East to Oregon Ridge

Sitting here in the house, riding out the wintry weather, doing a whole lot of nothing.  What started as beautiful snow this morning has now turned into an icy mess.  So, in order to feel productive, I’ve decided to share last weekend’s sojourn with Sidekick Pauli to Oregon Ridge .

One of my goals for 2018 was to hike a certain number of miles. A number, we will just call it x, since like a variable, it is currently in flux and will remain secret because my ACTUAL miles hiked in the month of January was a measly 38.3.  *sigh*

BUT, I thought, let me go get a couple of easy miles over north of Baltimore at Oregon Ridge. AND, I thought, Sidekick Pauli can tag along since it would be a shorter hike.

Off we went! A new place!

Oregon Ridge Nature Center seemed easy to find, but I was just following the directions being barked at me by the voice of the Google Maps Goddess, so who knows. 😀

It was a beautiful, weird, winter day with temps climbing into the 60s.  A great day to be out! Fun (and strange) fact: Oregon Ridge used to be a ski resort! Found this little gem on this blog.

Anyway, I pulled into the park and made my way up the hill.  Cars to the left of me, SUVs to my right, stuck in the middle with a sinking feeling of no parking spots in my head.  Ever the optimist, I plowed on.  I descended the hill, almost to the Nature Center, “dead end, great I will have to turn arou….YESSSSSSSS!” A car pulled out, and I swung my RAV4 neatly into the newly opened gate to Narnia. 🙂 🙂 🙂

IMG_20180127_164816.jpg

Almost 11 years old and still loves her hikes 🙂

Sidekick Pauli voiced her impatience as I wrangled my pack, her water, my water, the leash…and SHAZAM! she was hooked up and we were headed around the lake on the aptly named “Lake Trail”.  I broke all rules for “appropriate” hikes for Sidekick Pauli with this trail choice as there were a few brief, but steep, ups and downs before we crossed the power line clearing to follow the “Loggers Trail”.  She was excited to be out and didn’t seem to have any trouble at all .  The Loggers Trail climbed moderately along a level path through the woods.  There were a few nice winter views through the trees. 🙂

IMG_20180127_164645.jpg

View from the Lake Trail

IMG_20180127_142251_000.jpg

A sweet little bench along the Loggers Trail

Warm days in the winter give way to ______________ happiness? freedom? cure for cabin fever? Yes, yes, and yes, but also to…you guessed it… muddy, mucky trails!  This was the case with the entire loop that we walked and by the time we headed down towards the Nature Center at the end of the loop, I was getting irritated with all the slipping and sliding!  Exasperated, I stopped, pulled Sidekick Pauli in close for a mini-break off the trail.  Scanning ahead, I saw pops of color in woods. What the heck?

 

That was the motivation I needed to keep walking down (sliding down) hill.  Pauli needed lunch, so I let her eat in the car while I checked out the Nature Center.  Then we ventured back uphill towards those colorful trees in what I now knew was called the Forest of Hope.

Incredible.  Here’s to healing in the trees. Hike on.

IMG_20180127_165408.jpg

 

The Deep Freeze Delights of Winter

Well, happy new year and happy outdoor adventuring to everyone! Here is hoping your toes are warm, your furnace is cranking, and the pipes haven’t burst at your house.

I kicked off the new year with the Trail Dames, heading out on the best possible day last week…yay! Temps rising into the twenties!!  What an absolute delight.

I led the Dames on a 6 mile loop at Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, Maryland.  This is one of my favorite hiking spots and home to Camp David for you political junkies.  Occasionally, the trails are shut down when the President is at Camp David.  This isn’t very often with the current administration.  So stomp on down the trails, no secret service to stop you!

Our route started at the Visitor Center.  We were all giddy with the blue skies and promise of increasing temperatures, despite it being 17 degrees as we pulled into the lot and greeted each other.  The Visitor Center opens at 9 am…important information if you like to hit the bathrooms before heading down the trail.  Dames LOVE bathrooms at the beginning of a hike!!! 😀 😀 😀

IMG_20180103_143049.jpg

Shedding Some Layers!

We started uphill first heading in the direction of Thurmont Vista.  This warmed us up!  We took our first break at the Vista, then continued around to Wolf Rocks.

IMG_20180103_143157.jpgIMG_20180103_143233.jpg

We made a half – ass effort to investigate the top of Wolf Rocks, but with ice and snow covering most of the rocks we retreated without argument and  stomped on to Chimney Rocks.  We took a longer break at Chimney Rocks.  It is a nice spot for a break since there are many rocks to sit upon.

IMG_20180103_143340.jpg

Retreat from Wolf Rocks

IMG_20180103_143500.jpg

Winter View from Chimney Rocks

Kudos to the park maintainers because they have now blazed the trails in a variety of happy colors and put in benches for restful contemplation of the universe in many spots along the trails.

Leaving Chimney Rocks, it was all downhill, steeply, to park headquarters, then a rolling mile back to our cars.  It was a beautiful way to kick off 2018!

May all your hiking goals be met this year (in spite of the frigid start).  Hike on!

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!

dsc01003

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!

dsc01007

img_20170129_123517.jpg

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.  🙂 🙂

20170128_173022.jpg

“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!

img_20170129_124155.jpg

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.

img_20170129_080420_762.jpg

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.

img_20160112_204828.jpg

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.

img_20160112_204524.jpg

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! 🙂 🙂

img_20160112_204744.jpg

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.

img_20160112_175952.jpg

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.

img_20160112_204619.jpg

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

This gallery contains 5 photos.

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 […]