Bridge over Mattaponi Creek, March 4, 2007

Saki

Hiking Adventures 2007


Last updated January 1, 2008


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Hollofield Area
When I first moved to Maryland back in 1995, one of the first places I explored was the Hollofield Area of Patapsco Valley State Park. At the time, I didn't find it very interesting but I also didn't have a map so I didn't really know what was worth seeing. Several years later (December 29, 2007) I returned to this area with Norma and a map.

As we entered the park, we saw a sign that mentioned there was an entrance fee but there was no place to put the money and nobody manning the gate. Very strange.

We parked near shelter 335 then walked downhill on the white blazed Union Dam Trail to Union Dam. See first photo at left.

Next, we walked north, heading upstream along the Patapsco River until the trail simply merged with the CSX Railroad Track. I remembered much of this part of the trail.

Norma and I headed back downstream and climbed up the embankment to the Baltimore National Pike (route 40). See second photo at left. From here, we walked across the route 40 bridge over the river, which is a little unnerving as the walkway is very narrow and there is no rail to separate pedestrians from traffic. Next, we climbed down on the east side of the river and walked downstream. I had never explored the east side in this area.

I use the Complete Trail Map, Patapsco Valley State Park which can be ordered from Trail Maps Etc. This map shows all the trails, including those that are unmaintained. Unmaintained means that they may be extremely difficult to find or follow. This was indeed the case. Some trees were blazed with green circles but these were hard to see and not consistently marked. There were also a few orange marks and some ribbons in branches. It was often easiest to simply look for fallen trees that were cut with a chainsaw. Finding trash was also a good sign that we were on the right track.

We tried to follow a 0.6 mile steep section up the hill. We spent a good deal of time bushwhacking. This took us to a dirt road called Rock Haven Avenue, or possibly an extension of this road. From here, we headed west for 0.8 miles. The last part was along the park boundary. There is no hunting in the park but just outside, it is legal. Hence, we saw numerous tree stands and deer baiting areas. I highly recommend wearing blaze orange if hiking anywhere near park boundaries during hunting season.

It became very hard to follow the trail so once again, we spent a good deal of time bushwhacking.

Next, Norma and I walked downhill to a well maintained trail that ran along the river. We headed west into the quaint town of Oella. The trail meandered between some houses then ended behind some row houses on Oella Avenue.

We then headed back, walking on the well maintained trail along the river for about 1.2 miles.

There was a small man-made waterfall (actually a water tunnel) near the bridge where we briefly stopped. See third photo at left.

Arriving back at the route 40 bridge, we climbed up, crossed over, then scrambled down the west side.

Our goal was to walk up the yellow blazed River Ridge Trail but instead we found an unmaintained trail maybe a quarter mile prior to it. Hence, we took this trail which led us uphill and to the Valley Overlook (see fourth photo at left) where we could clearly see the Patapsco River below. See fifth photo at left. Then it was just a short walk along the road back to the car.

We finished shortly before sunset, having hiked 8.3 miles.

Though the hike was nice, I don't recommend the 0.6 or 0.8 mile unmaintained sections on the south side that led to and from Rock Haven Avenue.
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Meadow Mountain Trail
On Christmas Day, Norma and I hiked the Meadow Mountain Trail in Savage River State Forest in western Maryland.

The snow had gone through a few melting and freezing cycles resulting in numerous patches of ice. On the trail, ice would form a solid but thin surface and the remaining water would seep into the ground. As it melted, the water would come to the lowest points on the ice then refreeze, creating a wavy pattern of thicker lines of ice. See first photo at left. This often made for slow, unsteady walking.

After heading east for about 4 miles, we came to what we believe was Otto Lane, a dirt road. We turned around and headed back to the start.

With enough daylight remaining, we walked about 0.8 miles west to an overlook. It looked like the trail ended here. From here, Norma and I saw a nice view of the valley to our south (see second photo at left) and wind turbines off in the distance in West Virginia (see third photo at left).

We finished walking our 9.75 mile hike as the sun began to set.

They say Christmas is a time for giving. This was our chance to get outside and appreciate the beauty of the outdoors...Mother Nature's gift to mankind.
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Sugarloaf Mountain
On November 25, 2007, Norma and I left her parents' farm at sunrise. With nighttime temperatures on the farm between 10 and 13 degrees at an elevation of 2424 feet, I wasn't sure what to expect at our day hike on Sugarloaf Mountain but I knew things would be considerably warmer with the Sugarloaf peak being only 1282 feet above sea level.

At 1000, we arrived at the bottom of the mountain (500 feet). There, we were met by Joe, his dog Cody (an Australian and German Shephard mix), and a crabby Sugarloaf employee who told us to move our vehicles. The small lot at the base was full so we drove up and parked at a much larger lot near the east view of the Potomac Overlook. This area was almost empty.

Norma led us north on the Sunrise Trail which was blazed with orange. This steep climb warmed us up quickly. Within minutes, we were peeling off layers.

Next, we caught the red blazed Monadnock Trail north for a short distance to the Bill Lambert Overlook.

We soon encountered the largest cairn I've ever seen. I just had to climb it to place one more stone at the top. See first photo at left. Unfortunately, during the climb, I managed to knock quite a few rocks off by accident.

We headed east and counterclockwise on the blue blazed Northern Peaks Trail. Near the 10 o'clock position on the loop, we stopped at White Rocks for lunch. See second and third photos at left.

I'm guessing the temperature was in the mid to high-40s.

At this time of the year, the falls colors were much nicer here at Sugarloaf then at the farm where autumn strikes a little earlier.

Continuing counterclockwise, we soon came to the Saddleback Horse Trail, blazed in yellow. We walked southwest (counterclockwise) on this loop trail. As the trail name implied, we encountered some horses. One of the horses was clearly a little skittish around dogs but Cody remained very well behaved and let the horse pass without causing it or the rider any undue stress.

We passed through a nice grassy field that might have made for good cattle feed. See fourth photo at left.

There were quite a few dogs on the trail and all were well behaved. The dogs enjoyed playing and sniffing each other's butts.

At the white blazed Mountain Loop Trail, we turned north (left). Soon we were at the West View. There were some big stone structures and large boulders near the parking lots that made for interesting climbs.

From the West View, we took the Northern Peaks Trail east to the A.M. Thomas Trail (blazed in green), then continued east on it to the summit. While White Rocks was nice, the best views were definitely closer to the peak. See fifth photo at left.

It was then just a short walk east on the Monadnock Trail then south again (right turn) on the steep Sunrise Trail back to the start.

Norma chose our 8 mile route well. Only less than a half mile of it was not part of the circuit. Quite scenic too.

We were done around 1530.

It was a good way to end the 4 day Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
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Big Schloss
For a trip report of my Big Schloss backpacking trip, see Big Schloss, November 2007.



Tri-State Hike
The first time I did the tri-state hike was on May 27, 2006. Tim R. of the Howard County Sierra Club led this superfantastic 9 mile hike. I sometimes like to call it the New Zealand hike. A friend once told me that after God created all the continents, he took the leftover parts and made New Zealand. Hence, New Zealand is a small place with a great diversity in terrain and climates. This hike was also very diverse in the number of states, rivers, overlooks, and trails that were seen. In fact, I don't know of any other hike where one can see so much in so little time. I later decided that someday, I too would like to lead this hike.

On May 12, 2007, Dr. Chuck and I scouted this hike. I brought maps and my global positioning system (GPS). I took copious notes along the way, measuring pace, time, and distance. I also took photos of all the information signs so I could later present historical highlights of the area. We finished the hike but never found the lesser known shortcut to Maryland Heights.

I studied more maps and contacted Tim R. He gave me more hints on finding the shortcut. On June 24, 2007, I was back at Maryland Heights. After a few tries, I finally found it. I felt I was now ready to lead the hike.

I submitted my plan to the Maryland Outdoor Club (MOC). In September 2007, the event was posted. Within 12 hours, the event was full! There were eventually 6 cancellations but with 20 people on the waiting list, there was no problem finding enough participants.

On the morning of the hike, I checked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast. It read as follows:
Mostly sunny, with a high near 74. West wind between 7 and 16 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph.

On October 20, 2007, Norma, Lucas, and I met at the Broken Land Parkway and Route 32 Park and Ride. The rest of the group trickled in shortly after. We tossed the flying disc to keep warm. Shortly after, we were off.

We arrived at the Kettlecorn Lot in Virginia. I knew everyone in the group except Liz so instead of folks introducing themselves, I did it for them. In attendance were Ali, Joe, Lucas, Lutz (batman), Maureen, Michael, Michele, Norma, Brian, Chris, Liz, Ron, Jenn, and me.

At 0830, we commenced hiking.

The first part was a fairly steep but short climb that got us warmed up. In just over a half mile, we arrived at our first destination, Loudoun Heights. There were a couple of tents set up at the overlook and I believe people were still in at least one of them. I described the neighboring areas within view. After posing for our first group photo (see first photo at left), we resumed hiking. Also see me in the second photo at left with a foreshadowing of the tail of the hike behind.

We walked along the Loudoun Heights Trail on the Jefferson County/Loudoun County border.

About 2 miles from the start, we came to the Appalachian Trail. We headed north and eventually began our descent. We passed several fallen Chinese Chestnuts.

It rained quite a bit the previous day and the ground was still a little wet...and slippery. I slid down a rock and landed flat on my ass but recovered gracefully.

Soon we crossed the Shenandoah River via the route 340 bridge. See third photo at left. There were a few whitewater kayakers/canoeists out. I used to think this river was the boundary between Virginia and West Virginia but a later map study revealed that the border was actually the Loudoun Heights Trail and the Appalachian Trail.

The group walked down to the parking lot just under route 340. Here, we paid our four dollar per person fee to a ranger. Ali was the unofficial group treasurer.

Continuing onward, we hiked along the railroad tracks, heading east to Virginius Island. Here, I spoke about how Armory Superintendent James Stubblefield purchased the 13-acre island for $15,000 in 1824 then sold it for almost double the cost just two months later. We checked out the ruins in the area then resumed walking. See fourth photo at left for a view of the island from across the Shenandoah River.

At 1030, we stopped in Harpers Ferry. I described the importance of the town and how it got its name. Then we broke for an early lunch.

Most of us ate at the Coffee Mill on High Street. Some bought ice cream afterwards at a nearby shop.

I lectured about John Brown, the revolutionary abolitionist. I explained why his image appears on some Kansas albums and the militant actions he took in Harpers Ferry. This all tied into the tensions that were coming to a boil prior to the Civil War.

After posing for another group photo, see fifth photo at left, we crossed the footbridge over the Potomac River, crossing into Maryland. See sixth photo at left. This took us to lock 33 of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath. I spoke about the race between the builders of the towpath and the train to Ohio. Put simply, the train won. From here, we headed northwest. We were now into mile 5.75 of the hike and we had already passed through 3 states!

We were now walking uphill on the green blazed Military Road. Some of the more ambitious hikers pushed themselves at a faster pace. This area is pretty special because it provides such a constant incline on a road that is wide and somewhat free of ankle-twisting rocks. Hence, some hardcore runners like to train here.

Things only got steeper as we headed northeast on the blue blazed Stone Fort Trail. Unlike the original tri-state hike led by Tim R., mine differs in two ways. First, mine is in the opposite direction. The advantage is that the best overlook is saved for last. The disadvantage is the hardest part is closer to the end. The second difference is that my hike has an extra two miles. The Stone Fort Trail is my addition. It is the hardest part of the hike and provides a roundabout way of reaching the final vista. But one might argue that the extra work makes the final view all the more enjoyable.

Autumn has been a little disappointing. The lack of rain and the unusually warm temperatures have made the fall colors less than dramatic. But there were a few parts along the Stone Fort Trail where the colors were fairly nice. Sometimes, one just needs to slow down, look around, and enjoy the scenery to notice such things. See Lutz and Michele amongst the yellow leaves in the seventh photo at left.

Near an area called Breastworks on Elk Ridge, we reached our maximum elevation, 1438 feet above sea level. Here we ran into a couple of other MOC people that just happened to be hiking that day.

Heading south, we passed through some old Civil War ruins. I talked about the importance of the area from a military point of view.

Walking downhill, we came to the red blazed Overlook Cliff Trail which we followed to Maryland Heights (mile 9.25). In my opinion, this is the most scenic part of the state. The skies were dark with grey clouds but the view was still nice. By now, the 26 mph gusts were hitting us. Not a good time to stand at the edge of the cliff. See a northwestern view of the Potomac River in the eighth photo at left, Harpers Ferry in the ninth photo at left, and our fine looking group in the tenth photo at left.

I led the group down the steep shortcut to Sandy Hook Road. We crossed it and the adjacent train tracks then scrambled down a steep rocky area to lock 32 of the towpath. On this section, the Appalachian Trail actually overlaps the towpath. There were numerous bicyclists, several walkers, and a few runners out.

Michael let out a yell. Lucas and I though he stepped in horse poo until he said, "Snake!" But none of us saw any snake. He got a lot of ribbing for that but took it like a man.

At the route 340 bridge over the Potomac, we crossed back over Sandy Hook Road and climbed up a short but steep hill to the bridge. We then crossed it back into Virginia.

Near the end, we met a couple who were on their 40th wedding anniversary. They were from New York and heading to Florida, stopping at several places along the way. We chatted for awhile and they took our photo. See the eleventh photo at left. Why is everyone except me looking at the wrong camera?

We were back at the kettlecorn lot at 1500, having walked 11 miles and climbed a total of 2560 feet.

By now, the kettlecorn vendors were there and they made quite a bit of money from our group.

Brian and Liz headed home while the rest of us caught an early dinner at aka Frisco's, 4632 Wedgewood Boulevard, Frederick, Maryland 21703-7159, phone: 301-698-0018.

After a few farewells, we headed our separate ways.

Even though I was listed as the sole leader for the event, I had quite a bit of help. Tim R. introduced this route to me and helped me find the shortcut to Maryland Heights. Dr. Chuck helped me scout the hike. Cindy S. told me about aka Frisco's. Last, but not least, Norma provided me with historical information about the area and served as sweep during the hike. Some of the hikers took and shared photos. Thanx to all who helped and participated in the event. Without you, it would not have been the same.
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Signal Knob
For a trip report of my Signal Knob car camping trip, see Signal Knob, October 2007.


Roaring Plains
For a trip report of my three day weekend backpacking adventure, see Roaring Plains, September 2007.


Laurel Forks Wilderness
For a trip report of my Labor Day weekend backpacking adventure, see Laurel Forks Wilderness, September 2007.


Vermont and New Hampshire
For a trip report of a week long hiking, biking, kayaking adventure in Vermont and New Hampshire, see Vermont and New Hampshire, August 2007.



Bull Run Mountain
On July 22, 2007, Joe and I met at the Vienna Park and Ride for an easy 5 mile hike at Bull Run Mountain led by Chuck and Cynthia of the Maryland Outdoor Club (MOC).

We carpooled to the site then commenced hiking at 1020. Of the 18 participants, Joe and I saw several familiar faces from the MOC picnic at Quiet Waters Park on the previous day. Like yesterday, today was sunny, not too hot, and not humid.

The group stopped at various spots while Chuck gave us some interesting historical information about the area, which was important during the Civil War period.

After about 1100 feet of ascent, we stopped for lunch at a gorgeous rocky overlook. From here, we were able to see to our west for several miles. See photos one and two at left.

There were ruins, trails bordered by ferns, Cotletts Branch Stream, a Civil War trench used by Union troops, and Chapman's Cemetery, which contains the remains of the people who built and ran a mill dating from the mid-1700's.

I didn't see much wildlife though I was also at the back most of the time (so I'd probably be the last to see anything) and with such a large group, it isn't likely the critters would be showing themselves. We did, however, see a few hawks circling above at the overlook. I also saw some wild blackberries and what might have been blueberries.

We finished in the early afternoon with plenty of time to tend to weekend chores.

Well run hike Chuck and Cynthia!
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Paw Paw Tunnel
Norma has led me on hikes, trips to museums, and a backpacking weekend but so far she hasn't planned any kayak trips. Not that I'm complaining. She's only been paddling for a year. However, this will soon change. She is in the process of planning an overnight trip with paddling on the upper reaches of the Potomac River. I've seen quite a bit of this river but never as far upstream as she intends to take me. I am truly looking forward to it.

In preparation for this trip, we did a little scouting of the river and a short hike on July 1, 2007. First, Norma drove us to the town of Paw Paw in Morgan County, West Virginia. Here we found a boat ramp on the southeast side of where the Oldtown Road (route 51)/route 9 bridge crosses over the Potomac River. See first photo at left. The river appeared to move at a slow 1.5 mph. The greenery was gorgeous. See second photo at left.

Next, we crossed back into Allegany County, Maryland and walked along the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Towpath near mile 152. Soon, we came to the famous 3118 foot long Paw Paw Tunnel. This tunnel was built from 1836 to 1850 to avoid six miles of river bends and steep, rocky cliffs. See third photo at left for Norma at the tunnel's south entrance.

The tunnel was much longer than what it originally appeared and it took quite awhile just to get halfway across.

On the north side, we saw how much of the neighboring rock was shale.

We headed back over the mountain on a different route, catching some nice views of the town of Paw Paw along the way. See fourth photo at left. We never saw any paw paws but if we did, we would have put them in our pocket.

The entire route was about 3.5 miles.

Afterwards, Norma drove to the town of Little Orleans where we checked out another launch site at a campground along the towpath near where Orleans Road and High Germany Road meet. This was several miles downstream of the previous launch site. There was no noticeable current. The scenery here was even better with lush greenery on steep hills bordering the river. I can hardly wait to return with my boat. See fifth photo at left.

I really like trips like these. We get out and enjoy the outdoors but also take some time to plan for a later trip. Enjoy the present and plan for the future. That way there's always something to look forward to.
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Monroe Run
Ever since I met Norma, she's been introducing me to places I would never have seen in western Maryland. This is truly a spectacular area. It is mountainous, cooler in the summer than the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area, and there are fewer mosquitos and ticks.

On July 1, 2007, we hiked Monroe Run Trail which passed through Big Run State Park and the over 54,000 acre Savage River State Forest.

This was a one way, 5.4 mile (some maps say 6.4 miles) hike from Big Run Road near the 360 acre Savage River Reservoir to New Germany Road along Monroe Run (a stream).

We began at the campground then walked along what used to be a vehicle road. This was a perfect summer hike. Cool and shaded.

Norma and I passed an assortment of familiar vegetation including hemlock, laurel, ferns, and may apple. See first photo at left for a may apple. A few weeks ago, it was a flower like the one shown here.

We also saw a few colorful butterflies. See second photo at left.

There was a dead tree we encountered that emitted a knocking noise at about 2.5 beats per second. Too slow for a woodpecker. The strange thing is that there was clearly no animal on the outside of the tree and we saw no hole in the tree. The knocking was definitely coming from the inside and we could feel the vibrations on the outside. Never found out what it was.

A very nice campsite was found about one mile in.

The trail meandered back and forth across the stream. There were more stream crossings than we can remember and they were all easy though at times we chose the more difficult route. See photos three, four, five, six, and seven at left. Both Norma and I walked across the log. It was a 16 foot drop with punji stakes and crocodies at the bottom...no, not really...there were no crocodies.

At a few spots along the stream, we found the remnants of support rocks for small bridges.

The book Norma used to find this hike claimed a steep, 1000+ foot ascent near the end. I'm guessing it was perhaps half that. Very easy.

Near the end, Norma saw a baby black bear. I missed it. No mother in sight.

Norma's mother picked us up at the end then drove us back to the start. If you try the same thing, just be forewarned that there is a sign for Monroe Vista about a quarter mile away from the sign for Monroe Run Trail. It is easy to get the two locations mixed up if you're expecting a ride.

We couldn't have asked for better weather. Hard to believe it was July. It felt like early May in California.
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Harpers Ferry, back route
There are few things I hate more than looking for a hiking or paddling route I know exists and not finding it. This is what happened on May 12, 2007. On June 24, 2007, I set to avenge my loss. I was determined to find the elusive back entrance to Maryland Heights.

First I went to Frederick County and looked for new launch sites on the Monocacy River. I found all three I set out to find (Millers Bridge, Creagerstown, and Devilbiss Bridge) plus one extra on a tributary of the river (Double Pipe Creek Park). Unfortunately, the river was too low for any serious kayaking. Maybe in early spring or after a rain but not on a dry summer day. Too bad. It looked very scenic.

After finding my launch sites, I drove to the kettlecorn lot. Seems like everyone and their dog was out. People were tubing, biking, walking, and white water kayaking. Mostly tubing. Those companies that rent tubes and shuttle people via bus were making a fortune today. It was a clear, warm, summer day so why not?

I walked north on route 340, crossing over the Potomac River, then into Maryland. Then I got on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Towpath heading west. On this section, it was one with the Appalachian Trail. I saw numerous white water kayakers. See first photo at left. Sure did look like fun. Might be my next hobby. Notice the fellow in the center has a single blade paddle and the guy on the left has a canoe with floation devices added. It's hard enough to paddle a canoe solo on flat water and get it to go where I want. I can't imagine doing it on whitewater!

Though I know this area pretty well, I never bothered to document the best places to put in since I figured it was more of a place for white water paddling and I'm not a whitewater kayaker...not yet. But it is also good for river tubing so I wrote down some places to put in or take out: Harpers Ferry Road and route 340 and Sandy Hook Road under the route 340 bridge.

Last time, I didn't bring the notes sent to me by Ryan, the Sierra Club fellow who originally showed me this route. This time, I had his notes plus a map I found on the internet. Following the instructions, I crossed the canal at lock 32. I then walked across the train tracks and onto Sandy Hook Road. There it is, the trail...or so I thought.

It was steep and not very recognizeable but it looked like an overgrown trail. There was even a tree next to it with a white horizontal line painted on it that I thought someone used as a marker at one time. I scrambled up the trail then followed the most worn path. Not very worn. Wow, this thing is really grown over. It didn't take long before I was totally unsure if I was on the trail anymore. I did lots of rock scrambling, climbing up routes that might be difficult to go back down.

Soon, I came to a nice overlook. See second and third photos at left for a view of Loudoun Heights and eastward on the Potomac, respectively.

Unfortunately, I still wasn't sure if I was on the right track. I checked my global positioning system (GPS) and map. I was heading the right direction but I was now totally convinced I was not on the trail. As I bushwhacked my way up and west towards Maryland Heights, I was glad I wore long trousers, long sleeved shirt, hat, and socks all sprayed with permethrin. Otherwise, I would have made a nice meal for some ticks.

Eventually, my roundabout route merged with the Overlook Cliff Trail. I wasn't far from the Maryland Heights overlook. I went to the overlook, ate, drank, rested, and took photos. The view today was much better than when I hiked with Dr. Chuck in May. Much less humidity. See photos four and five for views to the east and northeast, respectively.

Looking below at the Potomac River, I saw about 20 river tubes. I love being on the trail but on a warm day, I generally prefer to be on the water so I was a bit jealous of the tubers.

When I hiked with Dr. Chuck, there was a narrow trail that led from the Maryland Heights overlook to another set of rocks and a smaller overlook to the east. I investigated it then but concluded that it led nowhere. Afterwards, I felt it must have been the back trail I was searching for.

I took copious notes to ensure that if this was the route, I would be able to find it again. Just as before, I walked to the second overlook. I think this is where the rock climbers go. The trail just seemed to end here. I looked around and quickly found where it picked up again. Jackpot! I was certain I was on the right track now.

The trail was not blazed and it was very narrow but it was definitely a trail. It led right where the map indicated.

I expected the trail to eventually fade out and lead to where I lost it earlier that day. Instead, it remained strong and ended about 40 meters west of where I thought it began at Sandy Hook Road. The reason I couldn't find it when I was with Dr. Chuck is because it ends just before a bridge, behind a 4 foot high concrete structure that hides it from traffic view.

I knew I'd be able to find it again easily from either end. This route would take at least 2 miles off my tri-state hike and make it more interesting since there would be no backtracking.

Pleased with myself, I proudly walked back to my car with a little more bounce in my step, smiling from ear to ear.
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Black Rock, Annapolis Rock, and Greenbrier State Park
After a busy and hectic Memorial Day weekend, it was nice to sit back, relax, and do a leisurely hike that didn't require much planning or coordination. On June 2, 2007, Norma and I did a car shuttle Appalachian Trail (AT) and Greenbrier State Park hike. We started late and took it at a leisurely pace. Just the two of us. Very relaxing.

We left Norma's car at the parking lot just across the Visitor Center of Greenbrier State Park. Then we took my car to the trailhead. While driving, I though about how this car shuttle hike would do instead as a bicycle shuttle hike. The road was certainly very scenic once we got off route 40. Much of Loy Wolfe Road was under a shaded canopy of trees. There was little traffic except for route 40. Unfortunately, the drive was mostly uphill, which would certainly make the bicycling tough for novices on a hot day. But perhaps an early morning ride before a hike wouldn't be so bad. The overall elevation gain was about 600 feet from the parking lot near the Visitor Center.

We saw a dead wild turkey in the road.

I parked at the corner of Loy Wolfe Road and Black Rock Road (Frederick County ADC map 11 B1), elevation 1186 feet above sea level. Though there is ample parking along the side of Loy Wolfe Road south of this intersection, there are also "no parking" signs there. I parked in a small gravelly area just north of the intersection. It looked like there were several cars parked on an unmaintained dirt road just south of Black Rock Road, only 0.4 miles east of the intersection. I wasn't sure if this was private property so I didn't investigate further though I suspect many hikers might use this area for parking.

If you blinked as you drove by, you would surely miss where to access the AT. It is on property between two houses. Don't look between the houses, look behind them and you might see a dirt road that leads up the mountain. We began walking at 1205.

It was a fairly steep climb to the start of the AT. At the split in the trail, we took the right side which goes uphill. In about a mile from the start, we were at the AT.

Norma and I headed left (south) on the ridge of South Mountain. Soon we passed Pogo Campsite near Black Rock Creek.

After 2.44 miles, we were at the Black Rock overlook, elevation 1800 feet. See first photo at left. Unlike my trip to a different Black Rock on May 31, 2007, I was a little disappointed that this Black Rock wasn't actually black. The view was hazy but the overlook was great since we managed to catch a breeze...a welcome change from the hot, windless trail. We ate a few snacks and talked to some locals. They parked at White Oak Lane (or is it Road?) then caught a mile long trail that runs parallel to Black Rock Creek and leads to Pogo Campsite. I might need to investigate that in the future.

In 3.95 miles, we were at Annapolis Rock, elevation 1600 feet (though some sources say 1700 feet). See second photo at left. The time was 1412. Note that these rocks have nothing to do with the town of Annapolis. They are in completely different places. There were several rock climbers who were on Annapolis Rock, top roping. There were also many campsites and a worm powered privvy near the rocks. The caretaker had sectioned off much of the area around the trail near the rocks, apparently for conservation efforts. Annapolis Rock looks very much like Black Rock. The big difference in the view is that at the prior, one can clearly see Greenbrier Lake to the left, even on a hazy day.

Unlike much of the AT, it seemed most of the section we hiked was wide and even. Almost driveable. We then caught a gradual descent that turned fairly steep as we passed Pine Knob and Pine Knob Shelter. Some weary backpackers headed uphill as we headed down.

We walked along a sunny section of the trail that paralleled highway 70. Then Norma and I crossed a footbridge over the highway. The trail passed between some houses then continued towards Greenbrier State Park. After walking 6.95 miles (time 1530), we were at the intersection of the AT and Bartman Hill Trail in the Park.

Bartman Hill Trail was 0.6 miles (according to the park map) of rocky downhill. This took us back to Norma's car where we kept our lunch. The sandwiches were hot but unfortunately not toasty like a Quiznos sandwich. The water bottles I filled with ice and carried with me were now just cool. After walking 7.85 miles, we ate lunch at a shaded area of the Visitor Center. It was now 1552.

The two of us then commenced exploring the Park. We walked counterclockwise around the lake. Many people were at the beach, playing in the water, lying in the sun, eating, cooking, or relaxing in hammocks. There was an area for renting paddleboats and rowboats. There was also a boat ramp though at less than half a mile in length, the lake would hardly be suitable for kayaking.

A paved road took us to a dead end though we managed to see a 3 foot long black snake along the way. See third photo at left. It calmly let me take photos of it but became irritated and shook its tail when Norma stood in front of it. I also saw an interesting fungus (see fourth photo) and a colorful bug (see fifth photo).

Big Red Trail and Camp Loop Trail took us around the west side of the lake. From here, we caught a nice (but still hazy) view of Annapolis Rock. See sixth photo at left. Maps were posted at intersections. Clearly, this area was not made for serious hikers. Some of the trail was actually sufficient for biking with a hybrid bicycle. Numerous fishermen dotted the southwest side of the Lake.

At 1720, we were back at the car, having walked 10 miles. The total ascent was about 1000 feet and the total descent was about 1600 feet. With my muscles in better shape than my joints, I much prefer the ascents.

I stowed my pack then joined Norma at the designated swim areas for a dip in the lake. She demonstrated some of what she learned in her swim classes. The man made lake had a sandy bottom, some vegetation, and a few fish swimming about. As I spoke to Norma, I yelled in pain. I saw a 4 inch long fish quickly swim away after it bit me on the left nipple. Just when I thought I was safe from the mosquitos and ticks, I find another predator awaits.
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Pax Tri-Event
For a trip report of a four day Memorial Day weekend event led by Norma and me in the Patuxent (Pax) River area, see Pax Tri-Event, 2007.



Tuscarora State Forest
I usually don't wait until the last minute to plan my weekends. But May 19, 2007 was the exception. The previous night, I was at a 4 hour rock concert where I saw Megadeth with Heaven and Hell. Wasn't sure what time I'd get to bed or how much I'd feel like hiking the next day. But I got to bed at a reasonable hour and felt pretty good the next morning.

I awoke at 0630, made lunch, loaded my pack, then met Mike J. at the Route 70 and Route 32 Park and Ride at 0800. Mike, Donald, Ellen and I loaded up in Mike's truck and headed out to Pennsylvania.

The weather was spectacular. Sunny, cool, and just a light breeze.

I wasn't exactly sure where we were going. I just knew it was a day hike scouting trip in Pennsylvania. I'd let Mike take care of the rest.

On the way up, we passed some horse drawn Amish buggies. No doubt we were in Pennsylvania. We drove into the forest on the dirt and gravel Hemlock Road. About 2 hours and 15 minutes from the park and ride, we reached our destination at Hemlocks Natural Area, a 120 acre tract of virgin timber, untouched by the hands of man. This pristine area lies in Tuscarora State Forest, which should not be confused with Tuscarora State Park. The Forest lies just west of Harrisburg. Here we met the last member of our group, Dottie.

Our hike commenced at 1025 at about 1300 feet above sea level. We headed south on the orange blazed Patterson Run Trail. The first thing I noticed was all the beautiful ferns, which reminded me of New Zealand. The trails in the Natural Area were well maintained and easy on the feet: even and a little cushiony. We followed Patterson Run for awhile. See first photo at left.

Ellen and I stood in awe of an interesting tree with 4 inch thick pieces of bark. Each was like a "bomber" handhold...a rock climbing term meaning a huge handhold.

The trail quickly met with the yellow blazed Rim Trail. After crossing over Patterson Run, we connected with Hemlock Trail. Much to Ellen's delight, almost all the stream crossings were done via bridge. Hemlock Trail led us to the other side of the Natural Area at a parking lot further south on Hemlock Road. An hour after the start and 2.1 miles later, we met with Bear Ponds Trail.

At mile 2.6, we crossed a paved road, left the Natural Area, and caught the light blue blazed Tuscarora Trail. We soon began a gradual ascent up to about 2020 feet followed by a steep, rocky descent down to about 1500 feet as we headed northeast. See second photo at left. The terrain was now quite a bit different from the Natural Area.

We came to our first sign of bears in the area. A tree stood in shreds after a black bear tore it apart, looking for bugs inside to eat. See third photo at left.

We passed a variety of plants, some with pretty flowers. In the fourth photo at left, we saw some may apples which were usually only seen when lifting up the large leaves that covered them.

Donald was walking in front of me by about 15 meters. At 1420, after walking 4.65 miles, he came to a shelter. With me just behind him, I had my mind on lunch and my eyes on the shelter...not on the ground. Just then, I heard a loud rattle. I looked down and just 18 inches away from me was a coiled 4.5 foot long eastern diamondback rattlesnake. See fifth and sixth photos at left. I was fortunate it was a rattlesnake and not a copperhead since the prior uses its tail as a warning device. It certainly worked. I jumped and was 8 feet back in the blink of an eye. My global positioning system (GPS) said my maximum speed for the hike was over 15 mph and I think it was when I saw the snake, though realistically it was probably just a GPS error. The snake slithered away, not looking for a fight. I warned the others as they approached and they made sure to keep their distance.

The shelter had a stone fireplace, see seventh photo, and some hay laid out on the floor with a full bale in the corner. Mike said the hay might be a good place for mice to hide and the mice would then attract the snakes.

After lunch, we caught the Perry Lumber Company Trail, marked with orange triangles. We were now heading north by northeast.

Continuing in the same direction, we caught the Twig Trail. At mile 6.3, I saw a baby squirrel. I was in the back of the pack and surprisingly, it didn't run as the others passed. I looked down and saw it all curled up and shaking. I called the others back to look at it as I retrieved my camera. Unfortunately, before I could take a photo, it ran off.

While this hike had many strengths, one thing it lacked was scenic overlooks. The closest we came to an overlook was one stop which still had fairly heavy tree cover. See eighth photo at left.

We again came to the gravel Hemlock Road and a sign indicating we were leaving the Anderson Ridge Limited Access Buck Hunting Area. We walked along Hemlock Road a short distance then took a left on Shearer Dug Trail which took us west.

Next, we made a right onto Bowman Hollow Trail which led northeast. We crossed a small stream. As I walked over the wooden bridge, I saw Mike crossing the hard way. With his trekking poles in the water, he carefully placed his feet on each dry rock to get across. Then "SPLASH!" he fell. He wasn't hurt so it was funny because only 4 meters away was a bridge that he could have used.

We passed an open, grassy area that was home to the ruins of an old house. See ninth photo at left.

After reaching the northernmost section of our loop hike, we headed south on Robinson Trail. We passed a shagbark hickory tree with up to 6 inch long pieces of bark peeling off. See tenth photo at left.

By 1600, the weather was cool and not-so-sunny. At least it wasn't raining...thanks to Ellen and me bringing our rain gear.

Our final trail was Iron Horse Trail. After walking on this for a short distance, we bushwhacked our way back to Hemlock Road. This is when the group sees how much trust they have in their leader. It is very easy to get disoriented when bushwhacking, especially when the sun and terrain features are not so easily noticeable. But fortunately, we had our old friend Patterson Run to follow. See eleventh photo at left.

At mile 11, I spotted a small garter snake, about 2 feet long. See twelfth photo at left. Compared to my earlier snake encounter, this was like comparing a pussycat to a lion.

We finished our 12.7 mile hike at 1750, after about 7.5 hours. During this entire time, we saw absolutely no other hikers. Our total ascent was 2285 feet and our maximum elevation was 2144 feet above sea level.

After saying good-bye to Dottie, the rest of us headed back. I'm sure glad Mike was driving because it didn't take long before I was dead asleep in the car. Sleep when I can since I've got a big day tomorrow paddling the Upper Anacostia River.
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Harpers Ferry National Historical Park; Tri-State Scouting Hike
What makes a good hike a great hike? The terrain, views, and weather are all significant factors. But perhaps one of the most important is the company you keep. One of my closest friends is Dr. Chuck. He lives out on the west coast so we only see each other about once a year. Thus, when he visits, I try to make sure he has an extra special time.

Dr. Chuck has never been to the Harpers Ferry area, despite having lived in Maryland for several years. I, however, know the area well and have intentions to lead a group hike out there. Back on May 27, 2006, I participated in a similar tri-state hike but in the opposite direction and a bit shorter and less strenuous. Today seemed like a good opportunity to both scout the area and introduce what I feel is one of the most scenic areas in the state to a good friend.

A co-worker of both Dr. Chuck and me once said that after God created the 7 continents, he took the leftover pieces and made New Zealand. These islands have a tremendous amount to see in a very small area. Today's hike would be similar. Though the terrain wouldn't change as much as places like Dolly Sods (or New Zealand), we planned to see about as many different places as one could expect to see in a day hike: three states, Loudoun Heights, the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, the Appalachian Trail, Harpers Ferry, Virginius Island, the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Towpath, and Maryland Heights.

From my house, it took 65 minutes to arrive at the kettlecorn lot. We then began our hike at 1020, May 12, 2007.

We climbed up Loudoun Heights. The vegetation was lush but there was a good deal of litter on the ground. I knew from previous hikes that the trash in this area would be the exception for the rest of the day.

A little further and we were at the overlook. See Dr. Chuck in the first photo at left. Behind him is Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to his left is the Shenandoah River and to his right is the Potomac River.

On the April 7, 2007 hike at Mary's Rock, I lost one of my knives. I replaced it with my 12 year old Cold Steel Tanto. Today, the sheath of the knife broke off my belt and the knife almost fell off the edge of the overlook. Fortunately, it stopped before it was too late. Something with me and knives is just unlucky.

I love the views in this area but they are best in the early spring or late fall when the humidity is low. Not so much for comfort but rather visibility. Unfortunately, today was a little humid and while the views were nice, they could have been better. The forecast called for a 50% chance of precipitation, mainly after 1600 with a high of 75 degrees. A little too warm for Dr. Chuck but fine for me.

Venturing further, we came to the Appalachian Trail. See Dr. Chuck in the second photo at left. I then found something similar to an iPod. I've found and lost various things on my journeys but I think I've lost more.

We crossed over the Shenandoah River into West Virginia. Then we walked down a road through a parking lot. I saw a park ranger and gave her the iPod device I found to put in the lost and found.

Dr. Chuck and I walked along a trail by the Shenandoah that turned out to be a dead end. We backtracked a bit and picked up the main trail, taking it to Virginius Island. This island is the home to many ruins from the mid-1800s. I posed next to what I believe are the "intake arches," headgates originally built in 1848. See third photo at left.

At the other side of Virginius, I spotted several geese with their goslings. See fourth photo at left.

We continued to Harpers Ferry and scouted the area for restrooms and ice cream shops. Now to replenish our strength with some Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs).

Next we crossed the footbridge over the Potomac River into Maryland. We headed northwest on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Towpath and caught Military Road heading up the hill leading to Maryland Heights.

Unlike my previous tri-state hike, I decided we should take the blue blazed Stone Fort Trail which led us up to 1438 feet above sea level. This was the roughest part of the hike. On this trail, we saw several stone walls from the Civil War.

Catching Overlook Cliff Trail, we went to the Maryland Heights Overlook. See fifth photo at left. In my opinion, this is the most scenic part of the state. After a short break and snack, we resumed our hike.

Whenever I'm in a hurry to go hiking, backpacking, or kayaking, I always forget something. For kayaking, I usually forget a seat cushion. Today, I forgot sock liners. My sock liners are special in that they have individual compartments for each toe. This helps keep the toes from rubbing together. After hiking over 9 miles, my piggies were not happy campers without their individual compartments.

Now came the mentally tough part of the hike. When I did this hike last year, we went in the opposite direction and came up a back route to the overlook. Our task was to find this back route. We started by searching in the immediate area around the overlook. We found one trail that went off to the side but didn't seem to go any further. I just assumed it was for the rock climbers to get to their area. So we went back to the main part of the trail then headed east. We went downhill, looking to the right and investigating anything that looked like a trail. We kept going down until we were out of the park and in territory with "No Trespassing" signs. Time to turn back. We looked just as hard on the way back and kept looking even after we passed the trail to the overlook. Not a sausage.

Soon we were back at the Towpath at the main trailhead. We ended up going about 2 miles more than we should have as compared to if we found the back route. More importantly, we were now re-tracing our steps which makes for a less interesting hike.

We hiked back to the bridge that leads to Harpers Ferry and took a break under it. Then we continued, still on the Maryland side, walking where the Towpath and the Appalachian Trail are as one.

This took us to the route 340 bridge which passes over a lower part of the Potomac River. We climbed up the steep hill to get to the bridge then crossed it back into Virginia. By now it was looking like it would start to rain.

We were done at 1800, after 7 hours and 40 minutes. It was a leisurely paced hike but also one where we walked 14.6 miles and ascended 3029 feet. We were both a little sore...my feet and Dr. Chuck's back.

Back at the house, we renewed our strength with some steaks. Nothing like red meat after a physically strenuous day. I logged my route in a hike I call tri-state hike reversed.
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Backpacking in Pedlar Ranger District
For a trip report of a two day backpacking trip in the Pedlar Ranger District of George Washington National Forest see April 21-22, 2007.



Marys Rock
I awoke on April 7, 2007 to a snow covered yard. The forecast called for a small probability of snow and temperatures in the mid-40s in Front Royal, Virginia, just north of Shenandoah National Park (SNP). In the past, I've planned for conditions that never occurred and in doing so, I packed far more than I needed. This time, I decided to be more of a minimalist and put my faith in the weather prediction.

John, Stacia, Paul, Norma, and I met Sarah in Vienna, Virginia at 0800. I first met John and Sarah on June 4, 2006 at Old Rag. I knew Stacia from KC's Blackburn Trail Center event on February 16-18, 2007. In Vienna, the air was cold but I was confident it would warm up later.

Norma and I caught a ride with Stacia and John to SNP. The plan was for Sarah to lead us on a hike to Jeremy's Run. I first did this hike on May 7, 2006. But when we got to the Thornton Gap entrance to the park at mile 31.5 of Skyline Drive, we were turned away by the rangers. Apparently, ice on the road made driving hazardous.

The Marines preach "improvise, adapt, and overcome." In other words, you don't just give up, you come up with a plan B. Well that's just what Paul and Sarah did. We drove not more than a half mile to an area called Panorama. From here, we caught the Appalachian Trail just south of the route 211 and Skyline Drive intersection.

It was now 1020 and it didn't seem any warmer than it did at 0800. In fact, it seemed colder! I was regretting not wearing my thermal underwear. Our starting elevation was about 2200 feet above sea level, which is a good deal higher than Front Royal, the town from which my forecast was based. I should have taken that into account.

Some of us brought extra gear which helped make up for those of us less prepared. Stacia loaned me a blanket which they said made me look like a Sherpa. See first photo at left. I loaned Stacia some glove liners. I loaned Norma another pair of gloves and she loaned me an ear warmer headband that I used as a scarf. Paul loaned me his trekking poles. John was as happy as a clam in his 7 layers of clothes.

We stepped off at 1030, heading south from the parking lot. The wind was bitter cold but for the first part of the hike, we were sheltered from it by a mountain. See second photo at left. We caught a spectacular view of the snow covered valley below. Some icicles on the rocks glistened in the sun above Stacia. See third photo at left.

We climbed to Marys Rock which stands at 3514 feet. While our pace wasn't particularly fast, the constant uphill walking in the snow brought our body temperatures up high enough so we forgot about the cold...that is, until we climbed to the top of the rock. See fourth photo at left for the group at the peak. On one side, the wind hit us hard, making it tough to stand. I'm estimating the average speed was 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. My field thermometer read 25 degrees which meant a wind chill of 8-11 degrees! More than a few seconds in the unprotected wind was uncomfortable.

According to one legend, Marys Rock was named after Mary Thornton, who, as a small child, climbed to the summit alone and returned carrying a bear cub under each arm.
- from trailhead sign

From the Rock, we saw cars (now looking like ants) continuing to be turned away at Thornton Gap. The view at the top was fantastic! See fifth photo at left for Paul and Sarah at the clearing just below the summit. We ate on the downwind side of the rock then continued hiking.

Our group passed Meadow Spring Trail then stopped for a quick snack at Byrd's Nest Number 3 day shelter. Here, I learned that Paul did an Appalachian Trail through hike...a feat which I envy.

From here it was uphill again to The Pinnacle at 3730 feet. It was here that I realized the waist belt on my backpack broke. On hour ago, my knife was fastened to this belt but now it was nowhere to be seen. We'd look for it on the way back since the hike was mostly a yo-yo.

Just a little further and we were at Pinnacles Picnic Area. This was our turn around point.

The wind just wouldn't let up. Fortunately, we caught no more snow.

In the sixth photo at left, Paul and Sarah study the map to make sure we don't get lost.

My appetite was growing and I started thinking of dinner. Was feeling a little tired too. Walking on snow always seems to wear me out.

Paul taught me a few things about using the trekking poles, which are still new to me. I let Norma try them too. See seventh photo at left.

We finished the hike at 1700. The day's total was 11 miles. Never found my knife.

On the way back, a tired Norma and I caught a few winks.

In Warrenton, we stopped at Red, Hot, and Blue for dinner.

Afterwards, Norma and I swapped cars and rode the rest of the way back with Sarah and Paul. Many interesting conversations.

We arrived back in Vienna at about 2000.

Have you ever gone to a movie that you thought was be pretty good and it turned out to be much better? Well this describes the hike. I'd been to Jeremy's Run and found it to be a nice hike but not spectacular. Instead, we did Marys Rock and caught much better views, at least for this time of the year. Visibility was excellent because of the low humdity and the snow made for beautiful scenery. Sometimes the best things in life are the ones that aren't planned.
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Potomac State Forest
Sometime during the night of March 24-25, 2007, the first calf of the season was born on the farm owned by Norma's parents. See first photo at left. It was a happy occassion and the foreshadowing of a good Sunday.

Norma and I were up bright and early, exploring Potomac State Forest. She organized and led this spectacular trip. We first checked out an overlook at the Potomac River which separates Maryland and West Virginia in Garrett County. See second photo at left. The foggy weather cast an eerie gray overtone on the landscape. We then passed a rocky wall that dripped constantly. Next, we headed to Potomac Cliffs. After taking two mediocre photos, my camera batteries went dead. Perhaps a sign to move on and come back later.

We began our hike at at 0845 from the parking lot near where Lostland Run drains into the Potomac River on the Maryland side. The elevation was 1424 feet above sea level, according to my global positioning system (GPS). We headed northeast on Lostland Trail. At the trailhead, we came to a registration booklet for hikers and backpackers. We noticed that there had been few people on the trail in the last several days. Walking along the trail, we found it covered in deer crap. It appears the deer make better use of the trail than the hikers.

Soon, we came to a bridge over Laurel Run. Just across the bridge, it was very icy. Fortunately, we didn't take that route. Instead, we continued on Lostland Trail.

The weather cleared and warmed up. The morning sun made for nice or at least interesting photos. Not a cloud in the sky. Though the temperature seemed to be in the high 60s, there were still patches of ice on the ground.

We found two small bird nests on the ground. No eggs lying around. We noticed how intricately each was woven. Pretty good work for something without thumbs.

After awhile, we came to Cascade Falls. Though not as high as other falls we'd seen in the county, it was nonetheless scenic.

This short hike was my chance to test out new gear. Getting new equipment is great but I always want to test it before I really need it. I tried out two things. The first was BodyGlide anti-friction skin coating to prevent blisters. I put this on the backs my heels instead of athletic tape since my boots don't fit perfectly. The second was my Peak ultralight carbon trekking poles from REI. All the serious backpackers I know use some type of trekking pole and with me getting older, I figure I'd give my knees a break. Using them seemed intuitive, even for a non-skiier like me. But I really don't know if it helped except when the footholds were unstable or when going uphill. The rest of the time, Norma always managed to stay in front of me. I guess the real test will come when I'm carrying a full overnight load.

A little further upstream, we crossed the North Prong Swinging Bridge, constructed in 1996 by the Maryland Conservation Corps. The boards were slick. Norma fell but perhaps because of my trekking poles, I did not...or maybe it was karma. After all, she was jumping up and down on the bridge to get me to fall. See photos six, seven, and eight at left, for me, the North Prong of Lost Land Run, and Norma.

It is an interesting time to hike with the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The trees aren't terribly green and there is still some ice on the ground yet the weather is comfortable, the days are getting longer, and some of the forest is covered with a carpet of green moss. See photos nine and ten at left. Best of all, the mosquitos aren't out! To NOT get out on a day like that should be a crime.

We made it back to the car at 1130, having only hiked a little over 4 miles. We kept a fast pace and made numerous stops to take photos.

After putting away my backpack and poles, we went back to the area we were at previously when my camera battery died. The sky was now clear and visibility was excellent. Usually, when the weather is so nice, I think of being on the water but with these dangerous rapids, kayaking was not on my mind. With my lack of whitewater training, such an attempt would have been my last. I figured I'd appreciate the power of the upper Potomac from the land and take plenty of photos. See photos ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen. Not sure why Norma looks so much happier than me. Guess I don't find the rocks as comfortable.

We headed back to the farm, ate lunch, then headed home. Along the way, we saw some wild turkeys which brought our weekend animal count to 16 deer, 8 wild turkeys, and a bunch of squirrels and chipmunks. Surely a sign of spring.

I love sunny, warm weather, and long days. But what I suppose I love even more is knowing that there are plenty of these days to come. Hence, days like this at this time of year are a treasure.
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Piney Run
It is interesting how I've spent so much time driving to hike in far away places, yet I haven't spent much time investigating my own back yard. Today, this would change. On March 11, 2007, Norma and I took a walk down the hill near where I live to check out Piney Run in Hanover, Maryland.

While the existence of this stream appears natural, it has clearly been modified. Large boulders were put at various bends in the stream to reduce erosion. Excess rain from the houses in the area and Arundel Mills Mall accumulate in nearby man-made ponds. Once these ponds reach a certain level, excess water drains into Piney Run. The largest of these ponds is just west of the mall and home to many geese. Unfortunately, it is also heavily littered.

Piney Run is fed by Deep Run which separates Howard and Anne Arundel Counties. Deep Run is fed by the Patapsco River which separates Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties.

Personally, I don't care much for the name Piney Run since I didn't see any pine trees. When I'm mayor of Hanover, I'll work on changing the name to Dorchester Run which I think would be more appropriate since it more accurately describes the location of the stream.

We walked north on a dirt and grass road until we reached route 100. Piney Run flowed under the highway and there was no way to continue further without getting very wet. In this area, we found some old vehicles and what appeared to be the ruins of some building.

I took a photo of Piney Run (see first photo at left) and something attached to a twig. Have no idea what it was. See second photo at left.

Heading south, we passed by some wet areas, home to a few frogs. We continued until we reached a residential area near Arundel Mills Boulevard.

Nothing terribly scenic though we did find a nice shortcut to the movie theater and a back roads path to the local Wal Mart. Not sure if we'll take these routes very often though. The road was wet, the path to get to the road was thorny (very thorny!), and we managed to attract a few ticks. But at least my curiosity was satisfied.
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Jones Falls Restoration Project
On March 10, 2007, the Maryland Outdoor Club teamed up with the Jones Falls Watershed Association (JFWA) for an invasive plant removal and trash clean-up at Wyman Park. This work was done in preparation for a tree planting event on May 12, 2007.

Work began at 0900. Katie, our event leader, coordinated with the folks from the JFWA, who directed us what to do. We were given gloves and tools and told to clear many of the wanted trees of unwanted vines. Dead trees were also cut down to make way for their replacements.

There were a few familiar faces and many new ones. I saw Joe (see first photo at left) who spent a few years working in the landscaping business. Professional experience is a great thing to have for a volunteer effort. I hadn't seen Joe or Katie since the Old Rag hike on June 4, 2006. Another familiar face was the club President, Colin. In the second photo at left, Colin shows why short sleeves may not be the best choice of clothing when working around thorny vines.

Many of us used some form of clipper for cutting vines and branches. A few of us used small chainsaws on a stick. See third photo at left.

Some people picked up trash. See fourth photo at left.

Norma and I spent much of our time hauling cut branches to an area where they would be taken away. See fifth photo at left.

By noon, we had cleared the once overgrown area of unwanted vegetation and created quite an impressive pile of branches, vines, and logs to be sent to the wood chipper. See sixth photo at left.

Participants from our club and members of the JFWA and park staff posed for a photo after a short but highly productive team effort. See seventh photo at left.

Just one question, with all this community service, can I keep track of the hours I work and use them to get a lighter sentence when I commit my first crime? Just kidding.
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Comic strip from Mr. Hyker


Mike, Pat, and me in cartoon
I first met and backpacked with Mike J. (Mr. Hyker) and Pat R. (Patsquach) on April 15, 2006. Mike likes to give people "trail names." Because I spoke of how handy a light saber would be to do trail maintenance, I was given the trail name "Skywalker." In February 2007, Mike convinced the talented Steve Higgs to draw hiking/backpacking related cartoons. In the second of what will hopefully be many comics to come, Pat and I were featured clearing a trail. He used his trusty saw and I used my light saber while a tired Mike watched. I never met Steve. He drew my likeness based on the Sproul State Forest photo of me.
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Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, Critical Area Driving Tour, and Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary
On March, 4, 2007, Norma, Brian, KC, and I spent the day scouting some trails near the Patuxent River. We began in Anne Arundel County at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary. After I scheduled a park naturalist led canoe trip for the spring, Norma led us on a 4.5 mile hike on Forest Trail, Middle Trail, across Two Run Creek to Upper Railroad Bed Trail, Beech Trail, across Pindell Creek, Pindell Bluff Trail, Farm Trail, and finally back to the start via Middle Trail. We saw numerous deer, including a few bucks.

Next, we drove to Patuxent River Park where we ate lunch at the group campsite barn. Though it was mostly sunny, the temperature was in the high 40s and the wind was up to about 20 mph so it felt cold unless we were moving.

The four of us drove on the Critical Area Driving Tour (CADT), stopping at various points along the way to check out any trails that connected to it such as Lookout Creek Trail. Some of our other stops included crossing a wooden bridge over Mattaponi Creek (see first photo at left), a small lookout platform at the creek, and an approximately 60 foot high observation tower overlooking the Patuxent River. See the second photo for a our group on the platform at the creek and the third photo for a view from the Tower. In the fourth photo, Brian imitates the unabomer on top of the tower.

We passed one wetlands area where the water was unusually dark, as if it had tannic acid. In this water, there were lots of spring peepers and a few bullfrogs which seemed strange because of all the cold winter weather.

Some kind of wood eating insect left behind a heavily pitted stump (see fifth photo at left). Brian poses next to the remains of a larger pitted tree at the edge of the dark water in photo six.

At the end of the CADT was the Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, home to many migratory geese (see seventh and eighth photos at left). Here, Norma led us on a 4.3 mile hike that started on the Paw Paw Trail, where we found a deer leg. Next, we walked on the Mounds Trail where we saw what was once a beaver dam. See top left side of ninth photo at left to see the dam. We finished on the Poplar Spring Trail. Back at the visitor center, we saw what I believe was a butterfly chrysalis (tenth photo at left). I also learned the embarrassing way that a "gander" is a male goose.

Finishing a day's total hike of about 9.5 miles, we went out for Chinese food at Kitchen Number One on 5739 Crain Hwy in Upper Marlboro.

Good friends, good day.
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Blackburn Trail Center
For a trip report of three days of winter fun at the Blackburn Trail Center see February 16-18, 2007.


Canaan Valley
For a trip report of four days in the Canaan Valley and Dolly Sods areas of West Virginia, see January 13-15, 2007.


Trail Maintenance along Piney Branch Trail in Shenandoah National Park
On Thanksgiving Eve of 2006, Shenandoah National Park was struck by a severe ice storm. Portions of Skyline Drive and many of the trails in the park were littered with fallen trees. This prompted Mike J. of the Howard County Sierra Club to organize a service trip to help clear some of the trails so many of us enjoy hiking in the warmer months.

I talked Norma and Deanna into participating in this January 6, 2007 service trip with me. Not a difficult thing to do being as both are eager to get outdoors and volunteer their time to better the environment.

Most of the group carpooled from the Broken Land Parkway and Route 32 Park and Ride. Norma and I drove up from her place, meeting the group at Piney River Ranger Station near mile 22.1 on Skyline Drive.

Eighteen people showed up to work. The Northern District Manager, Dick D., gave us a briefing of the work to be done. Each of us was provided with work gloves, bottled water, and eye protection if we didn't already have them. Clearly, safety was a big concern. Next, we were divided into groups then headed off around 1050. Wayne led my group which consisted of Laurie, Teresa, Norma, and me.

In the first photo at left is Wayne, our team leader and active member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC). In the second photo, from left to right is Teresa, Norma, Wayne (turned away) and Laurie. Teresa is showing us how the Queen of England waves hello.

It was a great day to work...perhaps too good. The forecast was 67 degrees and partly cloudy. I was happy to be outdoors but I would have preferred to have been kayaking. Not many days in January in the high 60s and sunny. Gotta take advantage of any time I can get when I can be on the water. But I had no regrets. I was happy to be in the park, working the trails, and seeing old friends. In particular, I saw Mike and Ellen, neither of whom had I seen since backpacking on the Quehanna Trail in Pennsylvania on October 21-23, 2006.

My group headed east on Piney Branch Trail which then curved, heading south. It was obvious there was some severe damage done to the trail. Wayne carried the chainsaw. Laurie carried a lopper for cutting branches. Teresa used a rake-like tool called a "MacLeod" for clearing parts of the trail so water could drain. Norma carried a small saw. I carried a heavy 4 foot long steel prying/digging bar used for moving large items.

We walked maybe two miles downhill to where we were to begin working. Along the way, Wayne had to cut through a fallen tree so we could get to our work site. Our trail took us along the Piney River to a power line. From there, we would work our way north, upstream along the river, stopping at the intersection of Fourway and Piney Branch Trail. It wasn't a long section of trail but there was definitely work to be done. We assisted Wayne however we could, moving cut logs, cutting small branches, and doing what we could to make the trail easily hikeable.

Once, the chainsaw got stuck in a tree that closed in on the blade. The rest of us got under the tree and lifted up, opening the space cut by the saw just enough so it could be removed.

Around 1240, we ate lunch. As usual, Norma and I ate Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs). Then it was back to work.

During some of our down time, I taught Norma how to jab, cross, and hook (boxing punches).

I saw an interesting branch growing out of a fallen tree. It looked like there was a big branch that had fallen off that had a thinner branch inside. Not sure how this happened but I'm guessing the outside of the branch rotted away, leaving a thinner central portion. See third photo at left.

The chain came off the chainsaw. Wayne was cutting a pretty big log, about 3 feet in diameter, and it would have taken a very long time to have cut through it with handsaws. Fortunately, I brought a hand drill and some dynamite left over from Independence Day. I drilled a hole in the log, lit the stick of dynamite, and dropped it into the hole. The tree blew up and sent splinters all over the place. Nobody was hurt as we all took cover. After this, it was easy to cut the rest of the tree with hand tools. Unfortunately, the noise of the blast woke up a hibernating bear. It was angry as a hornet at a Grateful Dead concert. It roared then started chasing us. We all ran but Norma reached into her purse, pulled out a can of AquaNet hairspray and a lighter. Then she lit her lighter and sprayed the can above the flame, creating a huge flame which scared off the bear. Eventually, Wayne got the chainsaw fixed.

Everything in the above paragraph except the first and last sentences is false but certainly more entertaining than the truth.

We were all impressed by the Fiskars PowerGear Anvil Lopper that Wayne provided us for trail maintenance.

After finishing our section of trail, we met up with Dick D., Mike, and Ryan. We headed back to the start, finishing about 1600.

The other groups joined up with us and we took a group photo. See fourth photo at left.

Then, it was off to Jalisco Mexican Restaurant for dinner. More food than I could finish though I made the mistake on eating too many chips before my entree arrived. The park paid for our meal. How generous!

In 2006, I spent a great deal of time in Shenandoah National Park, mostly with the Maryland Outdoor Club. It has given me so much, both in terms of getting outdoors and making new friends. I'm glad I finally had a chance to give a little something back.
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