Kentuck Trail & The Promise of Fall

The promise of Fall! Crisp air with a chilly bite that leaves goose bumps running up your spine and down your arms.  A bright blue sky framing the yellows, reds, and oranges popping forth on the end of branches hanging with the weight of summer gone on too long. That cool, mulchy, smokey scent in the air.  The harvest season, the pies, the pumpkins, the magic! Oh, Fall, don’t make me wait much longer!

I am waiting, somewhat impatiently, for sweater weather.  Despite the humidity, the constant rain, low hanging gray clouds, Sidekick Pauli and I could take no more inside time broken up with quick strolls around the block.  Today, we were on our way west to Ohiopyle State Park to scout a trail for an upcoming Trail Dame camp out.

I questioned my decision to head out in the entrails of Hurricane Florence as I drove through heavy fog and pelting rain crossing the mountains near Frostburg, Maryland.  After coming down a couple hundred feet, though, my path was affirmed by a Bald Eagle swooping down to the shoulder of the highway! What a beauty! (and yes, I do believe in signs given to me by nature…so on I went)

Ohiopyle was crowded, of course, but I was headed up a bit to the Tharp Knob Picnic Area.  I found only one other car in the parking lot…and bathrooms… 🙂  See, it was meant to be! 😀 😀 😀

The plan was a short hike to the campground and back.  Long enough to stretch my legs, short enough for Sidekick Pauli, who has some limitations to consider…back issues, and so on.  This hike took us up to the overlook first, where we sat on a bench enjoying the breeze coming up from the gorge.  From the overlook, I could see the town of Ohiopyle hugging the Youghiogheny River (pronounced Yawkigainy…here is audio!).

IMG_20180915_122944_146.jpg

The whole scene…town, river, and even a train…made things feel right with the world. 🙂  After a few minutes, Sidekick Pauli wanted more, so we headed down the Kentuck Trail to the campground.  My shoes sunk into the soft, water-laden, trail as I requested Pauli to wait while I picked my way down the first hill.  There were three blow downs to cross over, around, or through…which meant three more on the way back! 😉

IMG_20180915_202654.jpg

Headed for a Blowdown

IMG_20180915_202450.jpg

Moss & Leaves…ahhhh! Breathe it in!

Sidekick Pauli did not have any trouble with her back today and she looked like a puppy as she clambered up and over one particular blow down!

Soggy August, and now September, left a lovely variety of fungi along the trail.  I took the time to look carefully and appreciate each small thing in the forest as I walked.  Being here, in the woods, with my dog, as the seasons change…this is a blessing! Hike on!

AT – VA Compton Gap to Rt. 522: My 5 Favorite Things!

My 5 favorite things from yesterday’s day on the Appalachian Trail – not in any particular order! 🙂

1. We, the Maryland Trail Dames, were blessed to see a woman break the record for running the AT through Shenandoah National Park!

2. A deer quietly walked by us, stopping for a moment to take us all in.

3. Creek crossings!

4. Meeting ‘Disco’, a flip-flop through hiker making his way down to Springer Mountain.

5. The pictures and stories by Ms. Harron’s 2nd Graders at Ressie Jeffrey Elementary that are displayed in the kiosk at the Rt 522 Trailhead in Front Royal! Love, love, love…read every story!

I am just so happy to see the trail and love for nature nurtured in children!

This is what trail magic looks like to me 😍 Hike on!

AT – NC Max Patch to Garenflo Gap

July 20, 2018 – July 21, 2018

After hiking into the NOC and staying the night, most of the Dames went home. Lola, “Akela” and I scooted up to do another micro section before doing the I-81 shit show north to Maryland. OH, WHAT A SECTION!!!!!

We drove up to Garenflo Gap to park my car first thing in the morning. The last short section of “road” to the parking area is more like a rutted out driveway up to someone’s mountain hideaway, but the parking area itself was great! However, Akela vowed to never drive her Toyota minivan up it again. 😀 No worries there, my RAV4 made it just fine.

Off to Max Patch!

IMG_20180722_100434.jpg

Oh my! This is my new favorite place on the planet! I’m sure it was made even more memorable with the fabulous weather. Big puffy clouds in a blue, oh, so blue sky, floated with the breeze as we reveled in the fresh cool air which had settled on the bald.

IMG_20180722_100732.jpg

Glorious!

FB_IMG_1532261784878.jpg

There was a lovely campsite just over the high point of the bald, then several more after we descended off the bald into an area that looked very park-like. Lush green grass, tall trees, almost Eden. We made note to include this section when we come back to head south into the Smoky Mountains. A little further down the trail is Roaring Fork Shelter which also looks to be a delightful place to make camp!

All the way to Lemon Gap the trail was just a delight to walk. So different than the trail between Fontana Dam and the NOC! We were ready for a change and the trail delivered!

img_20180722_101018

After Lemon Gap, we started back uphill and discussed hiking past the next shelter to the campsite listed on Guthook’s App. It seemed logical, I mean we weren’t tired and, add to that, big storms were moving in tomorrow. I would like to be out of Garenflo Gap, and down that sketchy rutted road before those storms moved in!

Well, of course, once we made the first campsite, we kept on to the second. The trail was overgrown waiting for that controlled burn we read about on a sign at Lemon Gap!

20180720_173310

Now we were pooped! It was about 6??? Time doesn’t mean a whole lot to me on the trail, but I know it was after 5 o’clock when we pulled into the campsite. We had filtered water at a very low running stream that crossed the trail on the way down the mountain, my Katahdin sucked it right up, but Akela had to take a few more minutes to fill up her bag to use, oh what was it, a Sawyer? Anyway, it took a while. I love my Katahdin in times like these!

We set up camp, made dinner, enjoyed the sunset, then crashed!

Sleeping soundly into the night, ahhhh!

*sleeping soundly*

*possible snoring*

*dreaming of bears*

“Kylena…”

I was surprisingly not startled by Akela kneeling outside my tent in the middle of the night.

“What?” *notices wind has picked up*

“There’s a really big storm moving in.”

“okay.”

“A really big storm.” *lightning flashes…rumble of thunder*

“okay.”

I’ll just say here, that I am not at all bothered by storms. I grew up in the Midwest and tornado warnings were just part of life. We lived in the woods and I loved a good storm. I don’t really want to be in a tornado, but a good thunderstorm is weirdly comforting to me.

The thunder rolled over the mountain singing me to sleep. I did keep track, for a while, to the time elapse between lightning and thunder and quickly realized, while a good lightshow was upon us, the storm itself wasn’t right ON us.

Akela wasn’t so sure. However, she eventually got back into her hammock. Maybe she went to sleep eventually. 😦

I was up early as usual, still raining, then another storm moved in. Akela and I texted back and forth…nice to have cell service at times like this! I packed up everything in my tent, except the pad I was sitting on, waiting to make my exit as soon as the rain let up.

I have been through this before…everything in the pack, pack cover on, rain poncho on…rain slows, then stops. Go time! Back out of tent with poncho on, place pack so cover keeps somewhat dry, deflate pad, disassemble tent…shove into pack pockets and get the heck off the mountain!

fb_img_1532261060314

Nearing Garenflo Gap (thanks Akela for the pic!)

The rain did not return as we hiked down the mountain to my car waiting at Garenflo Gap. Sunlight coming through the trees filtered down in rays creating an almost postcard like scene. Thunderstorms don’t last forever! Hike on!

AT – NC Fontana Dam to the NOC (part 2)

7/18 – 7/19/2018 Stecoah Gap to NOC

After a night at the Hike Inn, we were smelling good, feeling rested, and ready for another overnight on the trail.  I had looked forward to this section all year…Cheoah Bald!! A real bald!

Breakfast could have been fabulous.  I dreamed of scrambled eggs, toast, hash browns, and coffee.  Alas, nothing was open when we wheeled out of the parking lot headed to Stecoah, so I made do with trail bars and Gatorade. 😦

20180718_063203.jpg

Let’s Go!

It did the trick somewhat.  My stomach was not in its best form today.  The restaurant we went to the previous night did not have any viable vegan options, so I chose what I thought was a dairy-free meal, since that is the big culprit to my system.  Regrettably, it was not dairy-free! I tried my best to scrape off all bits of dairy…but no luck and as I climbed out of Stecoah Gap I was feeling it.  It did not keep me back, but it kept me in check all the way up to Cheoah! Not my best day hiking!

20180718_112006.jpg

They said there would be water somewhere at the gap.  This is totally true if you want to climb down like 700 feet to get it.  I’ll pass!

My hiking gals were none the wiser, thank goodness!  I climbed, and climbed.  That is one long uphill!  It got a bit hot, so we stopped and used my backpacker fan (which I procured for free at the Summit).  That fan was a BIG win!

Then as the trail leveled out, I caught a glimpse of something amazing through the rhododendron bushes.

20180718_143220.jpg

The bald, the bald!!!! We HAVE ARRIVED! 😀 😀 😀

Amazing, and just like that, all memories of that hard climb evaporated into the bright blue sky!  I pulled out my big red poncho to spread on the ground, then sprayed myself down with bug spray…no ticks on me, please.  Falling back on the poncho I undid the laces on my boots and kicked them off, perfect!

Now it was time to relax a bit.  Big climb over, I took it all in.  The blue of the sky, the big, white puffy clouds that drifted lazily from right to left.  The breeze as it made its way through the towering grasses, the bees as they hummed about me, the soft scent of hay and clover, the birds chirping to each other, the butterflies as they floated by,  and me.  I was able to hear, no, …really hear, and see, and feel, and smell! Oh, what a day! What a place! I felt I was a lucky person, indeed!

 

IMG_20180722_094517.jpg

After the bald, it was a short downhill roll to the shelter.  And guess who was waiting for us?

.

No guesses?

.

Uncle Charlie’s crew…sans Uncle Charlie…who had, indeed, ditched out due to his bum leg and hitched his way into the NOC.  Who was, according to brother and son, currently rafting down the river loving life! Oh, Uncle Charlie! So happy you were having a great time! 😀

I pitched my tent down the hill, then immediately had to visit the privy, which was like a kazillion feet above me on the hill.  Oh, the humility. Ugh.

It was a good sleeping night! haha 😀

20180719_092339.jpg

Making our way down to the NOC!

The walk downhill to the NOC was not as bad as I thought it might be after my experience coming into the NOC last summer on the opposite side (which had major erosion due to fire damage).  This side of the hill was a piece of cake compared to that!  I kept waiting for the “jump-up” listed on the map.  I finally decided to check Guthook’s App…turned out we were sitting just downhill from the “jump-up” taking in a lovely view while eating some snacks!  Wow, didn’t think anything about it…I mean does it even warrant a nickname like “jump-up”???

The rest of the way down took a long time, for sure! and our feet were beat! For the last two miles, I fantasized about soaking my feet in the river.  We could hear the happy din of people playing on the river as we made our way around and down the mountain.  It added to my desperate fantasy!  I needed to be at that river like a mile ago!

20180719_140543.jpg

The Dames 🙂

And then we were there.  And if you have ever backpacked into the NOC, then you know how good it is for your morale…people treat you like a superstar! They want to talk to you about the trail, they are in awe that you are carrying a backpack, on and on…All the good vibes! Hike On!

A Force Play by Spring – Then the Mother Nature Smackdown

I’ve been out; I’ve been about; I’ve been in a tutu, in hiking boots, in trail runners, in wind gear, covered my face with the balaclava, and basked in the warm February sun.  However, I have not hiked in snow this winter…BECAUSE THERE WAS NO SNOW THIS WINTER!

See, no snow on March 9th at Gambrill State Park!

IMG_20180309_144927.jpg

TGIF Hike with the Maryland Trail Dames – Log Sittin at Gambrill State Park along the Catoctin Trail.

And look, practically Spring at the Celtic Canter 5k in Westminster, MD on March 10th!

IMG_20180310_131309_604.jpg

The Maryland Trail ‘Lassies’ rocked out this 5k!

The weekend of March 17th was even better!  Another TGIF hike with the Dames was windy and cold to start, but it warmed up.  And Sunday, March 18, was a glorious day on the trail…60 degrees, sunny, absolutely delicious hiking weather!

IMG_20180316_151628.jpg

TGIF with the Maryland Trail ‘Kitties’ at Cat Rock in Catoctin Mountain Park.

IMG_20180318_175220_976.jpg

Crossing the 340 bridge coming back into Harper’s Ferry on Sunday. JUST LOOK AT THAT SKY 🙂

Yeah, Mother Nature decided to wait until we were all so excited for Spring…teased us with warm temperatures, sunny days, and daffodils.  Yet, despite all times she could have done something great in November, December, January or February…she decided to let Winter have its day  … in March…and right now there are 6 inches of white crap on the ground with a call for 6 more inches today.

Thank you, Mother Nature, you know I have a hiking weekend coming up in three days.  An AT section hiking weekend, with a couple of gals, for which we rented a house in Staunton, Virginia.

So I would suggest that you, Mother Nature, direct your Sun to start shining its warmth in the direction of Beagle Gap, Humpback Rocks, and Reids Gap.  Okay?

Thoughts and prayers appreciated, and if you feel like shoveling snow let me know…HIKE ON!! 😀

The Deep Freeze Delights of Winter

Well, happy new year and happy outdoor adventuring to everyone! Here is hoping your toes are warm, your furnace is cranking, and the pipes haven’t burst at your house.

I kicked off the new year with the Trail Dames, heading out on the best possible day last week…yay! Temps rising into the twenties!!  What an absolute delight.

I led the Dames on a 6 mile loop at Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, Maryland.  This is one of my favorite hiking spots and home to Camp David for you political junkies.  Occasionally, the trails are shut down when the President is at Camp David.  This isn’t very often with the current administration.  So stomp on down the trails, no secret service to stop you!

Our route started at the Visitor Center.  We were all giddy with the blue skies and promise of increasing temperatures, despite it being 17 degrees as we pulled into the lot and greeted each other.  The Visitor Center opens at 9 am…important information if you like to hit the bathrooms before heading down the trail.  Dames LOVE bathrooms at the beginning of a hike!!! 😀 😀 😀

IMG_20180103_143049.jpg

Shedding Some Layers!

We started uphill first heading in the direction of Thurmont Vista.  This warmed us up!  We took our first break at the Vista, then continued around to Wolf Rocks.

IMG_20180103_143157.jpgIMG_20180103_143233.jpg

We made a half – ass effort to investigate the top of Wolf Rocks, but with ice and snow covering most of the rocks we retreated without argument and  stomped on to Chimney Rocks.  We took a longer break at Chimney Rocks.  It is a nice spot for a break since there are many rocks to sit upon.

IMG_20180103_143340.jpg

Retreat from Wolf Rocks

IMG_20180103_143500.jpg

Winter View from Chimney Rocks

Kudos to the park maintainers because they have now blazed the trails in a variety of happy colors and put in benches for restful contemplation of the universe in many spots along the trails.

Leaving Chimney Rocks, it was all downhill, steeply, to park headquarters, then a rolling mile back to our cars.  It was a beautiful way to kick off 2018!

May all your hiking goals be met this year (in spite of the frigid start).  Hike on!