Maryland in the Snow

Maryland 1.11
The hike on Saturday went very well! 28 of the 35 RSVPs braved the cold and snow, and there were many first timers with the group.

Temperature was around 26 when we stepped off at 9:30 am and the sun was shining. We found the snow on the trail to be pretty tramped down by other hikers with some areas still around 6″ deep and fluffy, but not difficult to get through. There were slick areas, mostly on the rocks, but otherwise the trail was not treacherous. It was, as another person noted, a bit like hiking in sand – – it was harder to pick up your feet and really move along and that made for a good workout. Everyone quickly found their own best pace and the group spread out up and down the trail. It’s pretty much impossible to hold a group that size together, to one pace. I realize it makes it harder for everyone to get a chance to meet and talk with everyone else, but I won’t put a leash on the fast hikers and I won’t push the ones that need to move slower.

Along the way we ran into at least a dozen backpackers and at least that many day hikers. I heard that one young man, upon finding out that we were an all-female group, said “Oh! Cougars!” 😉 We also had one young man approach us in the parking lot and ask to join the hike. Turned out he was looking for another group that was going to meet there. Whew!

We were all at the shelter by around noon and my goodness the food! The picnic table was covered in a feast of homemade cookies, bars, breads, baklava, muffins. There was chocolates, granola mixes, nuts, berries and cheese. We fired up the stoves and soon had everyone sipping their hot drinks. After our tea time, we started back to the parking lot.

I want to let you know that we have two ladies who are going to start their thru-hikes of the AT on the same day, March 16th! Rose Clack and Rebecca Berbert, we are so proud of you! We must keep up with their progress along the trail so that we can be there for them with lots of trail magic when they get into our area.

Speaking of trail magic….the Georgia Dames will be doing their annual trail magic at Mountain Crossings in GA the last weekend of March. They rent cabins for the weekend for themselves and spend the weekend providing burgers, hot dogs, and other treats to the hikers that are coming thru Neels Gap at Mountain Crossings. That is the 32 mile mark where many hikers decided a thru-hike is not for them and something like 10% drop off the trail. A hot meal and friendly faces could make all the difference in getting them to keep going. I’m hoping to have the time to go down there and help out. If you think you’d like to go along let me know and I’ll get the accommodations worked out with Anna.

The link is to the photos I took of the hike.  I wish I had taken so many more!  There are more than 40 of them posted by other members on the website and probably more to come.


Gambrill State Park- Maryland Dames

Gambrill maryland
Hike Report from the Maryland Dames….

Wow, what a wonderful hike! I am an admitted fair weather hiker and hadn’t hiked in the snow and ice (other than to hike up Fox Glacier in New Zealand 7 years ago), and I loved this. There was 13 of us and many first timers. Brave souls all to make this their first time out with us. It was about 27 degrees when we set out at 10 am, but not at all windy or even breezy. It actually felt just fine. It took 2 hours to cover the 3.3 miles as some of it was treacherous and slow going with icy slippery rocks and leaves, especially the descents.

The sun came out, more or less, after the first hour and started melting off the snow. The woods were beautiful – the white sugar dusting of snow, the brown of the ground, the green ferns still peaking out, the fallen leaves…..just breathtaking. And so calm and quiet. We will definitely do another winter hike. More snow would actually be better – a thicker, packed base to walk on rather than the thin coating of snow and ice on everything. I’ve asked my hubby for snowshoes for my birthday, so I’ll have them by January and our next winter wonderland hike!


Backpacking with the Maryland Dames!!

Oct 2010 MD Trail Dames Backpacking Trip 012
Five of us went and we left my home at 7 am. Many thanks to my son Adam for riding along so that he could drive the van back home. We were at the trail head by 8 am and on the trail at 8:10 am. The day was windy and cool but once we got moving we all warmed up. The wind in the trees made them seem to be speaking to us as we passed – the creaking, groaning, sighing sounds that trees make when brushing against one another made the forest come quite alive around us. The trail was carpeted in multi-colored leaves. We hiked along chatting, laughing, and feeling wonderful. At one point the wind drove a cloud up over the mountain and into the woods around us, surrounding us in a faint swirling mist. We were hiking on the last 3.5 miles of the 13 mile long “roller coaster” on that northbound stretch of the AT, a long stretch of constant ups and downs – more ups than downs – so it took us about 2 1/2 hours to make our first goal – the gorgeous vista from Raven Rocks. We took that chance to drop our packs, have some snacks, and take lots of photos. We were feeling great! A gentleman came up the trail behind us with just a fanny pack. He was on his way to the Blackburn Trail Center (7 miles from Snickers Gap). We chatted and he went on his way.

I really wanted to make the David Lesser shelter by 4 pm so that there would be ample time to set up camp, change clothes, get water, cook dinner and relax before going to sleep. We were making excellent time. We hiked at our own paces, so more often than not the two Sues and Mylynh were several minutes ahead while Audrey and I brought up the rear. We’d all catch up now and then for lunch and rest breaks. At Blackburn Trail Center Sue V. went down the side trail to see the center while the rest of us waiting on the trail and rested. We all moved out when we were ready to go and we all were at the shelter by 4 pm – the two Sues arriving ahead of us. What a fabulous feeling to know you’re done for the day! We had done 10.5 miles in about 8 hours. Some of the ups were pretty steep, there were rocks, rocks, and more rocks often making it hard to distinguish the trail bed from the woods.

We were the first ones into the shelter (a hiker was tented below in the campground) and made the decision to just spend the night in it rather than in our tents. Two middle-aged men came in a short while after us. By the time the sun had set there were 14 hikers stopped for the night. We laid out our places on the upper platform, changed clothes, grabbed our water filters and fetch bags and headed down the steep 1/4 mile trail to the spring. Ugh! So far away! It wasn’t the trip down so much – – it was hauling all of that extra water back up! Once we were back we set about cooking our dinners, chatting about the day, and watching the other hikers arrive. The two men who had come in after us decided to sleep in the shelter as well, on the deck just below the platform. They cooked their dinners at the picnic table near the shelter and started up a nice fire. We all went to sit by the fire as the sun went down. Very peaceful. By 7:30 pm I’d had enough, having been up since 4 am and being somewhat beaten down by the “ups” of the day, so I went off to bed. I never heard the others come in to sleep but I gather everyone was in bed by 9:30 pm. Fortunately, I had brought my ear plugs along……one of the men had laid out his mat and bag on the deck right up against the sleeping platform. His head was about two feet from mine….and he snored..and snored…and snored!! I could dampen it well enough with the plugs, but the others weren’t so lucky and had to listen to that horrid noise all night! He truly had no idea how close he came to being whapped upside the head with a hiking boot! It was the general consensus that he surely must have been aware that he snored like that (he said he was married, so his wife must have told him!) and therefore should have been considerate enough to set up a tent in the campground area! We were clearly there first and had our mats and bags laid out long before he did.

Everyone was up by sunup and fixing breakfast at the picnic table. We were somewhat sore and stiff but nothing terrible, and we were packed up and back on the trail by 8:20 am, with 10 miles to go to Harpers Ferry. Sunday’s miles would be easier in terms of the ups and downs as it was mostly flat and down but the trail bed was far rockier than the stretch we’d already covered. I’d done this stretch before and lost my big toenails because of the beating my feet took on the rocks. It wasn’t any different this time.

We were at Keys Gap before 10 am – a good place to drop the packs and sit at the picnic table there for a rest. Just 3/10s of a mile down the road west of there is a mini-mart, so Sue and I walked down for a snack and a cold soda. When we got back to the others a small car had pulled into the parking area and a man got out wearing a fanny packed that I recognized. It was the guy from the vista point that we’d met the day before! He came over to chat a moment. He was going to hike from Keys Gap to Blackburn Trail Center and back to finish up the last bit of trail that he needed to complete everything from Georgia to Pennsylvania. We wished him well and off he went, and so did we. From there to the border of Harpers Ferry National Park the rocks once again beat me up both physically and mentally. I find that I can’t relax for a second because every step has to be thought out in advance – step here, step there, go around that rock, step on top of that one, etc. Soon I was left in the dust by the others but that was okay. I could feel my toes getting chewed up in my boots and the bottoms of my feet getting bruised. I caught up with everyone now and then for a rest break. By noon or a little after, we were at the sign pointing the way down down down to the Hwy 340 Bridge and the end of the hike! We made our way down, some of us with legs of jello and sore joints, slowly. It’s a very steep down, and long, switch back trail and in some places it quite narrowly hugs one side of the mountain, with a long drop down on the other side, with rocks for stairs now and then. Once on the bridge, we marched along happy and proud. There was a long line of slow traffic going the other way and the looks on the faces of some of the people as they watched 5 women stride along with loaded packs……priceless! We decided to end it at the parking lot at the end of the bridge, and Sue V’s husband was kind enough to come pick us up. We had made it across the bridge and to the lot by 1:20 pm.

I admit to being quite sore and stiff but I was also very happy. It’s a grand feeling of accomplishment. I hope that everyone else felt the same way. I am quite eager to do it again! Well, not that section again! I’ve done it twice now – that’s enough. Today, Wednesday, I am completely recovered physically (though my big toe nails have darkened so I’ll have to wait and see how that goes), unpacked, and everything is put away until the next adventure!


Beautiful Maryland Hike

MD Dames
Hike Report from the Maryland Dames

What a great hike we had yesterday!  Many thanks to Sue Guynn of the Frederick News Post for coming along to interview the Dames and take photos and video.

We met in the Harpers Ferry Visitors Center parking lot and took the shuttle bus down into town. We were early to be almost the only people on the bus…the one other person was a lone male, or as one Dame put it “a thistle in a bed of roses.”  Winking smile  It was chilly to start off, only in the upper 30’s, but brilliantly clear out.  We made our way to the trail head (a trek that probably adds another full mile to the hike, round trip), and took our group photos. I took a moment to dedicate the hike to a dear friend, Lola Williamson, who died suddenly this past week. She was always a great encouragement to me in every thing I did and will be sorely missed on this earth. Broken heart

This trail is the road bed that Union troops made to haul up cannon, ammunition, powder, water, tents and other supplies to the summit of the mountain, where they set up to defend the rivers and town.  It is long and steep, 3 miles to the summit. If we find it hard in our high tech boots/shoes, light clothing, and using hiking poles then just imagine doing it in July, in wool uniforms, broken down boots and shoes, dragging cannon capable of firing 100 lb cannon balls plus all of the supplies the troops would need – and having to go all the way back down to the rivers once a week to haul up enough water for everyone.  At the 2 mile point we took the side trail, another 1 mile round trip, down to the overlook – a rocky cliff that has a full view of both rivers and the town.  Spent some time enjoying the view, taking photos and having snacks.  Then it was time to do the last mile ascent to the summit.

Once there we spread out, relaxed and had lunch.  Again, stunning views and by then a gorgeous warm day.  Off came the layers and we soaked up the sunshine.  I should note as well that there are many historic markers and sites on this trail – the ammo dumps and powder magazines, the ruins of the stone fort the troops built, the site of the 100 lb cannon at the summit (that’s the weight of the cannonball – not the much much heavier cannon itself), troop tent sites, and even a sad sign remarking on the death of a soldier who was blown to bits when an ammo dump blew up. I suppose he’s still there watching the hikers pass by…….

The hike back is all downhill, as much steep down to the bottom as it is up to the top.  It is a loop hike, so the way down offers different scenery til we hit the main road again.  It took us about 4 1/2 hours start to finish, for a total of about 8 miles with the walk back to town.

Once in town some went on home, many headed to the Secret Six Tavern, and five of us went on up High Street (another long steep climb!) to the PATC HQ (Potomac Appalachian Trail Conference). We had been invited to stop by by a new Dames member, Terri, as she’s a volunteer there. They were so excited to meet us!  Lots of handshaking and a 1000 questions! I’d never been there and it is absolutely worth visiting. So much information on the AT, books and things to buy, a hiker’s “lounge”, photo albums of thru-hikers that have stopped on the way, a huge relief map of the AT,  and more.  I will definitely be going back when I’m not so tired and sweat soaked!  The five of us went back down the street to the tavern for some refreshment. We couldn’t get seated with everyone else, but we still had a great time just sitting and chatting and it was a perfect way to end a perfect hike.