East to Oregon Ridge

Sitting here in the house, riding out the wintry weather, doing a whole lot of nothing.  What started as beautiful snow this morning has now turned into an icy mess.  So, in order to feel productive, I’ve decided to share last weekend’s sojourn with Sidekick Pauli to Oregon Ridge .

One of my goals for 2018 was to hike a certain number of miles. A number, we will just call it x, since like a variable, it is currently in flux and will remain secret because my ACTUAL miles hiked in the month of January was a measly 38.3.  *sigh*

BUT, I thought, let me go get a couple of easy miles over north of Baltimore at Oregon Ridge. AND, I thought, Sidekick Pauli can tag along since it would be a shorter hike.

Off we went! A new place!

Oregon Ridge Nature Center seemed easy to find, but I was just following the directions being barked at me by the voice of the Google Maps Goddess, so who knows. 😀

It was a beautiful, weird, winter day with temps climbing into the 60s.  A great day to be out! Fun (and strange) fact: Oregon Ridge used to be a ski resort! Found this little gem on this blog.

Anyway, I pulled into the park and made my way up the hill.  Cars to the left of me, SUVs to my right, stuck in the middle with a sinking feeling of no parking spots in my head.  Ever the optimist, I plowed on.  I descended the hill, almost to the Nature Center, “dead end, great I will have to turn arou….YESSSSSSSS!” A car pulled out, and I swung my RAV4 neatly into the newly opened gate to Narnia. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Almost 11 years old and still loves her hikes 🙂

Sidekick Pauli voiced her impatience as I wrangled my pack, her water, my water, the leash…and SHAZAM! she was hooked up and we were headed around the lake on the aptly named “Lake Trail”.  I broke all rules for “appropriate” hikes for Sidekick Pauli with this trail choice as there were a few brief, but steep, ups and downs before we crossed the power line clearing to follow the “Loggers Trail”.  She was excited to be out and didn’t seem to have any trouble at all .  The Loggers Trail climbed moderately along a level path through the woods.  There were a few nice winter views through the trees. 🙂

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View from the Lake Trail

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A sweet little bench along the Loggers Trail

Warm days in the winter give way to ______________ happiness? freedom? cure for cabin fever? Yes, yes, and yes, but also to…you guessed it… muddy, mucky trails!  This was the case with the entire loop that we walked and by the time we headed down towards the Nature Center at the end of the loop, I was getting irritated with all the slipping and sliding!  Exasperated, I stopped, pulled Sidekick Pauli in close for a mini-break off the trail.  Scanning ahead, I saw pops of color in woods. What the heck?

 

That was the motivation I needed to keep walking down (sliding down) hill.  Pauli needed lunch, so I let her eat in the car while I checked out the Nature Center.  Then we ventured back uphill towards those colorful trees in what I now knew was called the Forest of Hope.

Incredible.  Here’s to healing in the trees. Hike on.

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In the Meadows High and Low

Sky Meadows is such a lovely state park in Virginia.  This park was a choice I made without a lot of thinking about it.  The weather was forecasted to turn cooler and I was in need of a walk alone…well, with Sidekick Pauli, but without other humans.  A total introvert retreat!

I parked away from the main parking lot.  Partly because I really didn’t want to see a lot of people yet, but partly because I needed to put my boots on, get my pack together, then get Pauli.  A bit easier without being in a tight parking lot.  So, I pulled right towards the picnic area just after paying my entrance fee at the gate.  No one was in this little lot yet!

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I hadn’t parked here before and found it to be a great spot with easy access to the Hadow Trail.  We took this trail around the lower meadow.  What a glorious morning! The wildflowers were thick along each side of the trail and throughout the woods.  Goldenrod, thistle, and other beauties whose names elude me waved gently in the breeze making the background of blue skies pop as if I were looking at them through polarized lenses.  And the scent of Autumn wafted by occasionally making me burst with happiness!  The change in seasons is coming!

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When the Hadow Trail intersected with the Boston Mill Road, we turned left to pick up the South Ridge Trail.  Well, I could tell it was still summer as the sun rose higher in the sky and we did the same.  Whew, broke a sweat!  Sidekick Pauli needed two water breaks before we made the ridgeline by taking the North Ridge Trail up the final ascent to the AT.

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Once on the ridge it was just bliss.  The breezes picked up and even felt slightly chilly! We left the AT to swing around through the upper meadow to the Paris overlook.  I didn’t want to come down the mountain.  It was so lovely looking down on the surrounding countryside with my feet propped up and mind wandering.  Sidekick Pauli took up residence under the picnic table, coming out only for cheese.

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It was here, my bliss bubble started to spring a leak.  This was September 11.  I had intermittently thought about that day on my way up the mountain.  Here at the top, my mind finally settled on those memories.  I didn’t lose anyone that day, thankfully.  But the day was awful and scary.  My son was 7 years old, so in a rare unification between his dad and me, we decided no media was the best media.  He knew what had happened before I picked him up from school, but as a 7 year old, he only knew so much.  He was scared too.  We lived in Bethesda, Maryland at the time, and the planes flew very low over the house all day.  My son would panic if we went upstairs because he was afraid the planes would fly into our house.  So unless we needed the bathroom, we stayed downstairs.  One of my sisters lived in New York, and of course, no way to know…but we figured she was fine…I mean, we reasoned, what would she be doing near the WTC anyway?  Another sister, who was a foreign service officer, was doing language training in Arlington.  She hitched her way back into Maryland, along with thousands of others.

It is a day I will never forget. The internet has made way too many images from that day too easily accessible.  I cannot un-see some of those images.  I can’t imagine the horror that first responders encountered.  I don’t want to even think about it.  So many people, in a flash, gone.

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I once heard that one should not mourn the dead, but instead mourn the living.  Wait, that may have come from a Harry Potter book…no matter.

A rather big wind, that blew my pack off the table, brought me out of my dark trip down memory lane.  I packed up and we hiked down the mountain.  I felt sad and I felt happy, a strange way to be.  But as long as I am gifted with this life I intend on living.  Hike on.

May 29 Last Full Day Shenandoah Weekend!

Today I revisited a trail I had not hiked in 20 years.  The last time I was on this climb to Hawksbill, I had baby Logan on my hip.  He was about 2 years old and walking like a fiend! So I would put him down to walk for awhile, then carry him for awhile when those little chubby legs got tired.  🙂

I started from the upper Hawksbill parking lot, then after visiting the view at the top, looped down to lower Hawksbill, around on the AT, then up again on the Salamander trail.  Nice loop!  And Sidekick Pauli made three summits this weekend!!  Mary’s Rock, Loft Mountain, and Hawksbill – good job, doggie!

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“I’m a freakin’ mountain goat.” ~Sidekick Pauli

Coming around on the AT I ran into “JustSue” setting up a table of Trail Magic for the thru-hikers at Hawksbill Gap.  Trail Magic in the form of ham sandwiches, Little Debbie’s  and other delights.  I didn’t have anywhere to be very fast, so I stopped and chatted with “JustSue”.   She had her grandson helping her but he had run off down the trail somewhere so at the moment it truly was just Sue!  Sidekick Pauli also enjoyed meeting JustSue, but was ready to move after a bit, so we said our goodbyes and sidled on down the trail.  I left her in good spirits and was able to pass the joy to thru-hikers coming down the trail.  “TRAIL MAGIC AHEAD!!!”

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“JustSue” and her Trail Magic!

I love this section of the AT.  The rocks are beautifully adorned with fern, succulents, and other wildflowers.  The talus slopes (think rock slides) made me a little nervous with Pauli along and no hiking poles.  Thought I would have trouble negotiating through, but nope! We got through like champs, we did!

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Arriving at the intersection of the Salamander trail, a great rock awaited us providing a lovely spot for lunch.  With the added benefit of being able to lighten the load in the pack before climbing up to Hawksbill again! 🙂   Ever the opportunist.

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Salamander Trail to the left, AT to the right, Lunch!

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Salamander Trail…going up!

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Holy cow!!! I found the Keebler’s Elf House! I asked for cookies, but those darn elves didn’t answer my knock on the door. 😦

 

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One more look at the summit of Hawksbill, then back to the car we go!

We timed the route around and back to the car just right. Plop…plop…plop, ping, plop, ping, plop, ppppppppplopitypingpingplopplopplop…deluge!  Sidekick Pauli is amazing at getting me back to the car before it rains! We were high and dry!  Not so for many other sorry folks I saw dragging themselves back to cars parked too far away for comfort.  I could feel their shivers as I drove back to the campsite.

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Another Momma, not the Dog Hater, but not a dog lover either.  Escorted us kindly, but firmly, out of Big Meadows that morning!

After the rain and back at the campsite, guess who comes strolling with determination towards our tent?  The dog hating Momma deer.  Great.  I took Pauli to the car and waited, but forgot my hot coffee on the picnic table.  “Don’t mess with my coffee, Miss Momma of the Year!”

No trouble here, I’m just visiting!  Hike on!

 

 

May 28 Day 3 of Shenandoah Weekend!

Shhh…I did something totally against the rules today…sorry, sorry, sorry, it was a total blunder on my part, but no one saw us and we left NO trace.

More on that later.  Let’s start at the beginning.  Sidekick Pauli not wanting to get up!

At home she has hours of down time to kick back and relax.  Here in the campground she was on constant alert.  Add that to 7 up and down miles yesterday in the heat…and well, no smiles this morning.

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Don’t worry, once the “Bully Biscuits” were out, ALL was good! 😉

I gave her some down time by heading south to Loft Mountain.  She crashed in the back of the car and came out a new dog once we reached Loft Wayside.  Even so, I figured an easier day of hiking wouldn’t be a bad thing.

It looked like a pretty nice hike could be had by taking the Frazier Discovery Trail up to the AT, then loop around Loft.  Straight uphill, so much for taking it easy! We found a spring of nice, cool water, which Pauli immediately claimed for the next few minutes lapping furiously.

The Frazier Discovery Trail has some pretty cool rocks along it, but I wondered what else I was to possibly discover.  Mostly wooded, I continued to slog uphill.  It was already hot and it was only 8:30 AM!

Reaching the AT, I found an awesome outcropping where we took a short break before continuing along the AT.  Short because I could feel myself getting skin cancer out there on the rocks.  Seriously.  It.Was.Hot. (and super sunny)

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Summit Smooches are a Sidekick Pauli specialty!

The loop around Loft Mountain on the AT ended at the Amphitheater.  At which point I met up with a woman I had previously passed on the trail.  She was camping at Loft and wanted to do the Loop, but she couldn’t take her dog on Frazier Discovery Trail since DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED!!! “Oh crap!” I exclaimed, “I just came up that way!”  Now, for most people, maybe they wouldn’t care that they had just done something like TAKE THEIR DOG IN A PLACE SHE WASN’T ALLOWED…but I felt really, really, guilty! But there was no sign.  I looked when I went back down the hill, because, seriously, it bugged me.  There was a sign for “no bicycles” but nothing about no dogs.  I can say, though, that my dog was on leash AND I cleaned up after her…left NO trace!  But now that I know, well, I won’t do it again.

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Back at the campsite, the neighboring campers came over and warned me about a deer that is especially aggressive towards dogs.  Apparently, this is the deer who has been stashing her baby fawn in the campground area.  I happened upon this fawn yesterday over by the Big Meadow picnic grounds.  I got a picture with a zoom!

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Anyway, good for the deer! This place had become a cluster…and so many people had dogs off leash without any kind of voice control. ergh…

When I was a kid at camp, one of the activities we did was to close our eyes and just listen, making note of the sounds heard.  I closed my eyes…wind in the trees, families conversing, buzzing, birdsong, rangers beeping at people out on the main road, motorcycles, Pauli turning over in the grass, and MusicMan’s radio…Hike On!

 

May 27 Day 2 of Shenandoah Weekend!

Appalachian Trail Day: Pinnacle Picnic Grounds to Mary’s Rock

5:30 am, why is it that I cannot sleep in???

Put some water on to heat for tea with my little Esbit stove, then attended to Sidekick Pauli.  She refuses to eat plain kibble when we camp.  Don’t worry, I spiced it up with some doggie yum. 🙂

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Do you spoil your dog much? 

Headed out to Pinnacle Picnic Grounds to hike the section of the AT to Mary’s Rock (and back).  Full disclosure here…I didn’t want to run into any bears in the woods with Sidekick Pauli.  I didn’t know how she would react.  So part of my choosing this hike is because it is up on a ridge, and I figured the bears would be down low munching up all the green stuff they could find.

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Headed to Mary’s Rock (and back)

Even so, setting off down the trail at just after 7 am, I was verbally pointing out all the sights to Sidekick Pauli!  “Oh, look at that flower! Did you see the fog hanging in the top of that tree?” hahahaaaa  …and so on!

We didn’t run into any bears along the trail, thank goodness!  Although, after the hut, there was bear scat. That sent me, again, into Chatty Kathy mode for awhile.

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Looking north towards Mary’s Rock from the Pinnacle

This section of the AT has some beautiful views.  It also has some nice ups and downs! The day felt much warmer than it was as we rolled along the ridge towards Mary’s Rock.  However, I am marking this section as one to come back and do in the fall.  It would be absolutely stunning with the fall colors.

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Just so we are clear that this is the AT

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At Mary’s Rock

Sidekick Pauli had a delightful time meeting everyone on the trail EXCEPT stupid people with dogs.  There is a leash law for a reason people.  And don’t look at me like my dog is the problem!!!

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Sidekick Pauli at Mary’s Rock

 

Anyway, no reason to get too hot under the collar because we, well I, was already sweating buckets by the time we had hiked back to Pinnacle Picnic Grounds.  I was so hot, I literally soaked my head down before driving back to Big Meadows.  Ahhhhh refreshing!

So another micro-section of the AT completed! Hike on!

May 26 Day 1 of Shenandoah Weekend!

Definitely took my chances on finding a campsite in Shenandoah National Park on Memorial Day Weekend!  Hoped coming down on Thursday before the holiday weekend was early enough.  Otherwise, it was going to be a long day trip with lots of goodies in the car!

The best possible outcome would be a campsite at Lewis or Loft. Pulling through the entrance gate at Swift Run Gap, the sign stated that ALL campgrounds were open.  A sigh of relief escaped me, but I was skeptical.  The ranger at the gate assured me the campground would have radioed down if there were no more spots.   Decided to head north to Lewis first.  This was my first choice as it is a smaller, tents only, campground.  Well, after circling twice and finding nothing, confidence waned a bit.  I had a choice to make:  south to Loft (20 miles) or north to Big Meadows (5 miles)?  Yep, I went for Big Meadows figuring if there wasn’t a spot, then at least I could keep heading north … check at Matthews Arm…and if I was denied there as well, then I would just drive on out of the park and head home.

Not to worry! Big Meadows had ONE spot left!  Not a great spot, but A spot.  I’ll take it! Ummm…just a side note, not a complaint, full price should not be charged for this spot.  It was challenging finding a flat place to pitch my backpacker tent without moving the picnic table and it is just below where all the cars park…which means you get light every time someone drives by at night!

After getting the tent pitched on a relatively flat area, I headed down to an overlook to send a text to Little Caesar, letting her know where to find me should there be an emergency.  Saw my first bear at the overlook! And a cluster of stupid people…yay!

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God, I’m so hungry…*nom, nom, nom*

Back at the campground families were gathering, fires being lit, and music was playing loudly. *Sigh*  I spread out the maps and finally decided we would finish off a micro-section of the AT I needed tomorrow, Pinnacle Picnic Grounds to Mary’s Rock.  It would have to be an out and back hike.

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Sidekick Pauli takes her watchdog responsibilities very seriously!

I raised my head to look around.  Hmmm, as long I as didn’t look towards those parked cars, it was kinda nice.  Music wafted up into my campsite,

“But it was only fantasy.
The wall was too high,
As you can see.
No matter how he tried,
He could not break free.”

Hike on.

 

1st Day of Break…Airdry at Rivermist?

Monday. Disappointment for some, but for me? My first day of break…ahhh…two whole weeks before summer session begins.  And the sun! It’s back!
I poured a cup of coffee and traced my steps back to the dining room table. Plans for the day moved in and out of focus as I sipped that life giving elixer. Yes, a perfect morning.  hmmm…

What was that God awful stench? Turning my head slightly it hit me like an open sewer.  PAULI! WHAT THE HECK? I JUST GAVE YOU A BATH! OMIGAWD YOU SMELL *insert gag reflex* …JESUS! GET OUTSIDE!!!

Pulling some heavy duty paper towels out of the box and dipping them in hot water, I did my best to remove most of the offensive matter.  But that sharp stench wasn’t giving up without a fight!

Now, I had a plan.  Get out of the house! I had a few things to wrap up at school…let me just do that.

Fast forward 4 hours…

Back to the house, grab stinky Sidekick Pauli and head for Central Dawgma to give her a bath! Then to Rivermist Park for a walk and doggie air dry. The plan had come into full focus.

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Look how freaking adorable she is!

Rivermist Park has a walking trail that is perfect for folks new to walking on trails or who are looking for a quick stroll or those who walk with wheels or families with young children on trikes OR those with a dog that just got an emergency scrub down and need said dog to dry!!!
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It’s really a pretty nice little trail. Completely paved, but there are several dirt surface spurs to the Monocacy River. Walking along the trail with the trees leafed out and grasses growing wildly, it feels much more remote than it is actually.

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Big buffer between trail and townhouses

The trail is just down the hill from Walmart on Rt. 26 in Frederick. There is a place to put into the river here and the trail starts just under the Monocacy Blvd overpass.

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Looking back at parking area


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The muddy Monocacy River

Lovely variety of birds…a friend of mine came owl spotting here and was successful! Me? I saw no owls, but I don’t really hunt for them. When I see one, or when one decides to bless me with its presence, it’s magic…and obviously, is a symbol of some sort in my life…hahaaa!
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We walked, the dog and I, to the end of the trail which is in a neighborhood, then turned around and walked back.

Hurrah, the dog is dry! And guess what? Coldstone is right around the corner! Yes, I do deserve it. Hahaaaa! Hike on!