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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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!!! 😀 😀 😀

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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.

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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.

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Retreat from Wolf Rocks

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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!

Winter Shiverfest Backpack – Ed Garvey Shelter

Last weekend’s adventure was another in the category “I’m trying to love winter”.  I led a backpacking overnight for Trail Dames of Maryland from Crampton Gap to the Ed Garvey Shelter, then out the next day ending at Weverton.  A very short, doable winter backpack, 4 miles in and about 3 miles out!

Four other crazy ladies joined me on this shiverfest.  We met at Weverton on Saturday afternoon, shuttled down to Crampton Gap, snapped a shot at the AT sign and off we went!

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Off on our Shiverfest!

While it had been slightly chilly when we stepped off, as usual, we were ready to shed a layer within about 25 minutes.  At just after an hour of hiking one dame asked THE QUESTION”, you know the one…Are we almost there?”  Hahaaaa! Yes, we were almost there, I assured her…maybe 15 – 20 more minutes…I think all the ladies were pleased with that answer. 😀

It was only 3:00 pm, but the sun had started to sink taking with it the warmth of the light.

True to my word, we stumbled upon the shelter soon after.  Three big guys greeted us.  I had been hoping for the second floor of the shelter as it is more protected from the wind.  No such luck, two of the big guys had already moved in.  Bummer! Oh well, they were building a fire, so I quickly forgave them!

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Vicky & Kathryn putting up their tents. This was Kathryn’s first backpacking trip and Vicky’s second! Great job, Ladies!

Two of our group tented, I stayed in the shelter with two others.  I have had to put up my tent with freezing fingers before and didn’t need that delightful experience in the morning.

Big guy #1, Bob, and his buddy, Big guy #2, Aaron, were trying to think of a trail name for their friend, Big guy #3.  They asked what we thought.  I looked over at them sitting around the fire.  Big guy #3 was sitting with his back to me, feet comfortably snuggled in bright orange down booties… “yeah, all I am I thinking right now is ‘BootyMan’!”  BootyMan it was!  Bwahahahaa!!  He took it well telling all of us we were going to be wanting his booties at about two in the morning!

Laughing, we spread out our stuff, made dinner, then joined the big guys at the fire.  The comradery of the trail is one of my favorite things about backpacking.  You meet up with other backpackers and it’s like you’ve been friends forever.  These guys were a lot of fun and they definitely made our shiverfest great.  🙂 🙂

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“BootyMan”, Aaron, Vicky, Kathy, Kathryn, & Anne enjoying the warmth of the fire.

The weather cooperated as well.  Cold, yes, but not dreary.  We huddled about the roaring fire watching daylight fade and the lights of houses in the valley twinkle up at us.  The sky sparkled with a million stars and we sat back, heads tilted to the heavens, taking in Orion and other lesser known constellations.  Good food, great conversation, we stayed up until about 8:30 pm before crawling into our bags.

Fast forward several hours…now huddled in my bag (rated 20 degrees + liner that advertised +20 more).  I slept off and on, not totally uncomfortable, but every once and awhile a shiver would start at the back of my neck and run down to my toes.  I had on all my layers…so even fitting into my bag was hilariously snug (but I did it…champ that I am). My feet were cold all night even with my big puffy socks…and all I thought about were those damn bright orange down booties!!!

Checking my Fitbit later that day showed that while I slept for 7 hours and 15 minutes…I was 51 minutes awake or restless!!!  Maybe next time I will go ahead and take my partner’s bag that is rated negative 15 degrees even though it is heavier!  It took all my will to get up and go to the privy! Brrrr!

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Finally up, I decided I would sit in my bag to stay warm while writing in my journal.  It was still dark, but I could see dawn trying to make its move on night.  The dark blue sky was now streaked with a sliver of light blue and I wondered whether we would get the reds and pinks with sunrise.

Several paragraphs later I glanced back up, ahh, light pink was seeping in at the lower edges of the light blue and I heard a flock of geese honking in the valley.  It was still too cold to go get my bag of food though.  No matter, I was warming up my hiking pants and insoles within my bag…my hiking socks were somewhere down in there too.  “Get warm little sockies, I need you!” I thought as I watched the sky dissolve into more of a peachy color.

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As I enjoyed the warmth of my bag, a few coyotes started yipping and singing, a beautiful moment.  I could now see the blue blaze on the trail to the spring.  Light had again conquered the Dark.  Time for hot chocolate – Hike on!

Beat the Heat at Little Bennett Regional Park

Can Mother Nature cool her jets?  Everyday brings a new level of heat disgust!  My last hike was two weeks ago and we were chased back to our cars by a thunderstorm.  Since then it has just been oppressive.  I know it’s summer, yada, yada, yada…keep your logic to yourself!

I needed to get out, but also needed motivation.  This is where being a hike leader with Trail Dames is so, so, personally satisfying.  I scheduled an early morning hike at Little Bennett Regional Park in Maryland.  And six other crazy women signed up…so at 6:20 AM I pulled into the Hyattstown Mill trail head parking lot in Hyattstown just across the street from the fire department.  It was already a steamy 80 degrees, but otherwise a gorgeous morning that had surprised me with an amazing sunrise on the way down from Frederick.

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From the Hyattstown Mill Trail Head Parking…with a colorful filter. 🙂 Cute little town.

As soon as everyone arrived, some still trying to wake up, we started down the road to pick up the trail.  The trail used to be the old Hyattstown Road that went from Hyattstown to Clarksburg and it still resembles a road.  Wide and paved with gravel it was an easy walk to the cut off for the Bennett Ridge trail.

There was a 10k going on in the park this morning.  As such we navigated past water stations, yellow tape marking off trails, and eventually the runners.  They had their work cut out for them on this muggy morning!

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Along the old Hyattstown Road

We followed the Bennett Ridge trail to the campground (pitstop), then backtracked to Beaver Valley.  We headed downhill and encountered a bubble of runners from the 10k coming up.  Oh! They looked a little whipped, but were in good spirits as they scuttled up the hill.

 

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A 10k runner in beautiful Little Bennett

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Another runner in the 10k. How can I not love this park? So lovely!

Beaver Valley winds around to the Western Piedmont trail, which we took back in the direction of Hyattstown.  This is also part of the old road, so we were on flat, wide terrain again for a while.  As we approached the section of trail where Pine Grove trail comes in, runners were exclaiming that they were getting stung.  We slowly walked forward.  I watched the next runner carefully, trying to spot the bees.  Runner yelled, another win for the bees.  I saw the bees and following their track I spotted the hive.

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Look closely above runner’s head…the HIVE! Yep, this guy also got stung. It was just easy pickins for the bees.

Holy moly! A huge hornet operation just above the heads of the poor defenseless runners!  I looked around and decided this was a time when it was perfectly okay to go off trail.  I led the women who chose to follow off, up, and around the nest…no stings.  Hooray!

A few women had decided to take their chances and stay on trail…sucked for them, stung!

The final piece of adventure for this trail was wading across Little Bennett.  I chose the deepest part, because, well, it was hot, and I mean seriously, if I’m taking the time to put on water shoes, then dang it, it better be worth it!! And it was! The water came up to the bottom of my shorts and felt so cold and ahhhhhhhhhhhh.

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A good cool off!

Long before the daily heat advisory went into effect, we were back at the cars and ready to head home for showers.

I looked forward to coffee and chilling out in the AC… 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!

Morning Stroll at Antietam Battlefield

I understand, I think, why the battlefields are made for auto traffic…but to really get a sense of what a Civil War soldier might have felt you might want to get out of the car and walk.  I only say “get a sense” because there is no way for me (with no battle experience) to really understand on any level what a soldier, who is carrying all his stuff, wearing a wool uniform, eating whatever is in the ration can, and who might be miles away from home, is going to feel lugging himself through some muggy, hot farm field in Maryland to fight in a war he may or may not understand.

When I began my walk this morning on Rodman Avenue (just off Route 34 east of Sharpsburg, MD), it was a pleasant 75 degrees.  Probably about the same temperature on September 17, 1862, the bloodiest one day battle in American history.  23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing at Antietam…wrap your head around that number.

Walking down Rodman Avenue

Walking down Rodman Avenue

Along the road, are monuments, similar to Gettysburg.  If in a car, there is no place to park along Rodman Avenue or even pull over in order to get out and read the about the monument…of course this is why they have a podcast…so one will NEVER, EVER, have to get out of the car.  Great for those who truly need it, but come on America, many of us are able to get out and walk!! Um…okay, I’ll stop now.

Colonel Benjamin C. Christ - Monument to the 50th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (1st Brigade, 1st Division, 9th Corps)

Colonel Benjamin C. Christ – Monument to the 50th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (1st Brigade, 1st Division, 9th Corps)

It is beautiful walking up the road.  To the left are views of the mountains and Sherrick Farm and to the right are meadows blooming with wildflowers.  It is an easy road walk and this morning it was pretty quiet.  The birds chattered and flitted from the field to the meadow and back again, sometimes resting on the fence line before taking off again.  There was a nice breeze, but I could feel the humidity bullying its way in and knew in a few hours this walk would be unbearable.

Good Morning Mountains!

Good Morning Mountains!

Bucolic Sherrick Farm

Bucolic Sherrick Farm

The fields were already heating up so I decided to hike those first, then dip down towards Antietam Creek.  At the end of Rodman Avenue, turn left and continue to Burnside Bridge.

Burnside Bridge

Burnside Bridge

I passed the bridge and continued to the “Final Attack Trail” as this traversed through many open, sunny fields.

Along the "Final Attack Trail"...I love those fences...

Along the “Final Attack Trail”…I love those fences…

Leaving the ridge on the "Final Attack Trail"

Leaving the ridge on the “Final Attack Trail”

However, there are spots of shade to find respite!  Sidekick Pauli and I found a wonderful tree under which to take a little break before heading back out into the field.

Then we were blessed with a longer walk through the woods.  Nice and cool!

Sidekick Pauli's Saturday Smile!

Sidekick Pauli’s Saturday Smile!

We stayed in the woods for much of the time as we wound our way down to the “Snavely Ford Trail”.  Turn to the right at this trail junction in order to walk along Antietam Creek.  Sidekick Pauli very much wanted to go to the creek as it meant she would be able to get in and cool off!!

Where are my hedge clippers when I need them?

Where are my hedge clippers when I need them?

The trail is a bit overgrown at the moment and I sort of wished I had on long pants.  That thought only lasted for a moment though as I was soon hot, hot, hot, climbing back up the hill to reconnect with the trail to Burnside Bridge.

We crossed the bridge and rounded out our hike by meeting up with the “Sherrick Farm Trail”.  This trail is quite nice and passes a genuine swimming hole complete with a swinging rope!

Sidekick Pauli crosses Burnside Bridge

Sidekick Pauli crosses Burnside Bridge

Beginning of Sherrick Farm Trail

Beginning of Sherrick Farm Trail

After the swimming hole, the trail goes uphill to meet the Burnside Bridge road.  Take a left, cross the bridge, then take a right and continue on the trail.  At this point, “Sherrick Farm Trail” starts to resemble a real, meaning more rugged, hiking trail and may not be for everyone…it is not bad, just a little slanty with roots and a few rocks.

It doesn’t last long!  Sidekick Pauli and I were back at the car in no time!

This hike was about 4.5 miles long and included road walking, easy trail walking through rolling cornfields and along Antietam Creek.  It is a beautiful way to spend an early summer morning.

So get out of the car and Hike On! 🙂

A Western Maryland Walk on the C&O Canal

Follow the Potomac River west from Washington, D. C., oh, I’d say about a hundred miles, or so, and you will come to a sweet, little river town that was once in the running for the capital of the United States.  Williamsport, Maryland was reviewed by none other than George Washington for a possible location for the United States capital!!  Even though it wasn’t chosen as the capital…well, I am sure it was an honor just the same!

I headed to Williamsport to do some flatland hiking since it was way too hot and humid to climb a mountain today (for me anyway 😉 ).

Williamsport is a cool river town with the Potomac River forming a natural boundary on the west and Conococheague Creek hemming it in on the north.  The C&O Canal runs along the Potomac River.  Many bikers were already on the Canal or taking a break at picnic tables when I rolled into the parking lot.

Museum & Parking Area-Picnic tables and bathrooms!

Museum & Parking Area-Picnic tables and bathrooms!

Another large group of young folks were on their way to the river’s edge with fishing poles, buckets, and bait ready for whatever the river might bring them today.  It was quite a bucolic setting to behold.  I changed out my flip flops for walking shoes then set off to stroll upstream along the C&O Canal.

Of special interest is the crossing of the Conococheague Aqueduct.  The aqueduct is currently undergoing restoration but is still part of the C&O Canal so can be used during restoration.

Conococheague Aqueduct

Conococheague Aqueduct

One convenient aspect of the Canal is having mileage markers!  Walkers, bikers, or horse riders can keep track of how far they have gone.  I planned on hiking 6 miles, so I noted the first mileage marker, and knew I would need to turn around at mileage marker 103. Side note…One of drawbacks of the Canal is usually having to retrace your footsteps in the opposite direction to get back to your car.

First Mile Marker...100!

First Mile Marker…100!

It was a hot morning and I could feel the heaviness of the air settling over the river and the Canal. Occasional breezes which made the towering trees rattle their leaves did little to alleviate the heat and humidity that seemed to surround me. I am indebted to the birds that distracted me with a variety of melodies and, lucky me, an owl also hooted a welcome!

Big Trees, Shady Path

Big Trees, Shady Path

Each section of the Canal takes on its own personality.  At the beginning of my hike, and probably for a mile or so, there was farm land on my right and the Potomac River to my left.  A farmer was out on a tractor… Oh, I cannot tell you how welcoming it is for me to hear a tractor out in the field! I hail from southern Indiana and this sound takes me back to a place in my childhood that brings a feeling … of what…happiness? well being? comfort? love?…hard to describe, but good, good, good! 🙂

Then the farmland disappeared and all I could see is a huge rocky wall.  Boulders have fallen into the Canal here and the whole place takes on a rugged look.  I thought about whether it would be possible to climb to the top of the rock wall, just to see over to the other side, but it looked rather overgrown and vertical. And I was hot…well…that energetic, rock star moment didn’t last long. 🙂  Back to putting one foot in front of the other!

Towering Rock Wall

Towering Rock Wall

Quite a few bikers with packs were making their way down the Canal today.  I enjoyed the whoosh of air that accompanied them as they flew past me in groups of two, four, and more.  I was hoping for more as I neared my car and the end of my hike!

Potomac River on a Hot & Humid Summer Morning

Potomac River on a Hot & Humid Summer Morning

I trudged up the short incline to my car and ripped off my shoes and socks.  I could not put my flip flops back on fast enough!

Hot and Sweaty…Hike On!