A Taste of Autumn in August

A Trail Dame woman I hike with has claimed that I am magic when it comes to scheduling hikes in perfect weather. Well, folks, my streak came to an end in recent weeks! Two hikes canceled for thunderstorms. β›ˆ Planning the perfect day to lead a hike doesn’t always work out…and this week I needed to reschedule a hike to last night…a sunset hike at Worthington Farm, part of Monocacy National Battlefield, in Frederick, Maryland.

Oh, but the weather gods shined on me once again! The weather was absolutely golden. The sun cast a glow over the fields and forest of late afternoon. The temperatures were delightfully mild, as well. We didn’t even break a sweat on this one!

We left the big house heading up Brooks Hill. There is usually a good view over Baker Valley at the top, but as we rounded the last turn in the path to the high point, we we met with a big green wall of corn.

Now, I can’t look at a field of corn without stepping into it…like crossing into a different world. Obviously, the Dames had to comply! πŸŒ½πŸ˜„πŸŒ½

Afterwards, we walked down along the river, before returning to the big house to wait for sunset. It did not disappoint. This is a wonderful place to watch the day end. We sat around the picnic table as the sun dropped lower and lower behind the distant ridges of the Frederick watershed. And then it was gone. The crickets began their rhythmic chorus and I gave a deep sigh. Hike on!

A Series of Unfortunate Weekend Weather Events

Oh, a hike leader’s lament! Over the last several weekends the Mid-Atlantic has had some questionable weather. This led to the shuffling and rescheduling of hiking events. Ugh…when is there ever enough free time for hiking?

Whelp, I looked at my calendar…classes end May 13, semester wrap up is the following week, then back to prepping the house for the floor guy (not to mention summer classes). Hmmm πŸ€”

All hikes were rescheduled to the week that is ending today…and WHAT.A.WEEK! A whirlwind of work and hiking and everything else! πŸ˜„

Tuesday found the Maryland Dames and me at New Germany State Park out in the far western portion of Maryland. Friday we scampered over Catoctin Mountain Park, and today, Saturday, we had a Meet & Greet for new Dames!

New Germany was an absolute fantasy land. Bright green moss covered forests, thick with towering hemlock trees, beckoned while giant ferns unfurled, spiraling dramatically. Trillium, Gaywings, Soloman’s Seal, and May Apple blossoms burst upwards through the mulchy forest floor. It was spectacular!

Fern spores
Trillium
Gaywings

Catoctin Mountain Park was a different, but still delicious, experience! It rained just before the start of our hike and the scent of the mountain woods was fresh and soothing. Moss covered boulders, bright green foliage, and a variety of wildflowers and fungi kept the hike interesting…not to mention an unexpected Tornado watch! We skedaddled soon after that alert. πŸ˜„

Wild Geraniums
Bellwort

And finally, the Meet & Greet at Monocacy National Battlefield, Worthington Farm! A super morning meeting a few new Dames! Worth every bit of my Saturday morning!

Dametastic morning at WorthingtonFarm!

It was a busy week…but overscheduled hiking events? I’m in! Hike On!

Weekend with the Dames!

Before the pandemic, I would organize an annual winter backpacking trip for the Maryland Trail Dames. We would hike to the Ed Garvey Shelter on the Appalachian Trail, set up camp, then continue to Weverton the next day.

After missing out on this fun event for two years, I was delighted to put this up on the hiking board for January 2022. The Dames were excited to shiver together once again! πŸ˜„

But bad weather intervened…fast forward to an early Spring shiver, instead! I was secretly pleased to not be camping out in January. It was 17 degrees one year and even with good layers it was still cold! Especially when nature’s calls at 2:00 AM! πŸ₯Ά

This weekend we had delightful weather…praise!!! We met at Gathland State Park around noon. I know, I know…I was really taking a gamble with parking at that time of day. I crossed my fingers and went with it. Happy to report we all found a parking space. I was grateful!

It was a lovely hike to the shelter. We had a few newbies with us, but I only got asked once “do you know how much further until we get to the shelter?” I call that a win!

We were surprised there were already several folks at the shelter when we arrived. And with complete disregard for hiker etiquette, they had put up tents on both the first and second level of the shelter. Ergh. We were tenting and had no need of the shelter. However, that whole tent in the shelter is a big no…especially at a shelter like Ed Garvey, which is pretty popular all year round.

It looks like a flat site…right?

Sure enough, it was a mob scene on Saturday night. I am glad we had gotten there early enough to pick the better tent sites. Some folks camped down along the trail as all sites were gone when they rolled in later in the evening.

***better = still slanted, but I managed to stay on my sleeping pad all night***

About 4:00 AM we got rain, just on and off, nothing much. It continued while we packed up and hiked out. Just a few drops, not enough to make us or our gear wet. Thankful is an understatement. Some of our newbies had gotten cold overnight…rain on top of that could have made an uncomfortable hike into a truly miserable one for them. πŸ˜•

It was great to get back to backpacking with the Dames. Looking forward to planning more fun adventures for this group! 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. πŸ˜€

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!

Back on the Trail with the Dames!

Being the organizer of Trail Dames isn’t all fun and games! πŸ˜€ During the pandemic, I needed to reduce the number of Dames per hike to 5 (6 tops if we had two hike leaders attending). This was not always supported by all Dames and I heard my fair share of complaints! However, most of the Dames were supportive of the measures taken to ensure the safety of all.

The Dames are picking back up now that vaccinations are increasing! Starting in May, we will increase to 8 Dames per hike, then by the time the hot days roll around, depending on health metrics, we may go back to allowing 10 per hike (our usual). And…shameless plug…if you are a woman OR know a woman in Maryland who wants to get outdoors and hike with a bunch of supportive women, then go to https://traildames.com/Maryland.html to find out more!

Last weekend I led the Dames on a hike around the lake at Rocky Gap State Park. It started rather briskly with temperatures in the freezing range. Of course, our hike started on the shady side of the lake and I quickly made the choice to don my gloves as the cool breeze was turning my fingers into icy pops!

The trail looked like it had been mushy, mucky mud the day before. It was frozen hard for us and we were thankful as our feet stayed dry. The walking was tricky through all the frozen potholes, though! No mind, we were distracted by morning song of the Red-wing Blackbird and the perfect reflection on the lake of a flock of honking geese coming in for a landing. We spotted a Killdeer and Osprey as we continued our path around the lake.

It was turning out to be a beautiful early spring day! Blue skies that make one stop and gaze at the sky, sun rays that warm ever so gently, and the company of a wonderful group of women!

We took a sit down break at the Canyon Overlook. This spot is back among the evergreens. *inhale* Ahhhh…the smell of a coniferous forest! The rocks were still cold, the air was fresh, and my peanut butter and jelly sandwich tasted fantastic! Once we sit down in the forest to eat, it feels like a field trip to me. Like a second grade adventure…and I love that!! πŸ˜€

Walking around lakes are deceiving! It always looks shorter than it really is…so many little coves to walk around. The sun was with us on the northwest side of the lake. Evidence of spring was starting to show … little tiny sprouts of green, a small yellow flower hiding in last fall’s leaves, and spring peepers! A welcome sound in these parts!!

Queen V was along for this adventure, which means there is going to be some kind of shenanigan! This time was no different and she had the Dames pose with a Turtle Crossing sign. Completely appropriate for this group of trail crawlers! πŸ˜€ So, so glad to be back on the trail with these women!! Hike on!

Trail Dames of Maryland!

January, hast thou forsaken us?

Here in the mid-atlantic, the sometimes chilly, but mostly not, January weather has kept me guessing on when to hike, what to where, or whether Old Man Winter is staying at my sister’s house in Minnesnowta this year.

January is named after Janus, a Roman god, who among other things, presided over transitions…so maybe the days of spring aren’t totally out of the question? πŸ€”

Anyway, I have enjoyed three more lovely hikes this month. An outing at Seneca Creek State Park, with the Maryland Trail Dames, and two romps with Sidekick Pauli, one at Monocacy National Battlefield and the other at Antietam National Battlefield.

At Seneca, the weather was mild enough for us to take an extended sit-down, picnic-style, break on the banks of Clopper Lake. Lovely, if not slightly odd, for January!

The next outing at Thomas Farm (part of Monocacy NB) with Sidekick Pauli, gave us warm, breezy weather, more like March than January. Pauli was delighted and pulled me from one groundhog hole to the next! Her message of “Get up, you fools, it’s Spring out here” was ignored by plump, warm, sleeping groundhogs who I could imagine replying “WE, only WE, get to decide whether spring is come. Go away silly dog!”

Oh well, Pauli was not deterred, and continued to spread the news, welcome or not. 🐾

The third hike, to Antietam, was on a damp morning following a rainy night. Fog was rolling over the mountains and rising from parts of the battlefield. A magical beginning!

Sidekick Pauli and I walked down Rodman Ave headed to Burnside Bridge. Small tidbit about Janus…he also presided over transitions from war to peace, so Antietam seems a good choice for a January hike!

Birds raucously chatted with one another and swooped across the road in front of us so close that their eyes, intent on the mission, were clearly visible. Hawks and vultures soared high overhead, appearing, then disappearing into the fog as they searched for breakfast.

The bridge beckoned as we rounded the last bend in the road. We diverted off the pavement onto the gravel path, then walked across the bridge to look up into the branches of the Witness Tree.

This is a place I always come back to several times a year. There is just something about this huge Sycamore, the keeper of tales untold, that keeps me in awe, in wonder, in reverence, …, I am searching for the right word but it eludes me. I stand under that tree and can feel the non-linearity of time.

It is incredibly powerful.

Hike on.

AT – VA Dripping Rock to VA56 Tye River

Three Ridges Wilderness has been on my radar for some time now. I finally got the opportunity to hike this section Friday through Sunday of 2019 Memorial Day Weekend with the Maryland Trail Dames.

We met at the VA56 trail head parking lot, then shuttled to Dripping Rock.

Weather was optimal!

We headed south and were soon embracing a wonderful overlook without having done much work to get there.

Let’s just say we got our dessert first. I knew there had to payback, and soon enough we were rock hopping…at least the elevation was decent. Luckily, we ran out of rocks after crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway at 3 Ridges Mountain overlook. We were ready for a break!

Is that the infamous Priest in the background?

On to Reids Gap…easy, then Maupin Shelter…not so easy! All the beautiful blooming things kept me distracted and finally found myself in a lovely campsite at Maupin!

We met Fun Guy and Legacy at the shelter. Legacy is thru-hiking…Fun Guy is just running around in the woods for six months. He likes to hunt for mushrooms…hence “FunGuy”…ha, haha, …So much quirkiness on the trail!

We actually saw a ton of thru-hikers on our trek.

Next morning we made it a leisurely start. We relaxed, had our breakfast, no worries since it was only about 6 miles to Harper Creek Shelter.


OH.MY.GAWD.

Where in the world did all the rocks come from??? Am I back in Pennsylvania? That 6 miles felt like 10!!!

More great views, rhododendron, and lots of wildflowers.

We found a great spot for lunch and stretching at the summit. Thank goodness! πŸ˜‚

Coming down 2000 feet to the shelter was much worse than going up!

We were all very happy to stumble into Harper Creek after a hard day hiking! Luckily, we were there earlier than most and got a good camping spot.

A roll of thunder brought an early end to our celebration! Up went my tent as fast as I could go! Once it was up, I threw my junk in, then dove in after it!

Big, big, big storm. Lots of heavy rain.

I leaned back onto my side in a very warm tent. I could nap this one out.

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Splat. What the…?

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Plop. Oh shieeeeet. The Big Angus has decided that now is a good time to let the seals pull away from the zipper on the fly.

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*sigh*

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Splash. *put folded up bandanna over head and ignore*

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*Zzzzzzzzzzzz*

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Next morning, perfect! I mean besides packing up a wet tent…cause that pretty much sucked!

The trail down to the Tye River was easy peasy. πŸ˜ƒ No rocks!

We deserved that nice bit! Hike on!

Flippity, Floppity, AT Hikers are on their Way!

Ahhh…all required writing for my grad class done, I can now get back to writing for fun!

Last weekend the Maryland Trail Dames represented at the annual Flip Flop Festival in Harper’s Ferry, WV.Β  I have to give a huge thank – you to Queen V for organizing this event! She told me to show up with a table and my camp chair…done!

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I rolled in at 7:30ish on Saturday morning to find that the Queen had already put up the canopy.Β  I pulled over to drop off the table then quickly found a parking spot.Β  Exiting my car, I was caught off guard by a gust of wind that whipped my car door back so hard I thought it would break.Β  Okay, then, let me just grab an extra jacket if that is the way it is going to be!

That was indeed how it was going to be on Saturday!Β  The wind would blow up the hill and literally force us to hold ontoΒ  the canopy, the table, our chairs, and the handouts so they would not be tossed up into the air.Β  We demonstrated quite a bit of agility, let me tell you!Β  In between gusts we managed to stake out the canopy…gonna give myself props for some of the knots I tied…held like a charm!

Sadly, the PATC canopy next to ours did not fare so well.Β  A particularly ferocious gust sent their canopy cartwheeling across the lawn!Β  They decided to move over to the lawn of Storer College afterwards…kudos on their decision as the wind did not let up.

We persevered, but decided eventually to ditch our canopy.Β  Β It was less stressful without the wind trying to shred it with every gust!

 

We ended the day in good spirits and vowed that the next day would be better!

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Great music, both days!

******

Sunday began with no wind, but rains poured down.Β  I was not scheduled to show up until the afternoon, but checked in with Queen V.Β  Everything was okay, wet, but okay.Β  Game on!

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Queen V recruits future Trail Dames!

The crowd had diminished to near zero by 3:30 pm, so we called it a day and dismantled our glorious set-up. πŸ™‚

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A long time ago, Queen V had been given the name “Bag Lady”….I believe she has been rechristened with it today!

Thanks to the several amazing volunteers from Trail Dames, we have many new women interested in hiking with us!

******

Side note 1: Guys, I am glad you stopped by our table…however, if all you had to say was “oh the Trail Dames, I’ve been looking for a Trail Dame”… then go find yourself one somewhere else…We don’t play like that! πŸ˜€

Sidenote 2: If you are that person, who signed up for information by leaving us a link to your porn site…we don’t do those kind of events! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

Sidenote 3: If you are the guy that came over to mansplain how we had anchored our canopy ALL WRONG and we needed to untie everything and re-do it, then I want you to know that it NEVER CARTWHEELED ACROSS THE LAWN, bwahahahaha!

******

I love you guys…Hike on!Β  πŸ˜€

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I Think It May Be Spring!

Thank goodness, right? If your winter was anything like my winter…ugh.

Father Winter was a big tease with lots of potential, but no big exciting events. In Maryland, we would get icy mix, a little snow, then it would melt and we were left with a few damp, chilly days in the mid-40s. Brrr…rrr

Thank you Goddess of Spring for finally taking control!

Last weekend, I led a “newbie backpacker” trip. We had 4 new and 5 experienced backpackers. The newbies had completed two shakedown hikes prior and felt somewhat prepared.

We began our adventure at Shippensburg Road trailhead on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. Saturday started as winter…very cold and windy! We got moving!

As we hiked the seasons turned. A lovely day indeed!

In general, we took this stretch slower, and with more breaks than I would take if I were going alone. Which makes perfect sense for new backpackers. They had plenty of time for adjusting the pack, stretching, resting, and enjoying the woods!

We rolled into Tom’s Run Shelter mid-afternoon, plenty of time for the newbies to set up.

It was a cold night and one newbie had not brought the recommended 20 degree bag. She learned and will pack accordingly next time. Sometimes, we have to learn the hard way. πŸ™‚

Spring rebounded on Sunday! The trail was a slight disaster with tons of water flowing down it and many blowdowns that had to be climbed over, under, or around! Our newbie, who hadn’t slept much due to being cold the night before, just about petered out on the last hill of the day. We got some extra food in her and took it slow…she was determined to finish! She dug deep and conquered the last hill!

Everyone finished sucessfully at Pine Grove Furnace State Park with smiles (and a few emotional tears). I am so proud of these women! We stick together, push through our fears, learn from our miscalculations, and always 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! πŸ™‚

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!