking on that…

The breeze picked up…was that a chill? When did that dark cloud get here? Guess it was time to move on around the rest of the lake…and pick up my own pace! Hike on!

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!

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!

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!

A Western Maryland Walk on the C&O Canal

Follow the Potomac River west from Washington, D. C., oh, I’d say about a hundred miles, or so, and you will come to a sweet, little river town that was once in the running for the capital of the United States.  Williamsport, Maryland was reviewed by none other than George Washington for a possible location for the United States capital!!  Even though it wasn’t chosen as the capital…well, I am sure it was an honor just the same!

I headed to Williamsport to do some flatland hiking since it was way too hot and humid to climb a mountain today (for me anyway 😉 ).

Williamsport is a cool river town with the Potomac River forming a natural boundary on the west and Conococheague Creek hemming it in on the north.  The C&O Canal runs along the Potomac River.  Many bikers were already on the Canal or taking a break at picnic tables when I rolled into the parking lot.

Museum & Parking Area-Picnic tables and bathrooms!

Museum & Parking Area-Picnic tables and bathrooms!

Another large group of young folks were on their way to the river’s edge with fishing poles, buckets, and bait ready for whatever the river might bring them today.  It was quite a bucolic setting to behold.  I changed out my flip flops for walking shoes then set off to stroll upstream along the C&O Canal.

Of special interest is the crossing of the Conococheague Aqueduct.  The aqueduct is currently undergoing restoration but is still part of the C&O Canal so can be used during restoration.

Conococheague Aqueduct

Conococheague Aqueduct

One convenient aspect of the Canal is having mileage markers!  Walkers, bikers, or horse riders can keep track of how far they have gone.  I planned on hiking 6 miles, so I noted the first mileage marker, and knew I would need to turn around at mileage marker 103. Side note…One of drawbacks of the Canal is usually having to retrace your footsteps in the opposite direction to get back to your car.

First Mile Marker...100!

First Mile Marker…100!

It was a hot morning and I could feel the heaviness of the air settling over the river and the Canal. Occasional breezes which made the towering trees rattle their leaves did little to alleviate the heat and humidity that seemed to surround me. I am indebted to the birds that distracted me with a variety of melodies and, lucky me, an owl also hooted a welcome!

Big Trees, Shady Path

Big Trees, Shady Path

Each section of the Canal takes on its own personality.  At the beginning of my hike, and probably for a mile or so, there was farm land on my right and the Potomac River to my left.  A farmer was out on a tractor… Oh, I cannot tell you how welcoming it is for me to hear a tractor out in the field! I hail from southern Indiana and this sound takes me back to a place in my childhood that brings a feeling … of what…happiness? well being? comfort? love?…hard to describe, but good, good, good! 🙂

Then the farmland disappeared and all I could see is a huge rocky wall.  Boulders have fallen into the Canal here and the whole place takes on a rugged look.  I thought about whether it would be possible to climb to the top of the rock wall, just to see over to the other side, but it looked rather overgrown and vertical. And I was hot…well…that energetic, rock star moment didn’t last long. 🙂  Back to putting one foot in front of the other!

Towering Rock Wall

Towering Rock Wall

Quite a few bikers with packs were making their way down the Canal today.  I enjoyed the whoosh of air that accompanied them as they flew past me in groups of two, four, and more.  I was hoping for more as I neared my car and the end of my hike!

Potomac River on a Hot & Humid Summer Morning

Potomac River on a Hot & Humid Summer Morning

I trudged up the short incline to my car and ripped off my shoes and socks.  I could not put my flip flops back on fast enough!

Hot and Sweaty…Hike On!