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!

Breaking Out of the February Funk!

Even though February is the shortest month, it certainly seems to last forever. As I wait for the daffodils to arrive, however, a gift arrived! A gift only Mother Nature could give to us winter weary Marylanders.  (seriously, our winter has been incredibly mild except for that outburst of sheer crazy a few weeks ago, so I don’t really know why it feels like we need to rush on to Spring …but it does!!)  Anyway, a gift! A weekend that tempted us with delightfully spring like weather.  The birds were singing, the ice was melting, rivers flooding, and I ran for the hills.

I jumped the gun a bit and headed out on Friday when the weather only hinted at warmth that would not come until Saturday.  The smell of fresh mud permeated my nostrils as soon as Sidekick Pauli and I exited the car at Worthington Farm, part of Monocacy National Battlefield.  However, heading up Brooks Hill we found snow and ice.  Not enough for traction devices on my boots, but enough to require picking our way along at a snail’s pace until we got about half way up the hill.  Then the trail was dry!

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View of Baker Valley from Brooks Hill

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Bottom of the Hill…Again with the snow!

Of course, we again encountered the tricky stuff on the way down, but the day was just gorgeous.  You know when the breezes are not quite as chilling and almost feel warm?  That is how it was!  We would be chilly, then rounding a bend in the trail meet with a warmish puff of air.  Very exciting!  After coming down Brooks Hill, we rounded Ford’s Loop by the Monocacy river.  Super gooey, suck your boots off muddy!  The river had just recently receded into its proper banks and left debris and mud on the trail.  A sure sign of Spring!!!

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Sidekick Pauli surveying the flood plain

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Still high water! Sidekick Pauli was not pleased…this is where her beach usually is!

So that was fun.  Saturday came the real delight though! 65 degrees!!!!!! Wazooo!  Oh my gawd, let’s all go hiking!!!  I had errands in the morning, so I set off for Cunningham Falls State Park at about 2:30 pm.  Parking my car at the Catoctin Furnace on the east side of route 15, Sidekick Pauli and I followed the Catoctin Furnace Trail through the woods and over the pedestrian bridge to pick up the Catoctin Trail up to Bob’s Hill overlook.

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Glad I didn’t have to cross Little Hunting Creek today!

This is not a long hike, but a steep one!  After crossing the pedestrian bridge follow the creek to the Catoctin Trail.  It is a right turn up the hill and steep right from the get go!  The trail was slushy, but not terribly difficult to maneuver.  The trail gives hikers nice breaks between the steep sections, leveling out for awhile where one can meander along as if no effort was needed at all to climb to such a height.  Then, of course, just as you get comfortable, the trail heads back up again!

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This was the perfect place to hike on this Spring preview day!  I only saw a handful of other hikers (and I bet Shenandoah NP was packed!)

But was I done with this weekend???? NOOOOOOOO! Even though it rained off and on come Sunday, I was not going to stay inside.  Okay, well, I was…but then as I came out of Joanne’s Fabrics down on 40, I glanced at the mountains. Their summits were so beautifully draped in fog that I could not resist!  I turned down 40 headed for Gambrill State Park hoping to walk through the woods with the mist swirling about me.

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CCC Memorial in Gambrill State Park

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I was ecstatic, just magical.

What an absolute wonderful gift this weekend has been. Almost March! Hike on!

Blockhouse Point Conservation Area

Blockhouse Point is a great little park in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Sidekick Pauli helped me scout this hike so I could lead a group here.  By the way, those of you who read the last post of mine know that Sidekick Pauli went in for surgery for a lump that grew rather quickly on her neck.  Her surgery went great and they were able to get all cancerous tissue out!!  So it was cancerous, but prognosis is fantastic!  She will probably be scouting hikes with me for a long time to come! 🙂 🙂

I visited Blockhouse Point on three different occasions to get the feel of the place since it was brand new to me.  The first time my son and niece tagged along.  Of course, we were caught up  in conversation and got off on the wrong trail.  We had wanted to loop, but this trail did not do that.  Turns out we had gotten on the last leg of the Muddy Branch Trail! Made a note to look this trail up later for future adventures in MoCo!

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The second time was better planned out and Sidekick Pauli was in tow!  We headed down the Canyon Trail, crossed over to Blockhouse Point Trail, then out to Blockhouse Point.  This was before Sidekick Pauli’s surgery and she was delighted to pull me along the trail smelling all things new and exciting.  I was expecting a little more of an overlook, but the views of the river were tremendously satisfying!  Pauli was a little antsy, so I let her lead us back to the car instead of heading out to the second overlook on the Paw Paw trail.  It looked a bit cloudy and felt like a storm was moving in. Sure enough as soon as we got to the car, the skies opened up!  Thank you, Sidekick Pauli, for keeping me dry!!!

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The third visit I practically ran down the trails.  I wanted to scout out the Paw Paw overlook.  I am so glad I did.  It is definitely the nicer overlook.  Expansive views of the river to the northwest.  Very understandable why this point was used in the Civil War.  Another neat feature is the C&O Canal is just below the bluffs, so you can “spy” bicyclists, walkers, and horse riders all day if you like while you sit high above on the rocks.  haha!

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I do need to advise that the Turkey Fan Trail has been rerouted.  This caused me a little confusion the first time out there… not hard to figure out…just weird trying to put together where exactly you are on the Blockhouse Point Trail if you have never been to the area.  So a heads up!

Also, I’ve heard there is a way to do a big loop by following an unmarked trail behind Calithea Horse Farm, then pick up the C&O Canal.   Walking south on the canal to Pennyfield Lock, then up the Muddy Branch Greenway Trail.  Hmmm…more trails to explore!

And while I do like winter…I think I will wait for Spring! Hike on!

 

Oh Fall…slow down!

I looked at the date of my last post…a sharp intake of breath…a month ago!!!

It has been an unforgettable fall season. 🙂  Lots of hiking, lots of working, lots of going to school…not a lot of time for writing unless it is for one of those reasons!

So a quick recap of the highlights. 🙂

Shenandoah River State Park

Shenandoah River State Park

October 17: We headed down to Shenandoah National Park in early October to leaf peep.  After seeing the line at the northern entrance, we gladly diverted and visited Shenandoah River State Park instead.  Lovely park and a very good decision!  We visit Shenandoah National Park all the time and quite honestly, prefer it without the traffic. 🙂

White Rocks, north of Gathland State Park on the AT in Maryland

White Rocks, north of Gathland State Park on the AT in Maryland

October 25: Sidekick Pauli and I took an afternoon hike to White Rocks on the AT in Maryland.  I realized I had been doing way too much desk sitting as I climbed up to White Rocks!!  We had a lovely lunch at the rocks before walking back to Gathland State Park. 🙂 🙂 🙂

2015 October 31 Antietam Battlefield

Antietam Battlefield

October 31: Led the Trail Dames on a walk among the lost souls at Antietam Battlefield. Perfectly beautiful day to enjoy and be thankful for all we have been given.

Wet, wet, wet on the Rose River Trail in SNP

Wet, wet, wet on the Rose River Trail in SNP

November 7: Rose River Falls Loop in Shenandoah National Park with the Trail Dames  IN THE RAIN.  Sidekick Pauli didn’t mind the rain and neither did I.  I wasn’t leading this hike so I walked along carefree as can be!  And we finished by celebrating a fellow dame’s birthday with blackberry cobbler and ice cream! Yes!!

Star Party at Sky Meadows State Park, VA.  Just look at those set ups!

Star Party at Sky Meadows State Park, VA. Just look at those set ups!

November 14: Let’s all go to a Star Party!! Kudos to the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club (NOVAC) for sharing their super high caliber telescopes with us at Sky Meadows State Park.  I saw Jupiter, Uranus, a double star, the craters on the moon, and a lot, lot, more! So awesome. 🙂

Thomas Farm...my go to after work!

Thomas Farm…my go to after work!

I have enjoyed being outside this last month and am soooooooo looking forward to my Thanksgiving break!

#OptOutside on Black Friday! Hike On!

Fogged in at Tentsite #43 (Day 2 – Saturday 9/26/2015)

I left this story as Sidekick Pauli and I were preparing for a night in the tent.  She was on her cushy mat covered with a fleece pad and I made myself as comfy as possible on my Thermarest pad. I had my 20 degree bag underneath and my 35 covering us both like a quilt.  It was quite cozy as darkness fell and Sidekick Pauli’s little snores kept me company as I read my book with a headlamp.  The soothing pitter-patter of raindrops soon had my eyes lids drooping, so I called it a night and drifted off into dream land.

Campgrounds!!! Boom-boom-whack-boom…a family had rolled in after dark and by the sound of it were constructing the Taj Mahal.  No need to worry about the bears…back to sleep…

Peeking my head out of the tent in the morning I couldn’t see more than ten feet in front of me!  That was pretty wild. I waited about an hour for a little more light to filter through the fog, then headed to the car. “Let’s go, Pauli!  This is car camping, I need coffee!”  and I found it at the Wayside…gladly paid $3.04 for a coffee they branded as a “large” but would have been classified as a medium (or a “grande” for you Starbucks folks 🙂 )

Need coffee...what a welcome site on a chilly, wet morning.

Need coffee…what a welcome site on a chilly, wet morning.

Then I headed south with the intention of finding a place to hike where the fog was not as heavy.  This turned into quite a quest!  I drove into the southern section of the park and found a few beautiful views.

Southern Section Overlook

Southern Section Overlook

We hiked a little of this and little of that as I drove back north towards Big Meadows, where it was just as foggy as I had left it!  I decided we could walk down the road to Rapidan.  I was NOT going into the Meadow in that fog…good God, I could have been lost for hours!!

I can't see anything!

I can’t see anything!

We had a good time and eventually the fog lifted in the Meadow, so we entered and found many beautiful wildflowers, in addition to an apple tree dripping with apples!  We were ready for lunch soon after stomping up, down, and around Big Meadows.

Walking into the Meadow on the Rapidan Fire Road.

Walking into the Meadow on the Rapidan Fire Road.

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Heading back to the tentsite I took in the spread of the Taj Mahal campers.  Two huge tents, food everywhere, and the number of red Dixie cups would positively have the Leave No Trace peep’s panties in a twist.  It even made me cringe…seriously, I think these campers produced more trash in two days than I produce in a month.

“Okay…stop judging them!!!” I made a conscience decision to STOP JUDGING them…I was camping.  “Just let them camp, girl! It’s fine…everything is fine!”  So I left it and enjoyed my lunch. 🙂

And it was fine!  Their kids came over and met Sidekick Pauli, and she adored them.  Mom was very nice, as was Grandpa!  How cool that the whole family was getting together for good times outdoors…I love that!

The fog had lifted, but it was still chilly.  Here is the issue with bringing my dog on a rainy weekend…there is not much to do with a dog on a rainy weekend if tenting.  I certainly wasn’t going to tie her to the tree and let her get cold, while I sat in a comfy chair reading my book.  She wasn’t allowed inside anywhere…and we didn’t come out here to hang out in the backpacking tent…so only one thing to do…hike!

I picked up the AT where we had left it yesterday and hiked south to a cemetery, then looped back on a horse trail.  Not a long hike, but long enough to stretch our legs once more before the rain started up.  Which it did, right on cue at 5 pm.  Even so, the tent was a welcome respite and kept us cozy one more night. 🙂  Hike on!

After our last hike of the day...time to relax in the den!

After our last hike of the day…time to relax in the den!

Fogged in at Tentsite 43 with Sidekick Pauli (Day 1 – Friday 9/25/2015)

Tentsite 43 – Big Meadows, Shenandoah NP

I had the site reserved well in advance.  This was planned to be an outing with my nieces “No Bend Barbie” and “Jedi”, but No Bend is finishing up her Master’s in Geology and was way too deep in research to come…so we postponed until next May.

So I figured I would take Sidekick Pauli!  My first solo camping trip and a long time since Pauli has been on an overnight with me.  This would be fun!  We could chill out at the campsite, enjoying the crisp autumn air, watching the leaves fall, and take an occasional hike.  Hey, I even bought a new camp chair for the occasion at the REI sale a few weeks ago!

As our weekend approached I got nervous…too many nice weekends in a row…oh, the probability for a rainy weekend…

Right on cue, the forecast said occasional showers, then rain at 6 PM on Friday night.  Okay, okay, I will get there early and set up the tent.  We can get a hike in  before it starts raining…

Cruising up to Sperryville, Virginia, I glanced at the wall of mountains before me shrouded in white…uh oh…

Well, I will just drive on up to the park entrance and see what is happening.  As my car climbed up, the fog rolled in, and soon I was moving at about 20 mph, hands gripping the wheel, as shapes swirled in and out of the fog in front of me.  Hmmm, It’s not raining…maybe we just need to gain a little altitude, you know, to get above the fog bank.  So I flashed my pass at the gate and turned south on Skyline Drive headed for Big Meadows (still at 20 mph, but now with the addition of the hazards blinking merrily to the sorry souls who dared hug my bumper).

Turning into Big Meadows, I was mollified somewhat.  The fog had lifted a bit and my optimism for an adventure had returned!  Tentsite 43 let’s go!

Great site by the way.  Way back in the woods.  There is a picnic table, bear box and tent pad.  There were also a few little trails behind the site.  These trails made walking Sidekick Pauli late at night very easy!

After setting up the tent, We set out for Lewis Spring Falls.  This trail is a 3.3 mile loop which I was able to reach by walking from my site (a nice plus!).  The fog was again falling through the trees which made my traverse along the Appalachian Trail magical.

All of my previous doubts about staying the weekend disappeared as walked along the AT.

All of my previous doubts about staying the weekend disappeared as walked along the AT.

The trail followed the AT south past the lodge, then a right turn on the fire road, passing an exhausted looking family unit. “Hey, how are you guys?” I cheerfully greeted them…Dad says, “We’re great!”…Mom says, “Kill me now…”  The teenagers were happy though!  I left them to their resting spot and headed on to the falls.

This was going to make that Mom like her hike again! Did I just walk into a fairytale?

This was going to make that Mom like her hike again! Did I just walk into a fairytale?

Whoa…lots of switchbacks!!! It sprinkled a bit, but I had dropped below the fog and could now see distant peaks.  Reaching the top of the falls, everything was wet and the rocks were slippery.  I guess to actually see the falls I would need to descend a little more…but knowing my propensity for taking a tumble and that at the moment I was hiking sans hiking poles (and with a dog)…I decided not to go any further!  I didn’t feel even the least bit sad about that decision either.  Some people just love waterfalls, I am not one of those people.  I like them, they are pretty, but I don’t have to see them in person…unless of course we are talking about Niagra…

An unexpected view on this foggy day!

An unexpected view on this foggy day!

I wondered why everyone was going back up the same switchbacks they came down…then I figured it out.  When you loop, the trail gets pretty rocky.  Holy crap! I hadn’t bargained on this for my easy, afternoon, 3.3 mile hike!! Careful, whew! I didn’t slide and I didn’t fall!!

Back at the site, I proceeded to make dinner.  As soon as I had finished cleaning up and putting things away, then rain started in earnest.  It was 6 pm.

Happiness is a warm puppy!

Happiness is a warm puppy!

We didn’t come out of the tent until after dark so Sidekick Pauli could have a little walk into the woods, so to speak.  Then we were in for good! Into the fog…hike on!

Feeling Beachy at Elk Neck State Park-Maryland

The Chesapeake Bay! Turkey Point Lighthouse!

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There is no better indication that summer is still here than a sailboat on the bay!

It took two hours, half a tank of gas, $8 in bridge tolls, and a $3 entrance fee to get to Elk Neck from Frederick, Maryland…but the views of the Bay…yes, definitely priceless!!

Elk Neck is located on a peninsula at the top of the Chesapeake Bay. The place where the Susquehanna, North East, Elk, and Bohemia Rivers spill into the Bay. At the southern most part of the park, Turkey Point Lighthouse sits atop the bluffs affording an expansive view of the Bay.

Sidekick Pauli and I started our hike on the White Banks Trail at North East Beach. Dogs are allowed on all the trails and beaches, except for the swimming area. The trail description describes this as a “challenging” trail, but that must be by eastern Maryland standards. 😉
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Within 15 minutes, we came to a “T” in the trail. The official trail goes left, but shamelessly, I went right…and oh my!! The beach, a secluded, empty, windy beach! Yippee!

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Sidekick Pauli’s first view of the Bay

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Driftwood is very, very cool

Sidekick Pauli approached the water with great trepidation. When a wave would roll, then crash, onto the beach, she would jump back startled. These were tiny waves! Oh well, mountains and lakes are more her style. 🙂 🙂

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The waves are chasing me!! Maybe I can climb that cliff…

There was a great piece of driftwood for us to sit on and eat our lunch. Total relaxation overtook me sitting there on the sunny beach watching sailboats drift by in the Bay.  Then Sidekick Pauli, having had quite enough of the sand, and the waves, and the wind, whined and pawed me leaving wet sand all over! Time to keep hiking!

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Okay, okay…we’re going!

After the stop at the beach we climbed the steepest hill of the entire hike.  I remember it, not for its steepness, but for the woman who we passed as we were going up…a cigarette and whiskey voice with a starlet physique…memorable. 😉

Next stop was White Bank overlook…pretty cool.  Watch your step! It’s a long way down!

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White Banks…and a rather abrupt drop off!

Continuing around the park, we took a side trail over to meet up with the Pond Loop.  Acorns and pawpaws were my only obstacles…and I slid twice! Darn acorns!
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The pond was more to Sidekick Pauli’s liking, so we took our time around the perimeter.  I love those big, plumed grasses that grow on the eastern shore of Maryland.  The pond’s shore was thick with this grass.
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Once we were around the pond, we caught the Farm Trail back to the parking lot.

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It’s not a flower, Pauli.

However, we were not done for the day!  The one unfortunate aspect of this park is that it is split into two pieces, with a prestigious bay community inbetween. 😦  Lucky for the residents, not for park visitors!  So if you want to visit the lighthouse…which of course you do…you will need to drive down to the lighthouse trail.  Which we did! Then NO PARKING was available, but the park ranger made a space for me! 🙂 🙂

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Turkey Point Lighthouse

Thank you, ranger!
Lovely day at the Bay!

Hike on!

AT – VA Rt 601 to 2nd Parking Area South of Sky Meadows SP

Riveting title don’t you think. 😉

Started early last Saturday (before the Labor Day Weekend) …Sidekick Pauli in tow.  We had the whole day to hike!  I found the Rt.601 parking lot without difficulty, but wow! what a drop off into the parking lot!  I switched out my sandals for hiking boots, grabbed extra water for Pauli, then headed down the blue blaze towards the AT.  Heads up, people, the heat was back in town!

Left turn onto the AT, then in about 0.2 of a mile we were cross Rt. 50, a major highway, which thankfully was pretty quiet this morning.  Sidekick Pauli was already in tongues out mode as you can see in the pic below!

On the trail just after cross Rt. 50.

On the trail just after cross Rt. 50.

The trail hugged Rt. 50 climbing gently until reaching the parking area on Liberty Hill Road.   Afterwards, the climb becomes more steep, but not unreasonable so.  I had plans to take the Old Trail (the old AT) up the hill and AT back down the hill.  I had never taken the Old Trail and had conjured up a trail that was overgrown, filled with briers and ticks, with a faint path leading through it.  I pictured faint or non-existent blazes on the trees…and quite honestly, I imagined getting lost!

The Old AT!

The Old AT!

I could not have been more wrong.  The Old Trail is marked clearly and often with purple blazes and the trail is pristine! What a nice surprise.  The only part I didn’t like was the multitude of spider webs spanning the trail.  Goodness, I must have taken twenty little spiders hiking with me…and their webs were in my hair, on my pack, everywhere.

A calm ascent up this little hill before the real heat of mid-day set in. Butterflies owned the pipeline where wildflowers were abundant.
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Then it was back into the woods for a short stretch before we reached the AT. We were now in Sky Meadows State Park proper.
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New colorful signs are replacing the old standard brown and white. I allowed myself a moment of nostalgia looking down at the classic brown and white sign that had been tossed to the side, then admired the brightly colored new trail marker with improved information.

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We turned right, then took a nice sit down break at the intersection of the North Ridge trail. It is a proper resting spot with a bench! Sidekick Pauli crawled underneath finding a cool spot to rest and to keep a watchful eye on anyone coming up the trail. 🙂 My traildog!
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The plan was to continue south to the first parking lot off the Thompson Wildlife Management Area. This would allow an easy starting point to continue this section at a later date. The PATC map showed Orchard Parking to be about another 0.7 miles, not too far.

I passed an overgrown path to the right and thought, “If this were Indiana, that would probably be the trail”…snarky I am at times…

After a while, I was more suspect that the overgrown path had indeed been the trail to Orchard parking, as I was not finding any other paths to take. I finally came upon a little sign with a tent symbol and, hallelujah! A PATC trail maintainer! I talked with him a bit and confirmed that I had passed the trail to Orchard parking. So, time to turn around and head back to route 601, this time following the AT through Sky Meadows.
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It was such a beautiful day, and I was in no hurry since earlier in my hike I had dodged a huge bee…lost my footing, and fell, cracking my kneecap on a rock. Surprisingly, while it was plenty painful, enough endorphins were flooding the area to keep it manageable!
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I was ever so pleased to get to blue blaze that took me back to my car!

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Hobble…I mean, Hike on!

AT – VA Rt.725 to Jim&Molly Denton Shelter (and back!)

Here I am at my desk preparing for the semester, but thinking of the trail!  It is a needed diversion to calm my nerves as I head into a semester fill with many unknowns.

My mind is wandering back to last weekend when I completed a big, three new miles on the AT in Virginia.  This is the crux of the solo hiker…no shuttle means an out and back hike.  But…Excitement of stepping on a new section of trail overrode any misgivings I might have had about retracing my steps! I turned my car towards the Virginia state line, Sidekick Pauli riding shotgun.  🙂

The parking area off of Rt. 725 is quite pleasant and shady.   Hmmm…2:30 in the afternoon.  Starting mid-afternoon is not usual for us and created its own challenges in terms of the heat and our energy levels.  After crossing Rt. 55, up the hill we went, headed south to the Jim & Molly Denton shelter.

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The lull of the afternoon had me drifting off into trail daze soon after starting down the soft dirt path.

So I don’t remember if the Bee Lady’s dog rushed us before or after the train tracks, but it was shocking none the less. I yelled up the hill, “I have a dog!!!”  I heard a young woman call to the dog, but of course, the dog was too excited to stop.  Sidekick Pauli, always on a leash, gave a snarl as this young, energetic, white dog came crashing down the hill and right into, then onto her.

The woman, who was calling out louder now (in a way that told me she had NO control), rounded the corner and I could see she was carrying a child.  Luckily, the dog was not aggressive in a “I am going to kick your butt” kind of way so Sidekick Pauli got over her initial annoyance and tolerated the dog until we passed.  After passing, the young woman and I talked a bit.  Her son had been stung by a bunch of ground bees…ouch.  She described where the bees had been and was quite worried that we would get stung if we continued.

Okay, I forgive the Bee Lady and her dog (and hope her son is okay).  On with it!

Soon after stepped across Railroad Tracks

Soon after stepped across Railroad Tracks

On up the hill we went, enjoying any breeze that managed to reach us on this muggy afternoon!  Then an older gentleman came towards us with a full pack.  He asked if I had run into the Bee Lady.  I replied that indeed I had and wondered whether the bees were going to be a problem.  Turns out he had checked it out and apparently the bees had gone back to the ground and were not on the trail.  “You have a trail name?”  “They call me Chicken Farmer.”

Well, Chicken Farmer’s story hollowed out my soul.  My eyes watered as he told me his wife had died on June 17 (my anniversary).  His son came to watch the chicken farm so he could retreat to the woods along the Appalachian Trail.  Starting his hike in Port Clinton, he had come south to Harper’s Ferry to visit with friends.  That morning he had again set his feet in motion starting at Chester Gap near Front Royal, then headed north.  I bid him safe travels and again headed up, with a heavier heart and a desire to drop everything and head back to Hoosierland to see my Mom & Dad.

Are there ANY trails without rocks??? Sidekick Pauli is happy regardless!

Are there ANY trails without rocks??? Sidekick Pauli is happy regardless!

Ahhh, we were nearing the top of the hill, I could feel it and I welcomed it. Finding a nice rock to sit on, Sidekick Pauli and I stopped for a long water break.  Tops of mountains are so peaceful.  There is always a breeze that pushes the treetops aside and finds its way down to the weary hiker. 🙂 A chill went down my back as the wind met with my sweat soaked shirt. I enjoyed it…I can definitely tell you I enjoyed that moment!

Once over the ridge, we were excited to see a large field.  We ran a few steps, channeling Maria from “The Sound of Music”, until the reality of a 92 degree day brought us back to our steady plod, plod, plod.  There were several lovely butterflies, even a monarch, that joined us in our trek across the field. 🙂

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A little road walk between the hills.

Then it was down to a road crossing, then up again to the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter.  I was just plain, old hot at that point, so arriving at the shelter was a happy moment!  Two college guys were hanging on the porch as we walked up.  Pauli was happy to make their acquaintance and I think they were happy to meet her too!  I hung out for a while at the shelter, drinking even more water, and talking with the guys.  Envious, I was! Oh, to be young and on the trail for however long you want to stay out…no responsibility, no timeline other than the beginning of the semester…

Well, the afternoon was quickly heading into early evening and we had to get back to the car.  The crickets sang to us and the cicadas chirped.  Shadows grew longer as we walked slowly back.  No need to rush.

Hike on.

Big Meadows Never Disappoints!

Big Meadows, in Shenandoah National Park, is a place that is as much spiritual as it is physical.  From a picture or a drive by in the car it may just look like another big field.  It is so much more.

Big Meadows

Big Meadows

We set off Friday morning with the dogs to wander around this area before the throng of weekenders descended.

It is probably best to forgo a heavy regimented hiking plan in this area.  There is no map for the meadow, and we usually just kind of wander around, feet following our “oh!” and “ahhh!” moments.  This doesn’t mean there are not any trails.  There are MANY trails, all made by deer as they criss-cross the meadow in what seems a haphazard, confusing fashion. Once on a trail and fully immersed in the meadow it begins to make sense as our feet find our own crooked, nonsensical route to happiness. 🙂

Since the dogs were with us today and we wanted to avoid the ticks, if possible, we walked down the road to Rapidan to the trail head for Stony Mountain trail, then back.  We think it was about 4.5 – 5 miles in total.

Little Caesar with Farmdog Jett & Sidekick Pauli

Little Caesar with Farmdog Jett & Sidekick Pauli

Taking a road like this one is deceptive because even though it seems flat, it is descending.  On a previous hike, we walked up this road from Rapidan, Hoover’s camp…and it was six miles of not so fun!  😉

Today, however, with a bit of fog rolling over the trail from time to time, was quite pleasant.

Walking down the road to Rapidan

Walking down the road to Rapidan

The road has some hairpin turns! The trail head for Stony Mountain trail is located just off of the first big hairpin turn.  This was our turn around point.

The first big hairpin turn, along with Little Caesar and Farmdog Jett.

The first big hairpin turn, along with Little Caesar and Farmdog Jett.

On the way back up I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to the road, having drifted off into la-la land.  All of the sudden, I was looking down on a rattlesnake! Both Sidekick Pauli and myself jumped, then skittered over to the other side of the road, while I was yelling “Holy Crap-a rattlesnake”!!  Once a safe distance away, I asked aloud, really more to myself, “Why no rattle? Why did he not warn us?”  then as I took another look figured out he was probably dead.  I wasn’t going to prod him to check it out, but I was pretty sure. I snapped a picture and moved on.

Looking at the picture later, I confirmed that he had to be dead.  Still…what a shocker!  I kept to the middle of the road after that!!! 🙂

The best reason, in my opinion, to visit Shenandoah right now in the middle of hot, hot summer are the wild flowers and the fungi! These made climbing back up the road not so bad.  We were also lucky to have that rolling fog which kept us cool throughout our hike.

Wildflowers! And a Fungi!

Wildflowers! And a Fungi!

The fog greeted us as we left the woods and made our way back across the meadow.

An everchanging landscape…brightly sunny to dramatically foggy.

In the meadow, hike on!

Myterious? Melancholy? Fog settles over Big Meadows

Myterious? Melancholy? Fog settles over Big Meadows