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!

How Quickly the Clouds Change the Sky

I started walking in the gray cold rawness that comes with winter.  No snow on the ground, just last fall’s display littered upon the ground.  Today I walk because I am sad, and worried, and feel like my stomach has been punched.  It is with no real purpose as I fly down the trail except to outrun my thoughts.

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My Sidekick Pauli has a lump.  A lump that is concerning.  A lump that sidles up to her carotid artery.  A lump that grew in a matter of two weeks.  She goes in for surgery tomorrow morning.

This is my hiking companion we are talking about.  My eyes are filling…just stop thinking. There is no need for “what ifs”! Get it together!

The stiff wind blew down my collar and I pulled my coat a little closer.  I wasn’t even dressed particularly well for this hike.  Whatever.  I stopped to look out over the Potomac River noticing a sliver of blue on the horizon.  What a beautiful winter sky.  I tucked my head down and kept forward on the C&O Canal headed for the Catoctin Creek Aqueduct. Fifteen minutes before I had no idea that was where I was headed, but it was good to have made a decision; to have a focus.

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I can’t think about this right now.  I noticed a guy and his puppy coming towards me.  As he passed, the puppy leaped towards me.  I heard him say “C’mon Sally”.  Sally?? I knew it before I inquired with excitement “Sally? Is that Sally Pretzel? !!!”…IT WAS!!!!!!!!  Sally Pretzel is the puppy of one of my hiking friends!  Her husband just happened to be walking her out on the canal today.  It helped me to meet Sally Pretzel.  She reminds me of Sidekick Pauli when she was a puppy!  Little Sally made me laugh! 🙂 🙂

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Heading on I notice the clouds had changed.  There was more blue now.  As I passed the Catoctin Tunnel it felt warmer and I loosened my coat for the last mile to the aqueduct. Down the path that overlooks the aqueduct to stretch a little before heading back to Point of Rocks.

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On the way back the clouds behind me were dark gray, but bright blue skies were in front of me.  I knew those blue skies weren’t going to last, but never mind…I was now hoping to see snow.  A few flakes flew as a train rounded the rocks and clickity-clacked by me.  The passing train made me feel I was walking a million miles an hour.

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As the gray pushed over the sun once again, snowflakes fell more rapidly, then just like that…poof…they were gone, and I was left to walk the final mile in the gray cold rawness that comes with winter.

Hike on.

AT – VA US522 Chester Gap to Jim&Molly Denton Shelter (and back)

Cabin fever, the very quickly approaching Spring semester, and a goal to hike half of the AT through Maryland in one day this summer had me flying down 340 headed for Front Royal, Virginia and the trail head at US522.

I left my house in the dark, hoping to step on the trail at sunrise…I was using this hike to set a baseline for training for my “Half MD” goal this summer.  The shorter winter days meant it might be starting to get dark at 4 PM.  Since I was hiking alone I really didn’t care to be hiking back to my car in the dark!

As it turned out I started hiking at 8 AM.  It was already past dawn, but it was still not completely light outside.  I love to be in the woods in the early morning.  Everything is so quiet, then the birds wake up and chatter at you up and down the trail.

Stepping on the trail just after dawn.

Stepping on the trail just after dawn.

The trail up the mountain sidled up against the National Zoological Park Conservation and Research Center.  Once at the top, the trail pulls away from the Park and cruises nicely along the edge of the mountain before descending to cross a gravel road that headed up into a neighborhood of mountain houses, some of which were quite large!

Stream crossing! Luckily the ice had melted on the rocks...although I did have my spikes in tow!

Not a great pic…but a stream crossing! Luckily the ice had melted on the rocks…although I did have my spikes in tow!

The elevation map made the climb look daunting with a climb of 1000 feet in the first two miles, but it didn’t really seem to register with me on this early morning.  What I did think about, on my way up, was how this morning felt like freedom.  It really did. It had all the promise of the first warm day of spring…adventure without a time limit!  I was just out for a walk, just to see how far I could go.  I was loving it!

Winter view south back to Shenandoah National Park.

Winter view south back to Shenandoah National Park.

After the road crossing, I found a nice log to sit on and take a break.  The temps were rising, but the sun had yet to make to this side of the mountain.  My log seat was quickly freezing my back side, so a quick break it was! Headed on to the shelter for a longer break!

Lunch at the shelter had revived me! It was now 11:45am and I had a choice to make…walk another mile down hill to VA638 or turn around now and walk the 5 miles back to my car.  One more mile downhill would have meant one more mile uphill and a total mileage of 12 miles for today…I was so close to doing it!  But I decided to turn south after leaving the shelter …towards my car…shoot for the 10 miles …take time to enjoy the walk!

Walking back through the snowy woods.

Walking back through the snowy woods.

I had forgotten how good it feels to hike alone.  This hike just left me with such a great feeling of … jees, I cannot describe it…just an amazing amount of control over my life and a great sense of freedom!  Loved it!

Hike on…sometimes with others and sometimes by yourself…hike on!

Winter Hike to White Rocks and The Perfect Hiking Partner

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Isn’t it funny how we can just pass by amazing things and not give them the respect they deserve because we are in a hurry, or have a different focus, or just don’t see them as wonderful as our ultimate destination? Well, not this time kiddos! Overnight I was overtaken with an urge to hike […]