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!

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!