Savage River State Forest – Red Trail

I woke this morning too early and ready to call it a day after feeding the fur kids. The sun’s rays came in the window, warming my back, prompting me to decide that after several days of dark, cool, rainy days I was ready for blue skies and a dose of Vitamin D. I wasn’t super eager to hike alone as I still feel the western Maryland trails are much wilder than the trails closer to Frederick (or the Appalachian Trail), especially the ones in the state forests. I sat, thoughtful, over a second cup of coffee. Should I just go to the lake?

Answer was a definitive no. I was ready for an adventure, a new place, and I was not disappointed!

I chose to head to the Savage River State Forest after reading some trusty reviews on AllTrails. A plus was that the trail head was not too far away. Thirty minutes! Just a friendly piece of advice here…do not drive all the way up to the Savage River Lodge as trusty Alltrails says to do. I found “no parking” signs everywhere up by the lodge, so, I backtracked down to the public parking area by the bridge. Room for probably eight cars in this lot…maybe more if everyone didn’t drive a big-ass truck. 😀 At least I wasn’t pulling off into a sketchy spot on the side of the road with thigh-high grass!

Parking Lot

The trail was not hard to locate as it crosses to the side of the lot. Passed the “Bear Aware” sign, which, by the way, always makes me second guess myself when I am hiking alone…especially in the Spring and in the morning! Actually, my thought process is something like “Sh**, should I stop now and come back with friends?…how likely is it that I will see a bear? F***, what if it is a momma bear and cubs??? Yeah, I should turn around…” F*** it, I took a breath and marched on…dang bears always run first. The meadow crossing was a wet one with early morning dew heavy on each blade of grass. Each step I took was a carefully planned movement and I succeeded in leaving the meadow with almost dry shoes. 🙂 The trail dipped into a Hemlock forest hugging the river. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!! The River wasn’t very big, more like a glorified creek, but it was beautiful. The birds were lively, filling up the morning with their songs. And the colors! Oh my…quite the sensory explosion! The sky was indeed blue, and wildflowers bright yellow, the grass and leaves a vibrant green, and the water was crystal clear as it cascaded away.

The trail had a few erosion issues by the river which could’ve been a real pain in the butt if it had been any wetter this morning. Steep ups had steps that had slid out of place. Thankful I had my po…OH for the love of God…

Can you see me…?
Can you see me now? Holy crap, startled the bejeezus out of me.

After passing that little friend, there were no more thoughts about turning around and going home. I had no intention of having to pass him again! Anyway, what I was saying was I was thankful I had my poles because the ups and downs with the erosion was a tricky affair! Whew…please let there be no more snake surprises!

The snakes stayed away. I did get snorted at by an impatient deer, but that didn’t bother me (too much). By the time I had reached the summit of Mt. Aetna (no view) I had let go of the fear that I was going to spook a rattle snake or a bear. 😀 This is a gorgeous area! Passed a few nice camping spots, so, when I got home I looked up camping in this area…the website doesn’t say you can’t, but the Mt. Aetna area is privately owned, which would mean a big NO. But, I can’t figure out if the camp sites I found are on private land or public state forest land. I would love to backpack in and camp here!

The route taken had some lovely trail with long stints in the Hemlocks…which are always delightful! Not much sun under the Hemlocks (Vitamin D remains deficient 🙂 ). In addition, it was still pretty cool with temps hovering in the lower 50s, but all my worries evaporated with each step…thank you, Mother Nature! 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!

A Material Girl in a Virtual World

I am not adapting to quarantine well! Are you?  I am luckier than most as I have a stable job of math professor at a community college.  Although, this last week, which has lasted about four months, has kicked my butt…physically and emotionally.  I teach students who struggle with math.  I teach these students in a face to face setting and forcing them into a situation that they are not even remotely prepared for is…well, a gamble.  I am dealing with this new virtual reality…but I need my real material world more than ever.

I hope to get out on a lesser trafficked trail this weekend.  I want to sit in the forest.  I want to smell the moist soil and new shoots of grass pushing up through the mulchy forest floor.  I want to touch the moss covered boulders and lean against a huge tree, close my eyes, and just be.  I need my material world.   I need to see and hear and touch and sense all things wild and free.  Hike on…but exercise caution.  Be well my hiking friends!

 

Sidekick Pauli Gets Off Her Doggie Couch

Sidekick Pauli, my most faithful hiking pal, has entered her retirement years. She is covered in fatty tumors and some of them are in awkward spots. She likes to sleep…a lot. 🐾

However, she can be persuaded to get off of her doggie couch as long as getting off 1) involves a treat, 2) she is immediately hooked up to her leash (signal for walk), and 3) I have my car keys in hand (signal for going hiking)!

All stars aligned for her Saturday morning! Her dog smile was ENORMOUS as she trotted out to the car at a respectable 10:00 am.

We headed up to Dam #4 on the C&O Canal near Sharpsburg, Maryland. This would be a short hike for me, but a big, super, best hike ever for my aging Pauli girl!

Parking at Big Slackwater allowed me and Pauli-wog to hike a mile on the canal to Dam #4, then turn around and hike back … 2 miles total.

It was beautiful weather for January. Rain threatened, but with a balmy 58 degrees, I was happy to chance it.

The hike down to the dam was lovely. The Potomac River sparkled each time the clouds parted enough to allow a peek of sunlight through. A group of Mallard ducks quacked a warning as we neared, then took flight with a whoosh of wings and upsweep of river spray from their webbed feet on take-off.

Getting to the Dam, we explored the river bank, then headed back.

Sidekick Pauli seemed in a hurry…and practically dragged me back to the car. I noticed the temps had dropped, the sky now hid the sun completely, and a stiff wind had begun to blow. Sidekick Pauli was not pleased. She kept me walking at a very fast pace… where was my retiree now…good lord, was she trying to kill me???

Fifteen minutes and we were in the car! Then the rain came…turns out Pauli-waddle-doodle-all-day was trying to save me. 😄

Best hike EVERRRR…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!

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.

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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!

Alone time, About time!

Don’t get me the wrong way, I love being a volunteer organizer and a hike leader for the Maryland Trail Dames.  As part of that commitment, I spend hours scouring maps, reading about trails, researching everything from water sources to nearest hospitals.  In addition, I recruit and train new hike leaders for our group.  I throw myself into it and occasionally forget that I also need to hike for me!

Today was my day.  I had a few hours so I headed to Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, Maryland.  This being an impromptu sojourn, I threw a box of saltines, tub of hummus, and a bag of skittles in my bag and called it lunch.  I also doused myself with bug spray.  Ticks, bugs, just steer clear, okay?

Due to limited time, I decided to start at the visitor center, then hike to the falls and back, about 3.2 rolling miles.  The woods welcomed me with shady coolness, spongy moist trail, and a lively bubbling brook. Ahhh yeah, this was gonna be awesome!

Deep breath, yes, that mulchy goodness smell! This is where it’s at.  I love all you Dames, but this is the bomb! No prepping, no checking, no being a leader.  Just me and the trail…and JEEEEEEEEZUSSSS, WTF IS THAT?

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This is NOT what you want to see when you are alone in the forest…ha…haha…*gulp*

*furtive look around to make sure the guilty party is not lurking around*

I continued on, trying to un-see what I saw, just as you are trying to do right now.  But you keep looking back at it don’t you?…DON’T YOU???  I mean, you just don’t see that everyday.  Thankfully.

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The rest of the hike was beautiful.  Birdsong filled the air… possibly extra happy to be alive today. 😀 Oh, and I got to the falls before anyone else was there! I had them to myself for a whole 10 minutes before the throng of dogs, kids, moms, dads, young loves, and tourists got there.

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I sat down and broke open my crackers and hummus, by myself, in the woods.  So good.  Hike on!

 

 

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

Winter Shiverfest Backpack – Ed Garvey Shelter

Last weekend’s adventure was another in the category “I’m trying to love winter”.  I led a backpacking overnight for Trail Dames of Maryland from Crampton Gap to the Ed Garvey Shelter, then out the next day ending at Weverton.  A very short, doable winter backpack, 4 miles in and about 3 miles out!

Four other crazy ladies joined me on this shiverfest.  We met at Weverton on Saturday afternoon, shuttled down to Crampton Gap, snapped a shot at the AT sign and off we went!

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Off on our Shiverfest!

While it had been slightly chilly when we stepped off, as usual, we were ready to shed a layer within about 25 minutes.  At just after an hour of hiking one dame asked THE QUESTION”, you know the one…Are we almost there?”  Hahaaaa! Yes, we were almost there, I assured her…maybe 15 – 20 more minutes…I think all the ladies were pleased with that answer. 😀

It was only 3:00 pm, but the sun had started to sink taking with it the warmth of the light.

True to my word, we stumbled upon the shelter soon after.  Three big guys greeted us.  I had been hoping for the second floor of the shelter as it is more protected from the wind.  No such luck, two of the big guys had already moved in.  Bummer! Oh well, they were building a fire, so I quickly forgave them!

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Vicky & Kathryn putting up their tents. This was Kathryn’s first backpacking trip and Vicky’s second! Great job, Ladies!

Two of our group tented, I stayed in the shelter with two others.  I have had to put up my tent with freezing fingers before and didn’t need that delightful experience in the morning.

Big guy #1, Bob, and his buddy, Big guy #2, Aaron, were trying to think of a trail name for their friend, Big guy #3.  They asked what we thought.  I looked over at them sitting around the fire.  Big guy #3 was sitting with his back to me, feet comfortably snuggled in bright orange down booties… “yeah, all I am I thinking right now is ‘BootyMan’!”  BootyMan it was!  Bwahahahaa!!  He took it well telling all of us we were going to be wanting his booties at about two in the morning!

Laughing, we spread out our stuff, made dinner, then joined the big guys at the fire.  The comradery of the trail is one of my favorite things about backpacking.  You meet up with other backpackers and it’s like you’ve been friends forever.  These guys were a lot of fun and they definitely made our shiverfest great.  🙂 🙂

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“BootyMan”, Aaron, Vicky, Kathy, Kathryn, & Anne enjoying the warmth of the fire.

The weather cooperated as well.  Cold, yes, but not dreary.  We huddled about the roaring fire watching daylight fade and the lights of houses in the valley twinkle up at us.  The sky sparkled with a million stars and we sat back, heads tilted to the heavens, taking in Orion and other lesser known constellations.  Good food, great conversation, we stayed up until about 8:30 pm before crawling into our bags.

Fast forward several hours…now huddled in my bag (rated 20 degrees + liner that advertised +20 more).  I slept off and on, not totally uncomfortable, but every once and awhile a shiver would start at the back of my neck and run down to my toes.  I had on all my layers…so even fitting into my bag was hilariously snug (but I did it…champ that I am). My feet were cold all night even with my big puffy socks…and all I thought about were those damn bright orange down booties!!!

Checking my Fitbit later that day showed that while I slept for 7 hours and 15 minutes…I was 51 minutes awake or restless!!!  Maybe next time I will go ahead and take my partner’s bag that is rated negative 15 degrees even though it is heavier!  It took all my will to get up and go to the privy! Brrrr!

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Finally up, I decided I would sit in my bag to stay warm while writing in my journal.  It was still dark, but I could see dawn trying to make its move on night.  The dark blue sky was now streaked with a sliver of light blue and I wondered whether we would get the reds and pinks with sunrise.

Several paragraphs later I glanced back up, ahh, light pink was seeping in at the lower edges of the light blue and I heard a flock of geese honking in the valley.  It was still too cold to go get my bag of food though.  No matter, I was warming up my hiking pants and insoles within my bag…my hiking socks were somewhere down in there too.  “Get warm little sockies, I need you!” I thought as I watched the sky dissolve into more of a peachy color.

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As I enjoyed the warmth of my bag, a few coyotes started yipping and singing, a beautiful moment.  I could now see the blue blaze on the trail to the spring.  Light had again conquered the Dark.  Time for hot chocolate – Hike on!

Beat the Heat at Little Bennett Regional Park

Can Mother Nature cool her jets?  Everyday brings a new level of heat disgust!  My last hike was two weeks ago and we were chased back to our cars by a thunderstorm.  Since then it has just been oppressive.  I know it’s summer, yada, yada, yada…keep your logic to yourself!

I needed to get out, but also needed motivation.  This is where being a hike leader with Trail Dames is so, so, personally satisfying.  I scheduled an early morning hike at Little Bennett Regional Park in Maryland.  And six other crazy women signed up…so at 6:20 AM I pulled into the Hyattstown Mill trail head parking lot in Hyattstown just across the street from the fire department.  It was already a steamy 80 degrees, but otherwise a gorgeous morning that had surprised me with an amazing sunrise on the way down from Frederick.

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From the Hyattstown Mill Trail Head Parking…with a colorful filter. 🙂 Cute little town.

As soon as everyone arrived, some still trying to wake up, we started down the road to pick up the trail.  The trail used to be the old Hyattstown Road that went from Hyattstown to Clarksburg and it still resembles a road.  Wide and paved with gravel it was an easy walk to the cut off for the Bennett Ridge trail.

There was a 10k going on in the park this morning.  As such we navigated past water stations, yellow tape marking off trails, and eventually the runners.  They had their work cut out for them on this muggy morning!

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Along the old Hyattstown Road

We followed the Bennett Ridge trail to the campground (pitstop), then backtracked to Beaver Valley.  We headed downhill and encountered a bubble of runners from the 10k coming up.  Oh! They looked a little whipped, but were in good spirits as they scuttled up the hill.

 

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A 10k runner in beautiful Little Bennett

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Another runner in the 10k. How can I not love this park? So lovely!

Beaver Valley winds around to the Western Piedmont trail, which we took back in the direction of Hyattstown.  This is also part of the old road, so we were on flat, wide terrain again for a while.  As we approached the section of trail where Pine Grove trail comes in, runners were exclaiming that they were getting stung.  We slowly walked forward.  I watched the next runner carefully, trying to spot the bees.  Runner yelled, another win for the bees.  I saw the bees and following their track I spotted the hive.

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Look closely above runner’s head…the HIVE! Yep, this guy also got stung. It was just easy pickins for the bees.

Holy moly! A huge hornet operation just above the heads of the poor defenseless runners!  I looked around and decided this was a time when it was perfectly okay to go off trail.  I led the women who chose to follow off, up, and around the nest…no stings.  Hooray!

A few women had decided to take their chances and stay on trail…sucked for them, stung!

The final piece of adventure for this trail was wading across Little Bennett.  I chose the deepest part, because, well, it was hot, and I mean seriously, if I’m taking the time to put on water shoes, then dang it, it better be worth it!! And it was! The water came up to the bottom of my shorts and felt so cold and ahhhhhhhhhhhh.

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A good cool off!

Long before the daily heat advisory went into effect, we were back at the cars and ready to head home for showers.

I looked forward to coffee and chilling out in the AC… Hike on!