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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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!