Going Out Solo…Sasquatch Beware!

Done teaching my summer class, so now I am breaking free!  I started preparing for my first solo backpack at the beginning of June.  Over the last two weeks I have checked the weather where I am headed a gazillion times, changing my route each time to accommodate thunderstorms.  But now, hooray! Thunderstorms are no longer forecast!

I usually do a long section of the Appalachian Trail in the summer, but that wasn’t going to work out because of the summer teaching gig and I wanted to go back to Indiana to visit family.  So I have combined the family visit with a short backpack.  I grew up in the woods in southern Indiana.  My dad would scare us silly about things that lurked in the woods…like Sasquatch!

Well, I can assure you that in my preparation for this trip, Sasquatch has been showing up in my dreams…as have tornados (A little PTSD from the annual viewing of Wizard of Oz when I was a kid).

I have tried to do everything I can think to be prepared.  Like call the Forest Office (no answer), the state park office (*gasp* “you’re not going by yourself, are you?), check hunting seasons (it’s crow, bullfrog, and turtle season just in case you are wondering), and tracking the weather.  I have the map memorized and know exactly where I am going to cache my water.  My route is mostly finalized, but, if you backpack, you know how that goes…

With each little piece of planning, the trip becomes less daunting and more exciting.  I can do this!  It will be fun! So watch out Sasquatch…because I am coming to dance with you!

Hike on! 🙂

May 29 Last Full Day Shenandoah Weekend!

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

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

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

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

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“JustSue” and her Trail Magic!

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

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

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

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Salamander Trail…going up!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

May 28 Day 3 of Shenandoah Weekend!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Summit Smooches are a Sidekick Pauli specialty!

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

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

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

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

 

May 27 Day 2 of Shenandoah Weekend!

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

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

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

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Do you spoil your dog much? 

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

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Headed to Mary’s Rock (and back)

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

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

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Looking north towards Mary’s Rock from the Pinnacle

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

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Just so we are clear that this is the AT

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At Mary’s Rock

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

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Sidekick Pauli at Mary’s Rock

 

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

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

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!

Shenandoah NP – Dickey Ridge Trail (10 miles)

Quick before it starts raining again, let’s go hiking!  I was all set to meet my hiking gals at the north end of the Dickey Ridge Trail (just outside of Shenandoah NP).  Arriving a bit early, I busied myself with pulling on my boots, putting stuff in my pack, then leaned back in my seat to wait. BearSpray and Lola had pulled up behind me and parked. I happened to look up and “Oh, A BEAR!!!”  I waved frantically at BearSpray hoping she see the bear too! She only caught the tail end of it as it lumbered into the woods.  😦

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Welcome to the park!

WELL, I have to tell you that got my hopes up very, very high for seeing another bear on our hike!

When the full crew had arrived we shuttled to the south end of the trail at Compton Gap.  It was colder and windier than some of us had anticipated…fur lined gloves anyone?

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The badass Fashionista! and that little crocheted knapsack…adorbs!

So off we went into the woods, following a fire road to the beginning of the Dickey Ridge Trail!

I was hoping for wildflowers…and a view or two.  Turns out the first mile was just trail and woods, a few common purple flowers, and wind.  But so beautiful! The green in the forest was so fresh, and the blue of the sky was sublime.  I kept optimistic!  Spring had come late to my neck of the woods in Maryland, so I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t see much spring in the mountains.  But still, it’s Mid May!!!

I was rewarded intermittently.  Walk for awhile, then ooooo ahhhhhh, click click with the camera phone, move on!

 

Coming down into Low Gap, another trail crossed ours.  There was no sign post, and we stopped for a minute wondering whether there might be a view if we took the trail to the left.   We opted to move forward on the Dickey Ridge crossing Skyline Drive and up the next hill.  I am still thinking about that trail to the left, though.  I feel like someone had mentioned that trail to me before…but it’s gone now.  Note to self to go back and explore later!

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S.I. Buttercup on her way down into Low Gap

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BearSpray keeps watch, while Lola checks the map 🙂

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Up the hill after Low Gap

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Smirk of Satisfaction after making to the top!

The wind blew us openings in the trees now and then allowing us to view the valley below us.  Beautiful! A winter hike would afford some amazing vistas from this trail!

After several miles, we were wondering whether we would get an open view at all.  After passing the Snead Farm Loop trail, there was a side trail that went steeply up.  It looked promising so Buttercup and I made our way up and…nothing.  Well, not nothing.  We saw this building.  Later I found out this was an FAA site (from the map).

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FAA site on Dickey Hill

Buttercup headed back down, then so did I …but then started yelling down to her “to the right, to the right!!!!!! Buttercup, to the right!” Yessssss! A payoff after walking through the enchanted green forest!

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Looking down on BearSpray from our perch above! Lunch spot!

We were enraptured.  Buttercup and I sat up on the hill, withstanding the cold wind while we ate our lunch, completely mesmerized with the view.  BearSpray eventually came up to join us from below and was equally blown away (with wind and view)!

This spot is only about a mile and a half south of the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, so very doable! One does need to climb up the hill, but seriously, worth it.

When we had gotten so cold we couldn’t stand it any longer we got back to trekking down the trail. Next stop the visitor center, then down the hill to our cars.

The last mile or so was surprisingly different and wonderful!

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The trail follows a gurgling stream (especially vocal after the rain we’ve had)…happy home for turtles.

The birds were singing, families were out exploring, and there was a feeling of absolute contentment along this stretch.  I felt I was being replenished after going up and down all those hills. 🙂

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The end of a wonderful trek in Shenandoah NP!

Sadly, no more bear sightings on today’s hike…but there is always next time! Hike on! 🙂

 

BoobOnARock & Queen V do Flip Flop Festival 2016

Walking to the Flip Flop Festival from Weverton, I was going against the traffic of several hikers that looked like they were out to do something serious. My mind wandered to something my hiking friend Google told me a few years ago (when I was hiking through Georgia).  “You oughta be here in the Spring” she told me,  “hiking south through Georgia is…interesting.”
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Here in Maryland, the thruhikers I usually see are lean, determined, and move very fast! They have 1000 miles under their belts and have settled in for the ride.  Today, as I strode quickly down the canal to meet Queen V, I passed several clean, not lean, well, okay, some were lean…but not in that “I’ve been beating the trail and the trail’s been beating me” kind of lean.  The backpacks were flashy…can I say that? I felt like I was walking through the REI website…oh yes, and I’ll take one of those…two of these…oh, and how cute is that, he is dragging his pack behind him on a wheelie thingy!  Oh, I wanted to see that guy drag the wheelie thing with his pack up Weverton. 🙂  A little sadistic, yes, I am.

“You’ve got to give a little, take a little,
and let your poor heart break a little.
That’s the story of, that’s the glory of …”  What the hell, Bette Midler’s song from Beaches?  Where did that come from?!!  Walk faster, Bette must be left behind! These hikers would deal or not.  I had to get to Harper’s Ferry…it was now 9:24 am and I was supposed to meet Queen V at 10 am.  I had my phone on airplane mode and was blissfully not getting any of her texts…

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Tramped over the railroad bridge to Harper’s Ferry at 9:50! Quick stop at the train station, then up the hill to the ATC.  It was getting hot!  By the time I met up with Queen V I was ready to shed one of my layers. Then it was time for some exploring.

First stop, of course, is to get someone to take our picture in front of the ATC.   Yeah, I have like fifteen pictures in front of the ATC…but you know…it’s my Alamo.  So there.

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We went around back to check out the vendors, and most importantly, scope out the food situation.  The food truck looked mighty promising with its sweet potato and black bean burrito (it was freakin delicious!).
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Queen V, as usual, being the diva that she is demanded requested sweetly to have her picture taken in various locals…(she is now hounding me to get this post done as quickly as possible).  I did mention that “narcissism becomes her”!  😉
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There was a workshop at 11:30 am we were going to attend.  I knew the presenter by name only here in blogland…but I am happy to say I have now met Sisu face to face and a nicer guy he could not be! 🙂  He did a great presentation and it was just so neat to meet someone I had only known through comments on this blog.  Here’s to meeting up again sometime, Sisu! 🙂 🙂
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Oh, and by the way, the weather for this event was just the best!  However, that did not stop me from hitching a ride back to my car (Thanks Queen V!).  Yeah, after that sweet potato & black bean burrito…and a creamsicle…I kinda lost my mojo for huffing it back down the canal to my car.
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So good luck flip floppers! and all thruhikers!  And even if Maine eludes you, the adventure of the dream did not! Hike on! 🙂