Black Snake Monkey Head Trail -Rocky Gap SP

How in the heck did this trail get its name? Anyone??? 🤔

This short trail, 2.1 miles, in Rocky Gap State Park in Allegany County, Maryland can be combined with other trails in the park to add distance. Today, a hike leader in training and I scouted it for an upcoming Trail Dames hike.

It is a great trail with a few small hills, a ridge walk, and stream crossing.

Snow flurries and a brisk wind had us moving pretty quickly down the trail today. I pointed out two widow makers and we discussed trail features to point out to new hikers who may sign up for this upcoming event.

💚 All the moss! 💚

On our last stretch, I caught the eye of a deer and just about jumped out of my skin. 😂 Not a live deer, sadly. The leader in training didn’t notice until I pointed it out…next time we will practice looking up and around…a hike leader needs to be aware of surroundings as they lead folks down the trail. 😊

As we left the park, we tracked down a ranger and reported the deer carcass since it was right on the trail and staring down unsuspecting hikers! 😄 Then we skedaddled down to Puccini’s for a wonderful lunch! Hike on!

Afternoon Walking in the Woods Behind My House

Today was quite an exciting weather day here in western Maryland! A tornado warning had me trying to herd two cats into the bathroom until the warning expired. That was a ridiculous five minutes of my life that I am not getting back! 😂 They had already found their own hidey-holes…so I sat in the bathroom with the door open … in case they got bored and wanted to join me. 😄

They didn’t…warning expired…we had another band of some truly ferocious thunderstorms roll through and then the sun came out again. And it smelled delicious outside. So, I finished the day by walking in the woods behind my house.

Ahhhhhh…the scent of wet, fresh, mulchy, leafy forest after a good rain. Amazing! I walked slowly and with intention. Hoping to find …??? I have no idea really. And when I don’t know what I am looking for, well, I tend to find all kinds of things!

Like this pockmarked rock. This is a lot of eroded holes! I sent pics to my nephew, Izzy, the geologist, for further info. Super curious…and if he tells me it’s just an old piece of concrete…ugh…I’ll be crushed. 😕

I also found some Spring flowers and some kind of cool green grassy stuff growing up out of a mossy spot. I know you are applauding my detailed description and really don’t need the added pic…but here it is … just in case! 😄

Oh, and this little slug living his best mountain life!

Finally, I stopped to look out over the southeastern ridges. B-bye stormy skies! Enjoy the trip eastward!

I trudged back up the hill to my house, poured myself a cup of coffee, and found one of my cats is now, indeed, bored enough to sit on my lap. I am truly blessed! Hike on!

AT – VA: US522 to VA55 The Mountains are Waking!

Kicking off another Spring Break hike with blue skies, frigid temperatures to start, and, this time, a hike more strenuous than any I have done in a while. I was excited to return to this section of the Appalachian Trail between US522 in Front Royal to VA55. I was also a little anxious. Would my legs hold up? I was fairly certain they would, but I double-checked that I was packing ibuprofen. 😀

I met my hiking partner “Somewhere” at the VA55 trailhead. Wow, it was cold! I thought I would ditch a layer before hiking, but backtracked on that decision quickly as the cold, cold wind reached my innermost layer. Brrrrr! We shuttled down to 522, then set out a brisk pace. I am thankful for the body’s ability to warm itself! It was freaking cold for the first 20 minutes, then we warmed up nicely as a result of 1) the sun rising above the ridge, and 2) climbing the first hill. It was welcomed warmth!

This stretch had two climbs that reminded me that I need to get out on the trail more consistently, but they were doable.

*Translation – I handled them with only slight discomfort.* 😀

Thankfully, because I would have been appalled to literally fall over in exhaustion on this hike. Perhaps my ridiculous pride kept me upright? 😀 😀 Nah…It was a lovely hike. Bunches of Bloodroot pushing up through last season’s leaves greeted us on that first uphill. The lower canopy was greening and the trail itself was easy going for the first five or so miles. The only tricky part of this section is the hill just before reaching the train tracks near VA55. That hill is an eroded mess. That was the last hill for us and I was glad of it!

The day had added thrill when I met up with my first thru-hiker this season, “Backstroke”, a physicist who has just taken a job with the government. He caught up with us as we were headed to the Jim & Molly Denton shelter. We let him pass, but then walked a piece with him. We discussed teaching as we strolled along.

*insert…I know he probably slowed his roll a bit to walk with us, but even so, I was pleased to be able to keep up the pace and talk at the same time* 😀

He seemed intensely curious about teaching and is motivated to explore it as his career as a physicist unfolds. We had lunch with Backstroke at the shelter, then he was on his way! If you see him on the trail, be sure to say hi…he is super friendly and great conversationalist!

I look forward to the day when I chance to meet up with you along the AT! I will keep working these legs of mine…See you out there! 🙂 Hike on!

Spring, Winter, Spring, Winter, …, Spring?

What’s in a name anyway? By calling it Spring are we hopeful to manifest that first lovely breeze that caresses us with oh, so much yummy warm love? Well, I think one of you has dropped the ball on the manifestation homework because it is still winter.

I never liked group projects… 😀

Today was not a good day to hike, but I went anyway. It was cold. It was windy. It was, at times, snowing…fast and furious. Did I question my sanity? To be honest, a little. But, oh, how exciting the world felt! It was intoxicating and I could not deny myself this opportunity to see Lake Habeeb in the drama of this windy, snowy day! Delayed gratification is not something I am really good at…so let’s go!

I parked by the Amphitheater and started the Lakeside Loop by heading towards the campground first. That side of the lake always seems to take for-e-ver to me with all the ins and outs of the lake. I figured by the time I passed the dam I would be looking forward to the straightaway that passes the Casino and Beach. I love the lake, but sometimes the lack of variety in the trail around the lake … not boring…just gets monotonous for me. Oh good lord, I sound like an ass…I am not really that hard to please!!! 😀

Oh gosh! It was such a fun hike! When I pulled into the parking area the wind was blowing snow so hard that my car was moving side to side! I decided to wait for the squall to pass spending some quality time eating my sandwich. The squall pushed on and I headed out under deep blue skies peeking out from behind gray low hanging clouds. The wind was brisk, stinging my cheeks with unforgiving iciness. I zipped up my coat ALL the way to the top and marched on!

In the campground area, bushes were greening up, creating a sweet Spring-like corridor. Periwinkle cascaded on either side and an occasional bunch of daffodils brightened up the dark shadows under the bramble.

Meanwhile, the wind picked up blowing back the hood of my coat (good thing I wore a winter hat)! Looking up, I found a few snowflakes drifting through the trees. Then, LITERALLY two seconds later, it was like someone dumped a bucket of snow … several thousand buckets, actually…from the west end to the east end of the lake! I could not even see to the middle of the lake, when I had been able to see all the across to the other side and beyond just a few moments before. It was wild! The snow stuck in my hair, blew into my eyes, and plastered my whole front side in no time! 😮

Just as quickly, it was gone. The sun came back out, the snow on my clothes disappeared, and on I went. That happened two more times while on the trail and it really was such a joy to stand there and let it take over. Of course, I was never in any danger…this was not a blizzard…just a passing squall. 🙂

Winter refusing to go out without a few more words, Spring refusing to give in to a very pushy, rude Winter. I think Spring is going to win eventually, but for now, in Allegany County, Maryland, it is still Winter! 😀 Hike on!

AT – MD Back to Annapolis Rock

I question my judgment at scheduling a hike so early that I had to leave my house at 6 AM. This is the first day of my Spring Break and just what the heck was I thinking??? It was dark, it was cold, … , it was the FIRST DAY OF BREAK…hadn’t I just been telling folks how exhausted I was and how I couldn’t wait to sleep in? Honestly…ugh.

But got up I did. Coffee – yes, coffee again – yes. Out the door at 6 AM, promptly!

I-68 east to I-70 south, then up Rt 40 to the Annapolis Rock trail head. Surprise…I remember why I scheduled it so early. To avoid the parking lot fiasco…and I was successful! I was the third car into the lot, huzzah!

My fellow Trail Dames showed up soon after and off we went up the mountain. What a glorious morning! Blue skies and sun pouring down on us. Oh, and I was very impressed with the trail work that has happened in my absence from this stretch of trail. Nice work on the grading and stone placement, PATC Trail Maintainers! Absolutely beautiful!

Soaking up the Sun!

We chatted amicably about some exciting trips that our dames have planned for summer. One is headed to the 100-mile Wilderness in Maine! My plans are more sedate…heading down to complete the section with the Priest in Virginia. All of us are so pleased that we are post – pandemic and can start adventuring further afar to hike.

Arriving at Annapolis Rock, we found the place deserted. Perfect! I sat out on a rock and ate my sub that I had picked up on my way in at Sheetz. That is one VERY conveniently located Sheetz…and it has a drive-thru. You’re welcome. 😀

The nasty old man winter wind picked up while I sat there munching away. I stared that wind down and pretended it was a lovely spring day…until I devoured the last delicious bite of my sub. Then I picked up my stuff and scrambled back into the trees.

We saw several folks headed up as we were headed down. The skies by this time were covered in heavy gray clouds and the wind was picking up. Sorry for them, happy for us! Oooooooo…and we found our first Bloodroot sighting!! Hike on!

Bloodroot!

Good people make a Good life!

As I start this post the Beatles song “with a little help from my friends” is rolling inside my head. This year, more than any before, I am appreciating friendship. The people in my life who I look forward to being with, laughing with, and sharing with. Each inspires me in little ways that enrich my moments spent plodding through life. And plod I do!

So, this is an appreciation post for all the people who are still hanging with me here in the Spring of 2022.

OF course I need to include my partner here. But she is a private person…so I won’t say much except that life would not be as fun without her. She is also a teacher and there is no one else who gets my shizzle like she does. She also swings a mean hammer and paint brush. House renovations would go much slower and be a LOT more expensive without her mechanical prowess! ❤ ❤ ❤

No particular order of importance…but I need to put D in Damascus in here because this post would not be happening without her. Over the last few years, she has become a wonderful photographer and decided to start her own blog to showcase her photos. She has no idea how this has inspired me to get back to writing…but here we are! D is also my go-to colleague at work when everything feels like it is falling apart, so that is a bonus! I post one of her lovely photos here … so please ooooo and ahhhhhh over it for at least thirty seconds! 🙂

You can find more of D’s work over at https://dyagodich.wixsite.com/photos

And then there are my Dames…what would I do without my hiking gals?

Queen V brings her jokes, her exasperation with hills, and keeps me in stitches on every hike I take with her. She is a treasure. I can text her “hey, I found an unmarked trail …want to check it out?” and she ALWAYS says yes. She almost always bitches about it while we bushwhack through some unforeseen truly terrible trail…but she shows up and has fun…I think. Anyway, she also has just the right advice when it is needed. Level headed, she kindly points out all sides of an issue while I rant…and rant…until I manage to slow down enough hear her. Then I’m like “yeah, that makes sense…” The perfect friend to take hiking down the trails! 😀

Queen V and me on the Long Pond Trail in Green Ridge SF

There are so many good people in my hiking life…I certainly could not list them all. I wish I could, but it would take many lifetimes to do so. And so many I have not yet had the opportunity to reconnect with in 2022.

A few more photos that have frozen an amazing moment in time for me. Moments filled with pure joy shared with friends on the trail. Oh, how I look forward to getting back to regular hiking life this year! Hike on! 🙂

Labor Day at the Lake

Silly me forgot to block this day out for Office Hour appointments. Two in the morning and one late afternoon. I figured I would salvage my Labor Day with a hike around Lake Habeeb at Rocky Gap State Park in Maryland. Good call, if I do say so myself!

After hiking around half of the lake, I stopped under the shade of an oak tree near the shore. I stretched out my big red poncho, threw my shoes carelessly over into the grass, and leaned back to look up at the sky. Temperature in the upper seventies, blue skies, puffy clouds, a few yellow leaves littered the ground around me, and frequent breezes that kept the water splashing onto the bank.

As I sat there, two Jay’s started a heated discussion, accompanied by a chorus from the crickets. A family of kayakers floated past, father and small child closer to the bank; Mom chasing a dinosaur float toy that the wind was pushing just out of her reach. After several minutes she was successful in corralling Dino and all was well! In the background, like white noise, I could hear the joyous racket of children at the beach. Ahhh, the end of summer. It was absolute bliss!

In the woods, a variety of fungi lined the path. I felt beckoned to consider that I needed to let some things “die” to make room for new growth. Still thinking on that…

The breeze picked up…was that a chill? When did that dark cloud get here? Guess it was time to move on around the rest of the lake…and pick up my own pace! Hike on!

Cacapon State Park – Ziler Loop Trail

Quick summary – A good workout and wear long pants!

We have had some delicious weather here on the east coast courtesy of the the wildfires out west. The morning I set out to meet friends at Cacapon State Park it was cool and unexpectedly pleasant for July. We met up at the Batt picnic area for an easy access to the trail. We were in luck with a port-a-potty nearby, as well! 😀

A ranger pulled up as we were organizing our packs and stopped to chat with us about the trail. He also gave us a fresh trail map (appreciated) and let us know that Cacapon now offers “glamping” up on the ridge. Good to know!

We set off in the glorious early morning fresh air! Oh, it was nice to be in the woods in the early morning! Birds greeting the day, chipmunks scrambling through dry leaves, and my feet heading uphill. Uphill for a mile and a half! It was a steep climb, with a few opportunities to stop and chat. I noticed a nice rocky area one could stop and take a sit down break…we didn’t partake, but I was thinking ahead to a possible Trail Dame hike. That rest area would come in handy for the Dames!

A good place for a break!
Finally a view!

On we go, up, up, up! Once on the ridge the walking was easy, but the trail is incredibly overgrown with grass and ferns. The grass is thin enough to see the trail for a few feet before it disappears into wild growth. We took it slow and lucky me, hiking in the front, got to scope out the brush for any lurking snakes and catch those wispy cobwebs that seem to appear out of thin air! I carried out my task and we escaped any snakes that may have been hiding out. 😀

Junction with Ziler Trail

At the junction of the Ziler trail and the Ziler Loop trail, we saw a handmade sign for a view…so we explored it. And nothing. We went left, then right, and backtracked. No view in sight. Maybe a winter view? Or maybe the trail was overgrown and we didn’t see it? I don’t know, but the blazes were not in sight, so I was done! Back on the trail!

There is a shelter along the ridge which surprised us all. It was time for second breakfast, so we all decided that this was a blessed intervention in our hike through the jungle. 😀 😀 😀 The shelter sits along what looks like a fire road. I am now curious to find out where it goes. That would be easy hiking for some of the newbie hikers in Trail Dames!

Snack time over and back on the trail we plodded through more high grass. Eventually the high grass gave way to rocks and dirt. The trail now wound steeply down the mountain. It was rocky, with an abundance of those pesky loose pebbles, making the descent a bit tricky. The trail signs were hilariously spot on. 😀

Once down the mountain, the terrain calmed down. Thank goodness…I stretched my neck and rolled my shoulders…ahhh that felt good! Along the last stretch of the loop, we passed the cabin area, saw some pretty impressive rock features, and got to walk on some “Wobbly Bridges” (seriously, they were called Wobbly Bridge #1, #2, etc 😀 ). As we neared the parking area, one of my hiking pals said, “yep, it’s time to get my trail legs back!” Amen to that! 😀 Hike On!

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!

We’ll Meet in the Middle (cross that Ole PA line)

I now live close enough to Pittsburgh to meet up with my nephew, Izzy, for get togethers! and so that is just what I did! He started driving my way and I started driving his…we met in the middle at Ohiopyle State Park!

Ohiopyle is about seven miles off of Route 40 West in Pennsylvania. One could build an entire vacation around this park…go camping, rafting, hiking, biking on the GAP trail that runs from Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, see lots of waterfalls, and even visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater! OH…and I didn’t even mention the cute town with many fun shops!

Izzy and I met up to hike and journal. It was a great day for that with warm, but not hot temperatures, a steady breeze, and sunshine! First things first…bathrooms! Yes, they were open in the Visitor Center! Score for us!

We snapped a really bad pic at the Visitor Center (which was immediately deleted from my phone once I became aware of just how bad it was) then headed to the north end of town to pick up the GAP Trail. We took a much better pic along the way. 😀 We had a small goal…walk down the GAP Trail, skirt down the west side of the river on the Gorge Trail, stop for food and journaling at Cucumber Falls, then return to the cars along the Meadow Run trail. If time we were going to also check out the natural water slides. Maybe 4-ish miles. Lots of time to lollygag the day away!

Thank goodness because lollygag we did! There were so many wildflowers blooming along the Gorge Trail that we were literally stopping every few minutes to take it all in! I have never seen such a wide variety of wildflowers. Gorgeous! Thank you, Mother Earth! Well done!

When we finally made it around to Cucumber Falls we were ready to sit, eat, and journal. A nice couple of rocks awaited us away from the mob collected up near the falls. Damp sandy soil surrounded our rocks. Putting my rain poncho on the ground in front of me, I kicked off my shoes and got comfy. I brought out my journal, my colored pencils, and let myself drift off into…that place. That place we all go when we stare up into the trees or up into the night sky or waves crashing onto a beach…yes, that place.

Izzy and I talked about ancestors and ancestral healing…yeah, we were in it to win it today let me tell you! 😀 We shared weird dreams we had experienced, thoughts on all kinds of topics that I don’t really talk much about to anyone else! 😀 😀 😀 When he pulled out his little tarot cards…I was like “Yeah, pass them over”. 😀

There is always someone in the family that you click with on a different level than everyone else in your family. Izzy is that person for me. He says whatever is on his mind, holds no judgement whatsoever, and is able to converse on anything that comes up. Oh, and he has a Master’s in Geology and was able to school me on all the cool limestone formations along our hike.

Here is to family! Here is to vaccinations that allow me to see family again! Here is to family who live relatively close! Here is to family who will come hike with me!

Grab someone you haven’t hung out with since pre-COVID and Hike On!