Back on the Trail with the Dames!

Being the organizer of Trail Dames isn’t all fun and games! ๐Ÿ˜€ 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!! ๐Ÿ˜€

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! ๐Ÿ˜€ So, so glad to be back on the trail with these women!! Hike on!

Trail Dames of Maryland!

COVID’s Unintentional Realignment

Over the last year, I went through the stages of COVID like many folks I know (and maybe you too). It started with disbelief at the situation before us, then anger that life had been taken out of our control. After the anger subsided, I began to bargain with life…like okay, I won’t hike at the popular spots, but I am still going to hike…then just plain old acceptance that hiking in the Frederick area was a disaster of overcrowding by weekend hikers trying to escape. And acceptance that life had changed.

Two teachers in a small house. My classroom was a bedroom upstairs. My partner’s classroom downstairs in the Dining room. Outside our window, the Dairy Maid employees smoked and cursed and played loud music. Semi trucks barreled down our street shaking the house, their roar obscuring my voice as I attempted to explain College Algebra to students over Zoom. In the beginning, I could laugh it off. It was an adventure in teaching! After a year of the same it wore on me. It also wore on my ability to remain positive. I stopped talking. My partner took up the slack, but I was okay with silence.

We started to take long drives to escape. Normally, we would head to Virginia…Shenandoah National Park specifically. Now we couldn’t … the crowds were insane. So we took I-68 into western Maryland one weekend. That turned into two, and then three, then I lost count. We started talking about buying a house to get away from Frederick. Then one weekend in November, we drove through a beautiful neighborhood, grabbed each other’s hand, and jumped.

I have been living here in western Maryland for less than two weeks, but this is such a good place and will be an amazing place once I make it mine! Now that my animals are more comfortable in the house I have started to venture out to explore! It has been a beautiful week in the mid-Atlantic with mild temperatures and sunny skies. So, before March decides to throw a snowstorm at me…

I took a nice walk along the C&O Canal this week. I started at Spring Gap and walked west toward Cumberland. Interesting history through here and I look forward to learning more about the canal in this area. There are the remains of a Pump House on this stretch which, back in the day, would maintain the level of the water in the canal.

The pump house of yesteryear
Pump house today

I also found a few signs of spring, but I had to look really hard!! A few budlets on what I really, really hope is a rasberry bush and some on a small tree, as well. Oh! and I heard a Spring Peeper!!!

Canal House

Today, I headed over to the lake at Rocky Gap State Park. A needed diversion after priming the walls in my dining room (thank goodness I do not paint for a living). I walked along an old road, then around part of the lake. I had no big ambitions, but wanted to be in nature for at least an hour. It was gorgeous!

The old road
Tree spirit can’t be held back! ๐Ÿ˜„
Lake Habeeb

Post-COVID is bringing a new normal to my life. I look out my back window and see mountains! I would have never imagined one year ago that this is where I would be … but I am ever so glad for the unintentional consequences of COVID! Onward to new adventures – Hike on!

Old Bridges Beckon – A Jaunt to Western Maryland

Mother’s Day seemed a perfect reason to go for a drive. A long drive out to western Maryland. My partner and I packed a lunch, left Sidekick Pauli to catch up on her sleep, and headed for west on I-68.

First stop…Rocky Gap State Park with plans to have a picnic lunch…got there and it was a bit nippy. So screw that sitting outside, we ate in the car and watched the birds. ๐Ÿ˜€

Back on the road, we had no destination. I was now riding shotgun and it became my responsibility to find somewhere to go. A new place…oh, the Casselman Bridge! Every time I drive to Indiana I think about stopping, then NEVER do! This would be a perfect opportunity!

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Why the different spelling?

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So we ditched I-68 for 40 through Grantsville, Maryland. The weather was warmer now with blue skies for miles! We pulled off at the parking area after admiring several cute bungalows and grimacing at a Trump flag in Grantsville. Overall, an adorable town. ๐Ÿ™‚

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The bridge was pretty neat. At the midpoint, looking right, I could see the old bridge on 40, then further out the bridge on I-68…time marches on, improvements made for more travelers headed both west and east. I preferred the Casselman Bridge. I personally like the slow way. Hike on!

Camp out with the Dames – New Germany State Park, Maryland

A camp out with the Dames! A new state park to explore! Sidekick Pauli was coming! Triple yay ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

I love to plan fun stuff for our Trail Dame chapter to do and this was no exception.ย  A camp out was a great opportunity to chill out on a beautiful Autumn weekend in western Maryland.ย  I had never been to New Germany State Park and was excited by the prospect of hiking somewhere new.

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The Lake at New Germany State Park

A few of the Dames are beginner backpackers and wanted to try out their gear over the weekend.ย  This turned out to be a super weekend for that too!

We all started arriving at the park on Friday afternoon.ย  Tent went up quickly, then I went up to the park office with Queen V to buy firewood…a campfire there would be!

The park office was not hard to find.ย  The ranger asked us if we wanted to go on a trail run he was going to lead that weekend.ย  Politely declining, and somewhat flattered that he had asked, we went to grab our firewood and return to camp.ย  Now, Queen V and I, well, we are lesbians,…but as we left, I leaned over to her and asked, “Was that guy hot?”ย  because I’m never quite sure, but my temperature was certainly elevated ๐Ÿ˜€ and she practically cut me off replying “OH MY GOD, he was so hot!!”ย  Like, so hot, I was ready to attempt trail running…no lie.ย  He was fondly referred to as Ranger McDreamy (coined by Queen V) for the rest of the weekend! Ha!

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A pay phone? One can make two calls for free from this phone…911 or a number that links you to pastoral counseling…good to know ๐Ÿ™‚

Fanning ourselves as we returned to the campground, I found a few more Dames had their tents going up. Oh, what a site! We had taken over the small tenting loop. Our, all ours! Okay, one site wasn’t ours…it had been…then that particular dame decided not to come and gave her site away. ๐Ÿ˜ฆย  ย For SHAME!!!

Our first hike was Friday evening, a casual stroll from our tent site to the lake, then along the Orchard Loop and back…maybe 2 miles.ย  Just enough to start bonding with everyone and make the transition from busy life to restful weekend!

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Heading up the Orchard Loop

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Hemlock Trees!

Afterwards, I built a fire and hung out long into the night (maybe 9:30) with the Dames.ย  B^2 had brought pie, Roxanne brought home made caramel corn, and Queen V brought sausage for Sidekick Pauli! These women are the best!

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“Is that Queen V making bacon?” ~Sidekick Pauli gazing longingly over to Queen V’s campsite

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Indeed it was, Sidekick Pauli, indeed it was!

The next day we took a longer hike starting down by the lake, circling the other campground, then taking the Cabin Loop to the Turnpike Trail.ย  The trails are altogether lovely at this park and, in the winter, are groomed for cross-country skiing.

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The New Germany School House

Along the way, a must stop was the old school house.ย  Yeah, I’m a teacher, so historic places having to do with education are right up my alley! Don’t think I haven’t fantasized about being a teacher in a one-room school house. ๐Ÿ˜€

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Filtering water

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Follow up Lunch & Backpacking Chat

Later on during the hike, a few of the Dames tried out their water filters.ย  This was a great experience for these Dames! Do you remember the first time you filtered watered out of a creek and drank it?ย  The initial hesitation, the wonderment, then the satisfaction of drinking the water that you had filtered?ย  I saw all of this as I watched from my perch under a shady tree.ย  So proud of these gals!

We returned to camp for lunch and backpacking chat, which was then followed by a backpacking gear demo by none other than Venture Scout leader extraordinaire, Lola! Wow, her mini-van must have been packed with stuff.ย  And how absolutely selfless to bring it to our camp out and demo it! The backpackers, new and old, got a lot of great ideas during our day of learning!

Saturday evening the park was providing a “Star Party”.ย  Most of the Dames chose to walk back down to the lake except for Queen V and me.ย  I decided to drive because my old Pauli girl was pooped and wanted to sleep in the car.ย  The Star Party was awesome! We could see the Milky Way without any special telescope and many satellite fly overs (even the Russian satellite passed over).ย  Clear skies and very little light pollution made for a wonderful night under the stars!

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Looking toward the Lake House

It got a bit chilly as we all made our way back to our campsites in the dark.ย  We gathered round around a roaring fire and made s’mores to cap off the day.ย  ย I was so happy to crawl into the tent with my warm Pauli as the temps kept dropping. ๐Ÿ™‚ Happiness is a warm puppy!

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Sunday was a lazy morning.ย  No hikes planned, just clean up, take down, and drive home.ย  I was very sad to leave! These Dames…amazing! Hike On!