Day One | Day Two | Day Three
A good partner is a good friend plus more. She shares in the things you enjoy and introduces you to new activities. She helps ensure that life isn't something we just do...it is something we enjoy...one adventure after another. Norma is just such a person.
Day One: Saturday, February 16, 2008
The weekend plans were a little iffy. Back on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2007, we planned to go downhill skiing. Unfortunately, those plans never materialized due to uncooperative weather. We weren't so sure if this weekend would bring the same. In the days prior, we watched the weather forecast with crossed fingers.
After a long drive, we arrived at New Germany State Park in Garrett County, Maryland. At the Recreation Hall, we met Darrell of Allegany Expeditions. He rented us cross country skis at a rate of twenty dollars per day for a pair. I was amazed at how well the ski boots fit. After a quick lesson on how to get back up once we fell (not if), we were off.
In front of the building, I donned my skis and went down a very gradual decline. I sped up and found I had little control over where I went. I headed right towards a tree. I thought my fate would be the same as Sonny Bono's. I stopped with a fall after missing the tree by a few inches. I could tell this would not be easy.
At Darrell's recommendation, we got on the easy Green Trail and headed west. Though I had never been on skis before, I found cross country skiing on flat terrain fairly intuitive. The motion was very similar to backpacking with trekking poles. I was amazed at how fast and effortlessly I traveled.
The snow covered terrain was beautiful. Getting a full body workout doing something fun outdoors is the best way I could possibly spend my time and to do with with a friend is even better. The Poplar Lick Run flowed past, providing us with tranquil stream sounds.
Continuing onward, we crossed three bridges on the appropriately named Three Bridges Trail.
At the west end, we headed uphill on Timber Stand Improvement Trail. This was quite a workout. It took a few tries before I found something that worked for me when it came to moving uphill.
At the 2700 foot above sea level range, we circled the Purple Trail. It was here that I got a taste of some downhill fun. It was fun and scary for me (a mere beginner) to ski downhill at what seemed like a fast pace (though I'm sure it wasn't). To some extent, I could control my speed my bringing my knees together though I could not steer.
Heading north and downhill on Dog Leg Trail, we were in for much more downhill skiing. There were quite a few times that we purposely crashed in order to keep from going off the trail since we couldn't steer. Norma has done downhill skiing but could not get the hang of steering with cross country skis which are much longer and narrower.
We didn't bring any water but there was plenty of fresh snow to eat. Just stay away from the yellow snow.
The Blue Trail took us back to the Green Trail and that took us back to the Recreation Hall. There, we rested up, drank hot chocolate, and ate snacks.
Next, we skied on the Pink Trail, just northwest of New Germany Lake. There was a big, open field called The Orchard, where we got to try out downhill crashing. After numerous falls, we headed to the Yellow Trail which runs parallel to the Green Trail but on the opposite side of Poplar Lick Run. We returned on the Green Trail.
Unfortunately, I don't have any photos to document our skiing adventure. I wasn't willing to bring my camera when I was so prone to falling. Bruises and broken bones heal...broken electronics don't.
We returned our skis and spoke to Darrell who told us the secret to steering. It definitely doesn't sound easy and he recommends a lesson for anyone who wants to learn to steer. Darrell teaches a variety of outdoor skills and leads various canoe/kayak trips. He recommended we check out Moorefield, Oldfields, and Sector for easy and scenic paddling.
We ran into Ted and Mary from the Sierra Club. I've hiked with both of them, most recently at Sunset Rocks on February 2, 2008.
Norma and I checked in and ate dinner at the Casselman Inn in Grantsville, Maryland. This historic inn dates back to 1824! Very reasonable rates and good food.
I didn't know what to expect with cross country skiing. I expected it to be difficult and tough on my lower legs and feet. Instead, I found it to be most enjoyable. We ended up sking 8.5 miles that day! Not bad for a first attempt.
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Day Two: Sunday, February 17, 2008
After a hearty breakfast at Keyser Ridge Auto & Truck Stop along with good conversation with a 7 year old patron, Norma and I were off to Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. The day was rainy and not so good for snow sports but this was no excuse to stay indoors. Instead, we would spend the day hiking.
We decided to do a circuit hike at Bear Run Nature Reserve, just north of Fallingwater, a place we visited with my parents on October 6, 2007.
We crossed route 381 and walked west on the white blazed Peninsula Trail. This took us to a vista called Paradise Overlook where we saw the Youghiogheny River and a railroad track below with Ohiopyle State Park across. See first photo at left.
Though there was some snow on the ground, walking wasn't difficult. Things weren't too icy and in many places, we were the first to walk on the snow after the deer and the turkeys. There were numerous turkey footprints in the snow.
Norma asked how she could condition herself for some Montana backpacking she'll be doing this summer as part of a volunteer trail maintenance group. I then gave her my pack, which she then carried for the rest of the trip. My loss is her gain...literally.
The trail headed east then turned into the Laurel Run Trail. This took us to the blue blazed Laurel Glen Trail...just a small offshoot from the Laurel Run Trail. Laurel Glen led us down a valley formed by Laurel Run. I was content taking a photo of some ice attached to some rocks (see second photo at left) but Norma convinced me to venture across the stream. She found a nice crossing at an ice covered log. Notice how she gracefully makes this challenging stream crossing in the third and fourth photos at left. Climbing up the opposite side in Ohiopyle State Park gave us a spectacular view of some cascading falls. This alone made the hike well worth the effort. See fifth photo at left. Boy, was my butt cold posing for that picture.
Laurel Run Trail crossed route 381 again then led uphill.
We caught the Snow Bunny Trail heading southwest. Interestingly, Norma did indeed spot a bunny in the snow along with a deer on this trail. We also spotted a colostoma cinnabarina puffball mushroom (aka hot lips). See sixth photo at left.
It had been raining for quite some time and while we weren't too terribly sore from skiing yesterday, we were getting tired. The combination of cold, tired, wet, and hungry reminded me of why I didn't re-enlist. Still, it was worth it to see the cascading falls.
We caught the Rhododendron Trail then the Tree Trail which led us back to Bear Run Center.
I can't say how far we hiked since I had very poor satellite reception, especially in the valley along Peninsula and Laurel Run Trails. I know I cleared the odometer on my global positioning system (GPS) before we began our hike, yet by the time we finished, it claimed we hiked 286.4 miles! I'm guessing we covered at least 8 miles in our 5 hour adventure.
With just a little time before sunset, we drove to the mighty Ohiopyle Falls just down the road. There is something about falling water or crashing waves that I find humbling. See seventh photo at left.
It was a little hard to find a restaurant open at 1900 on Sunday so once again we ended up at Keyser Ridge Auto & Truck Stop. But it was no disappointment. The blackberry pie with ice cream gave our day a nice, sweet ending.
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Day Three: Monday, President's Day, February 18, 2008
It seems like when we are in this area, we say we will make it to the Purple Fiddle one night to hear live music. So far, we have been unsuccessful. But I don't see this as a bad thing. The reason we never make it is because our days are so full of activity that we have no energy to muster for a night out. Hence, by day three, we knew we'd just have to make it out to Thomas, West Virginia some other time.
After eating ham and cheese omelets at the Casselman Inn, we headed to the Wisp Resort for snow tubing. I did this back in my childhood days with the church youth group in northern California. It was fun back then and also exhausting climbing up the hills to start the downhill ride. But Wisp is pretty high-tech. They rent covered tubes with handles. They also have a tube lift and a moving walkway. There were about 10 lanes for tubing with employees at the top and bottom to ensure safety. All very well organized...but was it fun?
It was definitely fun at first. The feel of speeding down an icy hill as the wind and snow blew against our face was a thrill. Once, we both managed to fly off the ramp a few inches (got air). But after the first few rides, it was the same thing, again and again. In some ways, we felt it would have been more fun to have just made our own course. Still, I'm glad we got to try it.
Next, we drove to the elusive Finzel Swamp Nature Preserve, a Maryland mountain bog maintained by the Nature Conservancy. The conservancy is a nonprofit, private organization founded in 1951 to preserve biodiversity. We spotted a beaver lodge surrounded by ice (see photo at left). It was cold and wet and we were all walked out from yesterday. But we were glad to find this place and promised that we would return for a longer walk on a warmer day. It seems like the type of place where wildlife would be abundant during the summer twilight hours.
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At times, it seems like I've seen so much of the area within driving distance of where I live. At other times, I study maps, read books, or talk to people and realize that there is much more to see. This makes me happy because I know that the enjoyment isn't the destination, it is the journey.