Day One | Day Two | Day Two
KC of the Maryland Outdoor Club had a great idea for a weekend camping trip. Why try and camp when all the kids were on their summer break? Instead, why not camp when they were back in school? This great idea inspired "The Kids Shouldn't Be Camping Weekend."
KC chose to hold this event at Rocky Gap State Park while it was still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors in comfort but cool enough to avoid those nasty mosquitos.
Norma and I signed up for this event shortly after meeting KC on August 27, 2006 at a group hike at George Washington National Forest. His friendly and outgoing personality motivated us to sign up for his event.
Just a few days prior to the event, I started checking the weather report. If it was warm, I'd bring my tandem kayak. Unfortunately, the forecast was calling for a high of 61 degrees, which I felt was a little too cold for being on a sit-on-top kayak for an extended period of time without neoprene. So instead, we'd bring our bicycles. Word was sent out to the rest of the group in case anyone else wanted to join us for some biking.
Day One: September 29, 2006
Norma and I left from just north of Washington D.C. at 1640. Driving along the beltway wasn't too bad but once we got towards Frederick on highway 270, things slowed down. What should have been a 2 hour 15 minute drive was well over 3 hours.
We arrived at the park just after dark. I bought a trail map. We set up our tent at site 90 in the Dogwood (D) Loop, sharing it with Sarah and Tracey.
Norma set up our tent and I got a fire started. It was hard to find kindling in the dark so I poured camp stove fuel on the logs. Then, I set the fire ablaze. WHOOF!!! The campfire was burning at full throttle in just a few seconds. But a couple of minutes later, it was almost dead. Not such a great idea. After a little more work and searching for more kindling, I got the fire stoking.
After unpacking and setting up camp, Norma and I walked to the various sites occupied by other Maryland Outdoor Club (M.O.C.) members. I saw numerous familiar faces. There were a total of 18 people (5 men and 13 women): KC (our fearless leader), Amanda, Maureen (Mo), Seth, Kate, Rob, Tracey, Aimee, Glen, Cindy, Aga, Sarah, Kathryn, and three Lisas. Also in attendance was a dog (a purebred mutt) being watched by Aimee: MacKenzie...the dog is MacKenzie, not Aimee.
We socialized around the campfire. I asked who brought bicycles. Nobody else did. That meant Norma and I couldn't do a bicycle shuttle like we had originally hoped. So we discussed the possibility of a hike instead.
I told a few jokes and actually got a few people laughing. Talked about food and school. Seems like we had a large number of teachers or former teachers. I don't remember much more. We turned in for the night around 2300.
The low temperature forecast was 39 degrees.
I was awoken by a bird that reminded me of the dropping flea noise from the Centipede video game. Others heard it too but nobody could identify it. Some weren't even sure if it was a bird.
Day Two: September 30, 2006
We awoke about 0710. It was cold and foggy.
Norma and I met the rest of the group at KC's site. I helped him prepare breakfast by scrambling eggs. I brought several large brown eggs from Norma's parents' farm. KC had coffee and various bagels and pastries set out for the group.
There was a light, cold rain.
I announced that I would lead a hike to the Mason Dixon Line. At about 1000, a few of us met back at KC's site and made sandwiches. Amanda, KC, Kathryn, Sarah, Norma, and I started our hike at 1030. We expected to be back from an 8.5 mile hike by 1630.
Many in the group instead chose to go into town to see movies and shop. A few went out to eat. One stayed in her tent and studied.
Our group of six hikers caught the trail just a little bit downhill from my campsite (90), between sites 91 and 92. We traveled west for about 1.5 miles. Before we turned north on Evitt's Mountain Homesite Trail, Kathryn took a trail loop back to the start. The rest of us headed uphill through the park Wildland Area. We began our gradual 1000 foot climb to our goal, the Mason Dixon Line at the Maryland-Pennsylvania border.
We saw an assortment of mushrooms along the way. Some looked like little butt cheeks. See photos one, two, and three on left.
Near the campsite, ferns were green (see fourth photo at left) but as we reached higher elevations, I noticed the ferns were brown. Climbing further, we saw fall colors while at lower levels, the leaves were still green.
We stopped at Evitt's Homesite and saw the remains of the final resting place of Mr. Evart (Evitt), who was supposedly the first white settler in Allegany County. He came to the area in the early 1700s to escape civilization and live as a hermit. See fifth photo at left.
We ate a quick lunch at the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, atop Evitt's Mountain. Too cold to stand still for very long. Low clouds (or high fog) passed by us quickly at the border clearing. At least it stopped raining.
Heading back, the sun broke through the clouds and things started to warm up. Time to remove layers.
After three hours of hiking, we finally saw other people.
We made our way across Rocky Gap Run (see sixth and seventh photos at left) then to the main road where we caught a view of Lake Habeeb. We found it interesting that so many waterways in Maryland are Native American names while Habeeb sounds Arabic.
Our next stop was the Canyon Overlook Nature Trail. This was a 0.4 mile easy loop which leads to a magnificent view of the one-mile long Rocky Gap Gorge. See eighth and ninth photos at left.
Next, we hiked along the north half of the Lakeside Loop Trail. We crossed the dam and spillway (see tenth photo at left) which were built by cutting through sedimentary rock. Various types of marine fossils were discovered in this area indicating that an inland ocean once existed at the park. A few unusual rocks were seen which had interesting patterns, possibly the result of prehistoric life. See eleventh and twelfth photos at left.
Some type of infrared monitoring device was passed. Not sure what it was for but it was placed too high to record the presence of animals.
Across the lake, we saw the Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort. See thirteenth photo at left.
Walking a bit further, we ran into Aga, who was out for a stroll heading the other direction.
We finished our hike at 1540.
Back at the campsite, Amanda broke out wine, cheese, and crackers.
After getting washed up, I helped KC prepare a marvelous dinner. I got a fire started and grilled (or burnt) corn on the cob wrapped in foil. Glen, who I thought resembled Randy Couture, provided me with more firewood than even I could burn in one night.
Dinner consisted of salad, pasta, bread, corn, and a pecan pie baked by Norma.
It rained off and on throughout the night. Glen was kind enough to set up a shelter to keep the group dry.
A marathon game of Uno went on in which Amanda was declared the winner.
Some drinking games commenced though drinking was optional. One consisted of remembering several words, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet (e.g. P -> plumpety plum).
Seth told us about some of his most memorable experiences in the pest control business. He kept us laughing hard.
I noticed that our group had an unusually large number of red haired women and Lisas.
Many of us were off to bed sometime between 2300 and 2400.
The night wasn't as cold as before. I awoke several times during the night though I was never awake for long. But it seemed each time I awoke, the rain was alternating its decision as to if it wanted to remain.
An owl was heard.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
Day Three: October 1, 2006
Norma and I were up at around 0730. Much to our pleasant surprise, the sky was blue and sunny.
The group met at KC's site for a bacon, egg, and French Toast breakfast. We found a very unusual bug near the picnic table. See photo at the very top left of the page.
We broke down tents and got the place cleaned up. Some people headed home while some of us went for a shorter hike.
Sarah, Glen, Cindy, Kathryn, KC, Norma, and I met at the camp store parking lot at 1140 then caught the Lakeside Loop Trail heading clockwise to the Scales and Tales Aviary. We were now hiking on a different part of the trail than we had seen yesterday. Though not wilderness, this part of the trail was quite scenic. We saw an assortment of flowers, pine trees, cattails, wetlands, and some prickly plants. Also, a grasshopper and some unidentified insects on milkweed plants. See photos one through seven at left. While it was all beautiful, it was probably the wildflowers that held our attention the longest. KC used his telephoto lense to see individual atoms in some of the flowers. See photos eight and nine at left.
We walked past the lodge then made our way to the aviary. Unfortunately, the aviary was closed. Still, we were able to catch a glimpse of the raptors: a great horned owl (see tenth photo at left), barred owl, barn owl, red-tailed hawk, and a black vulture. Seeing these birds of prey reminded me of the work I did as a volunteer animal care assistant at the Sacramento Science Center.
Over the two days, we walked almost entirely around Lake Habeeb, only missing about a half mile of the southwest point.
Our group ate lunch at the Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort. We noticed that 4 out of 7 of us were left handed. I commented that us lefties are more likely able to mirror write then a few of us gave it a try.
Just outside the resort, we saw a pontoon boat used for tours. Glen asked the captain if he would take us back to our cars at the camp store. The captain agreed to do so for free, saving us from having to walk about 2.5 miles. See eleventh photo at left.
We were surprised to learn that our young captain, whose name is Drew (see photo twelve at left), is the guitarist for a band called Distorted Penguins.
It was nice to end our weekend with a sunny, dry walk, a nice lunch, and a complimentary boat ride. But what really made the weekend special was the company.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
So far, all my Maryland Outdoor Club experiences have been great. I look forward to seeing old faces, meeting new ones, and exploring places I have yet to see. The club has helped me expand my horizons and kept me feeling young.