A Lovely Spring Day in February

I took the Dames hiking on Friday at Greenbrier State Park here in Maryland.  A day that was misty, damp, mulchy-smelling, and mild.  I could almost hear things growing underneath the surface of the earth.

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Towards the end of our hike, the sky darkened and let loose a short torrent of rain upon us.  It was glorious and reminded me of “There Will Come Soft Rains” , a poem by Sara Teasdale published in 1918.  While I wait in anticipation for another lovely spring day in February, enjoy! Hike on!

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

~Sara Teasdale

Living it Up on the Loudoun Heights Trail

Mid-Week hikes are a luxury.  While the rest of the world shuffles off to work, the Maryland Trail Dames were getting ready to cross the 340 bridge by pulling our gloves, hats, and layers into place.  The crossing of the bridge would be the killer with traffic whizzing past blasting us with cold air and fumes.  A necessary evil in order to start climbing Loudoun Heights on the other side of the Shenandoah River.  At 10 am Wednesday morning it was bitter cold, yet bright and sunny, so we anticipated shedding some of those layers as we climbed almost 1000 feet to ridge!

The parking lot is a fee area, so pay the $10 bucks to support the NPS.  The pass is good for three days, so after I finish this post I might head back for another hike in the area! 🙂

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340 Bridge over the Shenandoah River looking towards West Virginia side

Once we crossed the bridge, we climbed the AT up, up, and up and as AnnaMarie would say “Suck it up, Buttercup”!  As expected a few layers came off!  Thelma, a fellow Trail Dame, suggested we take the orange trail first, then loop back on the blue trail.  Great suggestion!  The orange trail was extremely pleasant! It was a nice change from constantly going up.  It is level and well marked which allowed us to make good time with little effort!

In the summer, this hike would have only the views marked on the map…two at power lines, then another at Split Rock.  But in winter? Ahhhh…all the views you could want!  No leaves make mountain hikes even more glorious.

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Holy crap! I think my lips are purple! 🙂

The path became more rolling once we met up with the blue trail.  We went to the left, headed for Split Rock.  It all seems so easy…because the trail is going down to Split Rock.  The view here though is worth it!  and the women on the trail with me were so funny!

“Suck it up, Buttercup!”  became a repeated joke as we met each hill with gusto.  At each overlook we had a micromanager or two when it came to picture time…after being asked to tilt the camera this way and that way, and move to the right, then to the left I busted out laughing…”What is your job anyway???” Snorts of laughter permeated the air. 🙂  and don’t even let me start with the selfie stick…oh jees’…It was a good thing no one else was on the trail!

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Looking across at Maryland Heights

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View of Harper’s Ferry from Split Rock

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Like a Model Train Set!

After lunch at Split Rock, we climbed up to the ridge once more.  There were some sweaty faces in that last push to the ridge!  Then it was easy, a little rocky, but easy sailing on the blue trail and a quick trip down the AT back to the 340 bridge.

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Looking calm, cool, and collected…like they hadn’t even exerted themselves. 🙂

In the whole time we were on the mountain, we did not see any other hikers! So if one is looking for solitude on this hike, go on a weekday.  I have heard that on the weekends it can be crowded at Split Rock.  I totally get that because it is such a great place!

We finished at 2:30 and the sun never really made it over the ridge.  Still seemed like morning with the long shadows filling the valley.

Off to more chilly adventures! Hike On!

 

Caledonia State Park, PA…Put it on the short list!

Caledonia State Park is quite possibly one of the prettiest state parks near Frederick, Maryland.  The air is scented with pine, the creek bubbles and gurgles as it curls its way through the park, and the towering pine trees leave me with the most serene, peaceful feeling every time I visit.

Labor Day Weekend I was invited up by Queen V.  She was spending the weekend at the park and decided to come out of her tent to hike with me!  I haven’t seen her since the backpack in June and was looking forward to hearing about her hike in Sweden.  One of these days I will go on a hike somewhere in Europe…but until then I depend on my international hiker friends, like Queen V!!

Stopped at the visitor center to pick her up, then headed to the Hosack Run area to pick up the Greenwood Road Trail.  We walked through the woods catching up on the summer and on Queen V’s adventure on the Fjallraven Classic.

BoobOnARock and Queen V take to the trail...oh it's on!

BoobOnARock and Queen V take to the trail…oh it’s on!

We were hiking to the Long Pine Run Reservoir in Michaux State Forest.  September was here and the start of the day had been crisp!  I could feel a hint of autumn in the air!

Queen V is a great person to hike with because it is so easy to carry on a conversation with her as we hike.  I am not much of a talker, but it seemed as if the miles flew by as we gossiped, caught up on each other’s adventures, and generally, just rambled about whatever. 🙂

Lunch by the lake. :)

Lunch by the lake. 🙂

The terrain was perfect for my recovering knee (injured last weekend dodging a bee…).  There were no big step downs, which are still giving me a bit a pain.  But more than that, there are so many pine trees that the trail is pretty soft in spots…love it!  We stopped for lunch in one such spot.  Sinking into the ground we started pulling out our goodies…oh, what’s that? Queen V brought Sidekick Pauli’s favorite…summer sausage!  Lucky, lucky dog!

Oh, it's summer sausage time by the lake! :) :)

Oh, it’s summer sausage time by the lake! 🙂 🙂

Thanks Queen V for the photo! Me & Sidekick Pauli in the Pines

Thanks Queen V for the photo! Me & Sidekick Pauli in the Pines

Rounding the reservoir, we found many places for Sidekick Pauli to get her feet wet. 🙂  My dog is getting older now, 8 years old last May, and while she is not much of a swimmer, she does love to splash!  We rounded back around the lake and took another siesta on the rocks.  Sidekick Pauli made a friend with a very little yorkshire terrier who was just smitten with her. 🙂

Splash!

Splash!

Sidekick Pauli makes a very tiny friend, Rocko

Sidekick Pauli makes a very tiny friend, Rocko

Thank you to Queen V for including me in her Labor Day weekend getaway!  This was awesome!

Grab a good friend and Hike on!

Morning Stroll at Antietam Battlefield

I understand, I think, why the battlefields are made for auto traffic…but to really get a sense of what a Civil War soldier might have felt you might want to get out of the car and walk.  I only say “get a sense” because there is no way for me (with no battle experience) to really understand on any level what a soldier, who is carrying all his stuff, wearing a wool uniform, eating whatever is in the ration can, and who might be miles away from home, is going to feel lugging himself through some muggy, hot farm field in Maryland to fight in a war he may or may not understand.

When I began my walk this morning on Rodman Avenue (just off Route 34 east of Sharpsburg, MD), it was a pleasant 75 degrees.  Probably about the same temperature on September 17, 1862, the bloodiest one day battle in American history.  23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing at Antietam…wrap your head around that number.

Walking down Rodman Avenue

Walking down Rodman Avenue

Along the road, are monuments, similar to Gettysburg.  If in a car, there is no place to park along Rodman Avenue or even pull over in order to get out and read the about the monument…of course this is why they have a podcast…so one will NEVER, EVER, have to get out of the car.  Great for those who truly need it, but come on America, many of us are able to get out and walk!! Um…okay, I’ll stop now.

Colonel Benjamin C. Christ - Monument to the 50th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (1st Brigade, 1st Division, 9th Corps)

Colonel Benjamin C. Christ – Monument to the 50th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (1st Brigade, 1st Division, 9th Corps)

It is beautiful walking up the road.  To the left are views of the mountains and Sherrick Farm and to the right are meadows blooming with wildflowers.  It is an easy road walk and this morning it was pretty quiet.  The birds chattered and flitted from the field to the meadow and back again, sometimes resting on the fence line before taking off again.  There was a nice breeze, but I could feel the humidity bullying its way in and knew in a few hours this walk would be unbearable.

Good Morning Mountains!

Good Morning Mountains!

Bucolic Sherrick Farm

Bucolic Sherrick Farm

The fields were already heating up so I decided to hike those first, then dip down towards Antietam Creek.  At the end of Rodman Avenue, turn left and continue to Burnside Bridge.

Burnside Bridge

Burnside Bridge

I passed the bridge and continued to the “Final Attack Trail” as this traversed through many open, sunny fields.

Along the "Final Attack Trail"...I love those fences...

Along the “Final Attack Trail”…I love those fences…

Leaving the ridge on the "Final Attack Trail"

Leaving the ridge on the “Final Attack Trail”

However, there are spots of shade to find respite!  Sidekick Pauli and I found a wonderful tree under which to take a little break before heading back out into the field.

Then we were blessed with a longer walk through the woods.  Nice and cool!

Sidekick Pauli's Saturday Smile!

Sidekick Pauli’s Saturday Smile!

We stayed in the woods for much of the time as we wound our way down to the “Snavely Ford Trail”.  Turn to the right at this trail junction in order to walk along Antietam Creek.  Sidekick Pauli very much wanted to go to the creek as it meant she would be able to get in and cool off!!

Where are my hedge clippers when I need them?

Where are my hedge clippers when I need them?

The trail is a bit overgrown at the moment and I sort of wished I had on long pants.  That thought only lasted for a moment though as I was soon hot, hot, hot, climbing back up the hill to reconnect with the trail to Burnside Bridge.

We crossed the bridge and rounded out our hike by meeting up with the “Sherrick Farm Trail”.  This trail is quite nice and passes a genuine swimming hole complete with a swinging rope!

Sidekick Pauli crosses Burnside Bridge

Sidekick Pauli crosses Burnside Bridge

Beginning of Sherrick Farm Trail

Beginning of Sherrick Farm Trail

After the swimming hole, the trail goes uphill to meet the Burnside Bridge road.  Take a left, cross the bridge, then take a right and continue on the trail.  At this point, “Sherrick Farm Trail” starts to resemble a real, meaning more rugged, hiking trail and may not be for everyone…it is not bad, just a little slanty with roots and a few rocks.

It doesn’t last long!  Sidekick Pauli and I were back at the car in no time!

This hike was about 4.5 miles long and included road walking, easy trail walking through rolling cornfields and along Antietam Creek.  It is a beautiful way to spend an early summer morning.

So get out of the car and 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 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!

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! 🙂