Black snake at Patuxent River Park, July 9, 2005


Hiking Adventures 2005 and Before

Last updated March 11, 2007


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Kayakers on South Bob's Hill Overlook

Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park
On November 18-20, 2005, Ralph led Beth, Greg, Jenny, Dick, Susanita, and me on an outing in the William Houck Area of Catoctin Mountain Park. We stayed in an old log cabin called "Olive Green" just off Catoctin Hollow Road near William Houck Drive. Most of us arrived on Friday the 18th and played Scrabble and Chicken Foot (a dominoes game). On Saturday, all of us hiked 7.8 miles with Ralph stopping a few times to clear fallen trees with his chainsaw. Ralph is a volunteer with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. On the left is a photo taken at South Bob's Hill Overlook in Cunningham Falls State Park. Note the silly court jester hat Ralph is wearing. But nobody made fun of him because he was carrying and using a chainsaw. The elevation change that day was from a low of 988 feet to a high of 2011 feet. We played more board games that night. On Sunday morning, Greg, Jenny, Susanita and I hiked north of Foxville Road (route 77), stopping at Chimney Rock, Wolf Rock, and Thurmont Vista. Later in the afternoon, Susanita and I drove to a different area and hiked Cunningham Falls for a day's total of 7 miles and an elevation change from 784 feet to 1660 feet.
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Cicada shells


Group photo

Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
On September 11, 2005, Kathy and I led a hike at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary for the Young Sierrans. We saw cicada shells (the shell left after shedding) and a resting tree frog. See first and second photos at left. The group stopped for a photo at a pier where Lloyd tried to prove himself taller than Nicole. See third photo at left.
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Group photo at start of Laurel Forks hike on July 29, 2005

Laurel Forks in Monongahela National Forest
On July 29-31, 2005, Ralph, Dan, Greg, Dick, Shaun, Jim, and I hiked parts of the Laurel Forks Wilderness River Trail North and South in Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia. This trip was planned and led by Ralph, a Boy Scout troop leader and Chesapeake Paddlers Association (CPA) kayak trip leader. We left early on the 29th, meeting others in our group at a restaurant at Yokum's Vacationland near Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. Seneca Rocks is a scenic area popular with rock climbers. The North Fork parking lot just off route 55 east/28 north near Seneca Creek has a parking lot with access to a trail that leads to the top of the rocks.

After leaving the Seneca Rocks area, we took route 33 south from the town of Wymer for about 20 miles then turned left just before the Chevron gas station onto a dirt road, Forest Road 14 (CR10). This took us to the southern trail head. See photo on left for a picture of Dan, Greg, Dick, Shaun, Jim, and I at the trailhead. That afternoon, we hiked 3 miles in Laurel Forks Wilderness South then set up camp for the night. Dan managed to find a nice 5 foot deep pool for bathing along the river. Unlike trails I've hiked in the past, the Laurel Forks Trail is unmaintained, hence, it is easy to lose the trail as it becomes overgrown. While the trail was usually within 100 meters of the Laurel Forks River, there were many times when we had to fight our way through thick vegetation, cross muddy bogs, and hop our way across slippery streams. This, along with the fact that the trail always seemed wet and covered with slick rocks and roots made walking with a full pack somewhat slow and awkward at times. Fortunately, the route was relatively flat.

On the 30th, we packed up and began hiking at 0810, covering 10 miles. After the first few miles, the trail became more distinct and movement became easier. We walked through the Forest Service Campground, where we saw a 3-legged dog, then into Laurel Forks Wilderness North. There were times when we were a bit confused as to our exact location but with Ralph's leadership and Dan's Magellan global positioning system (GPS) with downloaded maps, we made sure we never strayed too far from the trail. We encountered several large bear tracks and bear droppings but never saw any bears, fortunately. We set up camp for the night, found a few crayfish in the stream, roasted marshmallows, and listened to the owls at night.

On the 31st, we commenced hiking at 0840 and completed our journey with a 5 mile trek that included a slightly deeper stream crossing and more bushwhacking as the trail once again disappeared into the overgrowth. A deer and black snake were spotted. In the end, we backpacked about 18 miles in one full day plus two half days. We celebrated our accomplishment with a pizza at a local West Virginia restaurant.
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Greg and small black bear

Black bear

Old Rag 2005
On June 25, 2005, Kathy, Greg, and I hiked up Old Rag in Shenandoah National Park. About 100,000 people climb this 3268 feet (996 meters) mountain annually. We arrived at the Big Meadows campground on June 24. The next day, we began at 900 feet and hiked Ridge Trail to the peak. Then we hiked Saddle Trail and Weakley Hollow Fire Road back to the start, completing the 7.2 mile loop, plus an additional 1.6 miles to and from the trail start for a day's total of 8.8 miles with a 2368 climb.

During this adventure, we saw some black bears. See first photo on left for picture of Greg looking at a bear. See second photo on left for a close-up view of a different bear. Both were spotted just off Weakley Hollow Fire Road near the trailhead. They seem oblivious to our presence and we did our best to not disturb them.

On June 26, Soumya joined us and we hiked part of the Appalachian Trail, Rose River Loop Trail, Dark Hollow Falls Trail, and Story of the Forest Trail. We stopped at and admired the beauty of Dark Hollow Falls. Over the two days of hiking, we saw several deer, chipmunks, black bears (about 6), hiked about 14.5 miles, and climbed about 3300 feet.
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Saki at Maryland Heights

Maryland Heights
Maryland has some scenic areas but few compare to the view at Maryland Heights on a sunny, dry day. When the weather conditions are right, you can see miles up the Shenandoah River, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Towpath. You can stand in Maryland while gazing into Virginia and West Virginia. Behind me is the historic town of Harper's Ferry, Maryland. For directions and more information about Maryland Heights, see Harpers Ferry.
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Blue Heron Tour in Patuxent River Park

Patuxent River Park
Blue Herons nest in large colonies called rookeries along the Patuxent River. Greg Kearns, a naturalist, led an expedition on April 23, 2005 to this protected area of Patuxent River Park just south of Milltown Landing Road and north of Black Swamp Creek in Prince George's County. About 40 nests were seen in about 4 trees along with approximately 40 herons throughout a half hour period. A couple of blue-green freshly hatched egg shells were found on the ground. Their length would have been around 4 inches if unbroken. On the way back, we saw a male and female wild turkey and later that day at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, I saw a ~150 meter long beaver dam and 8 deer.
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Young Sierrans hike in Glen Artney area of Patapsco Valley State Park

Young Sierrans hike in McKeldin area of Patapsco Valley State Park

Patapsco Valley State Park
On September 18, 2004, I met a small group of people at Gunpowder Falls State Park for a day hike. This was the first hike of the Young Sierrans, a splinter faction of the Greater Baltimore Group of the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club. I attended several of their monthly adventures, then on March 12, 2005, I led their 7th hike in the Patapsco Valley State Park. I organized and led the group on a route from the Hilton Area to Lost Lake in the Glen Artney Area while providing historical information about the park and the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad. We saw 5 deer that day! See upper left photo. I am now a certified Sierra Club hiking leader. On April 16, 2005, I led my second hike at the McKeldin Area of Patapsco Valley State Park. We saw 9 turtles on that day! See lower left photo.
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Cicada on Leaf

Cicada adult
During cicada season, the nymphs may emerge en masse, sometimes more than one million individuals per acre (250/m). The cicada population is overwhelming because they are such easy prey. Cats, dogs, reptiles, birds, and even drunken frat boys will consume large numbers of cicada. The cicada mate, reproduce, then die after only spending a few short weeks as adults. I look forward to seeing their offspring emerge in 2021.
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Cicada Skeleton

Cicada Skeletal Shell
In the spring of 2004, Maryland experienced the hatching of Magicicada, Brood X. These creatures are commonly known as cicada or 17-year locust. After spending 17 years in the ground, the cicada nymphs emerge on an evening when the ground temperature is above 17C (63 F). They then climb to a suitable place on nearby vegetation to complete their transformation into an adult cicada. They molt one last time then spend about six days in the leaves waiting for their exoskeleton to solidify completely. The photo at the left shows the translucent remains of a cicada molting.
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Saki at Cunningham Falls

Cunningham Falls
In October 1999, I hiked through the Cunningham Falls area in Maryland, observing the breathtaking autumn colors of the changing seasons.  Not something I see back west.
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Saki climbing out of Consumnes River onto rocks

Consumnes River
In July 1998, I went hiking with Michael and his son David.  We explored the Consumnes River area of California.  The area was abundant with starthistle, a plant not seen in Maryland.  The hot, northern California sun left most of the rocks too hot to touch.  Temperatures typically reached over 100 degrees in the shade.
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Kevin and Richard at Horsetail Falls near Twin Bridges, California, June 1994

Horsetail Falls
In June 1994, Kevin, Richard, and I hiked in Desolation Wilderness near the towns of Strawberry and Twin Bridges, California.  Desolation Wilderness is rocky, mountainous, and yields a postcard view almost every step of the way.
Left to right: Kevin and Richard.  Richard is a Jujitsu and Kuk Sool Wan black belt and former Army Airborne reconnaissance team member.
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