AT – VA South River Picnic Area to Big Meadows

Shenandoah National Park seemed a reasonable choice for leading a Trail Dames backpack.  Fool’s Weekend was so apropo for this event!  We had some new backpackers along and this route tested the limits of some.  However, WHAT FUN!!!!  Who better to test limits with but Trail Dames!

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On our way! White blaze of the Appalachian Trail.

Clouds moved in and out all day.  One moment we would be basking in the warmth of the sun and the next pulling on an extra layer to guard against the gray sky and stiff chilly breeze.  We hiked about six miles on day 1, and that was quite enough for some of our group.

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BoobOnARock skipping down the mountain 🙂

We all set up our tents around Bearfence Hut, then gathered around the firepit to eat dinner.  AND OF COURSE, there was a fire! Kathleen & Overkill did a fantastic job getting a fire started with wet wood.  Nice! Smoky at first, but worth it. 🙂

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Trail Dames leaving Bearfence Hut – Morning of Day 2

As I sat in my tent, snuggled into my bag for the night, I realized I was exhausted.  Leading a day hike is one thing, but taking responsibility for a group of women on a backpack, is leveling up in a huge way.  Did I pass? I think so.  Could I have been more supportive? Probably.

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A welcome break at Hazeltop summit

So I sat there and thought about things that had happened during the day and found myself writing a silly little poem…which I will now share here…remember I am a math instructor not a poet.  🙂 🙂 🙂

Wind blowing

Fire crackling

Where did the miles go?

Water boiling

Teeth chattering

Listening to everyone’s woes.

Snap of a cracker

Crack of a twig

Make the tea

Take a swig

Feeling the warmth of my insides grow.

Hike On!

Not Quite Spring, Not Quite Winter! A Stroll in Shenandoah NP

Cruising along Skyline Drive it occurred to me that maybe this hike wasn’t going to be the hike I had conjured up in my mind yesterday.  At that time, I sat on the edge of my bed, maps spread out around me and Sidekick Pauli sprawled  beside me catching rays from the afternoon sun.

Now I found myself facing mountains that still showed vestiges of winter.  I  pulled over no less than three times along the drive just to look, gaze in wonderment, lost in the beauty of Shenandoah.  I decided we would hike where the snow still lingered.

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I want to go there! Right there, on top of that snowy mountain!

I had been headed to Elkwallow Wayside, but stopped short when I got to Overall Run Falls trail head.  Yes!  We ARE STOPPING RIGHT HERE!!!  The trees were all sporting a fresh layer of rime and the trail was perfect with about an inch and a half of dry snow.  Oh, it was gorgeous! Like *gasp* gorgeous!

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Not the best pic…but the only good pic of the rime on the trees!

I took a look at the map and started down the AT to Elkwallow, I would decide whether to backtrack or loop once I got there.  Sidekick Pauli was hiking with me today and is still sporting a pretty good scar down her neck…so it just depended on how she was doing when we got to Elkwallow.

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Oh boy! Into the woods!

The AT to Elkwallow Wayside is a fairly moderate hike with a view that was nice!  Sidekick Pauli scrambled up the rocks and stared into the distance with satisfaction.  Oh, she was definitely happy to be back on the trail! This was our only overlook, although, there were nice forest views along the way.  We passed over Skyline Drive on the AT, then headed slightly up before passing the PATC Range View cabin and descending to Elkwallow Wayside.

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At Elkwallow, we took a detour down to the picnic area…for a pit stop.  While I was, um, otherwise engaged a family had driven up to also use the bathroom. Apparently, this was the only bathroom open in the area.  When Sidekick Pauli and I exited the bathroom they just lost it.  They were gabbing away in a language not understood by me.  They were simply in fits!!  I didn’t get it, what the heck, haven’t they seen something like this before???  I heard their laughter and felt their pointing until we disappeared into the woods.  Haha! Glad I could add something to their Shenandoah memory!! 😀

Sidekick Pauli was loving it!  I decided to loop down to Matthews Arm campground, then climb back up to the AT via the Traces & Tuscarora Overall Run Trails.  The weather had warmed a bit and there was no snow on the Elkwallow Trail down to the campground.  A nice picnic on a damp log awaited us!  Sidekick Pauli gobbled down several of Queen V’s home made doggie treats!!  I made do with a PB&J.  🙂

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I didn’t make it … but I didn’t destroy it either. I enjoyed the oddity of it as I made my way down the Elkwallow Trail.

The birds were rocking out while we sat there in the middle of the otherwise quiet woods.  Lovely to listen to but my butt was getting wet…time to move!

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YAY! we don’t have to rock hop across the creek. 🙂 I think Sidekick Pauli is disappointed…

Soon after crossing the bridge we reached Matthews Arm campground.  We found the Traces Trail after crossing the parking lot.  This trail starts to climb, and the climb goes on, and on.  Maybe it was because I left this piece of trail for last…but man, oh man,  that climb!  Between 800 and 1000 feet!  To say I was happy to reach the snow line would be an understatement! Whew!!

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Ahhh, yes! Finally! Jees…why did that hill feel so long? Oh, 800 feet of slippy, slippy…got it!

I reached the car and began getting ready for the drive home.  Took off the layers, traded out the hiking boots for sandals, did a few not helpful stretches, grabbed the cheezits…

While storing my bag, boots, and clothes in the back of the car, a ranger pulled up.  “Hey, just wanted to let you know there is some weather coming in overnight so we are going to be closing Skyline Drive.”

No problem, ranger! We are ready to go!  Hike on!

AT – VA Compton Gap to US 522 with the Trail Dames

I will remember this day as hiking through the sky with Dames, then descending into the valley with Angels.

Before all of this, however, was donuts.  Tenacious D was driving and I had hitched a ride to the trail head since my car is no longer to be trusted on long trips.  I felt very grateful to have a ride down to Virginia for this section hike and stopped at Dunkin Donuts on my way to meet Tenacious D for coffee and donuts as a token of appreciation for the ride.

Wow, it was raining. and cold. and windy.  Glad I put gloves and hat in the back pack before I left!

We were the last to arrive at the trail head…Tenacious D says being a bus driver for so many years makes her just drive slow all the time!  I didn’t mind, we weren’t more than 3 – 4 minutes late, and the drive had been lovely.  We pulled over and rolled down the window as Dirigo (the hike leader today) approached. She asked “Can you all help shuttle?” “Sure!”  Another Dame jumped in and away we went up into Shenandoah National Park.

We met up with everyone at Compton Gap trail head, about 10 miles into the park.  Donning our layers, rain jackets, hats, gloves, and grabbing our hiking poles we set off into the foggy woods.  Pretty easy walking, although it began to rain making me wish I hadn’t left my big red poncho back in my car before riding down with Tenacious D.  Oh well, my rain jacket, plus layers did a fine job anyway!

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Tenacious D enjoying the trail!

The forest was magical with the heavy fog.  Lines between heaven and earth were smudged giving everything a soft ethereal glow.  It felt like we were part of the sky.  Then my eye would catch a tree with its brilliantly colored leaves in the forest reminding me that the sky had descended on the mountain, we had not risen to the sky.

We reached Possum’s Rest, which on a clear day has a beautiful view, without much trouble.  Today, all one could see was the fog.  Coming down from Possum’s Rest was a little tricky!  We were climbing down from the ridge and it was a sharp decline, even with the switchbacks, littered with wet leaves and rocks.  It was slow going…but no one fell, no one slipped!

Just before reaching the Tom Floyd Wayside, we heard barking.  Lake Front Royal is a neighborhood which backs up to the AT, so the dog was probably over there.  Happy to get out of the rain we sat down for lunch at the shelter.  A PB&J and half a bag of cheezits later I was feeling quite content.  I stretched out my legs and sat there looking out into the mist.

Tom Floyd Wayside

Tom Floyd Wayside

There is was…that barking again…louder this time.  We discussed where the dog could be, then brushed it aside as we packed up and left the shelter.  Headed downhill, then all of the sudden there it was, a small older beagle, lost, cold, wet, shivering, and very scared.  She came right up to me.  It was clear she needed help.  At first we got her to follow us, but soon realized she needed to be carried as her paws were rubbed raw.  I carried her for awhile,

then Python cleared out her backpack and together we fit her inside.  She loved that! So cozy!  And that is how Python packed her out.  As we continued towards Rt. 522 we passed directly by a few houses in Lake Front Royal.  Python asked a guy out on his deck if he knew anyone who had lost a beagle.  He didn’t but turned to get his wife.  Turns out the wife works in a vet clinic and offered to take the dog so they could follow up on the license number and scan for a microchip.

So you see, the Dames had become Angels arriving at just the right time and place for this lucky little pup.  I am ever so happy she spent the night inside, safe and warm.

A Journey Taken

A Journey Taken

Hike on.

On the Trail with Sidekick Pauli and Little Caesar! June 21-22, 2014

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Last weekend was the FIRST weekend of “ahhhhhhh” that I have had since we started getting the house ready to sell.  Well, the house is now on the market! It went on the market on June 17, our anniversary…it wasn’t planned that way, but is so symbolic as remodeling the house just about killed our […]

AT – VA Rt. 605 to Snickers Gap (Rt. 7) March 8, 2014

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On this gloriously soon to be warm morning, I met up with backpacking buddy and fellow dame, Boomerang to carpool to our meeting spot on Route 7 in Bluemont, Virginia.  We hadn’t seen each other since the fall AT backpack across Maryland, so it was nice to catch up! I was getting some new AT […]

AT – VA Blackburn AT Center to Snickers Gap

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What a delightful day with the Maryland Trail Dames!  This day was December 21, the winter solstice, and it was WARM!  Yes, a balmy 65 degrees! We met at the lot on Rt. 7 in Snickers Gap, then Dirigo shuttled us back to the Blackburn AT Center to begin our hike.  The first uphill from […]