Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Quick Hike at Hashawha

I'm really lucky to live in an area that offers so many hiking options within an hour;s drive time.  Locally, we have a place called the Hashawha Environmental Center.  It has a Nature Center and several different trails for hiking, biking and horse back riding.  Most of the trails are relatively easy.  I've taken my 3 year old grandson out on them and he managed fine in his sneakers.  There are some loops that offer a little more strenuous hiking (though nothing like the AT or the trails at Catoctin Mountain).  On January 21st, my mom, husband and myself headed to Hashawha to get some hiking in.  Usually I take along a weighted pack, but this time I opted to leave the pack at home.  Without a pack, my injury doesn't really bother me too much, so it was great to be out and just enjoying the woods.
We took one of the extra loops that does have some inclines on it and offers some gorgeous views.  I learned I am very out of shape from sitting around this winter because even without carrying a loaded pack, I was tired and out of breath often.  A large section of the trail travels through some pine groves.  I think pine groves are my favorite place to be, or at least one of the top places (a secluded beach is up there too, it's a toss up between the two).  Pine groves are just so silent and have a certain reverence about them.  Like they're the cathedral of the forest.  I would be content to sit under the pines for hours. However, sitting under pine trees doesn't build muscle or help anyone get back into shape.  So we hiked on.  We managed to hike 3.10 miles.  Looking forward to some more training hikes and the upcoming back packing season.

Monday, February 27, 2017

First Day Hike

Me: I think we go this way Mom: How do you know? 
For the past few years, my mom and I have made sure to go out for a hike on New Year's Day.  There's a New Year's superstition that says whatever you're doing on New Year's Day, you will do the whole year through.  I want to hike the year through, so that's what we do.  We opted for a hike on the Appalachian Trail heading south from Pine Grove Furnace.
The trail on this stretch isn't too bad.  The start has a gentle incline that works your muscles pretty good without causing too much pain.  I am of course basing that on my own personal injury and issues.  Inclines kill me, or rather, they have me begging to be put out of my misery, especially when I have some weight in my pack.  But this section of the AT wasn't too bad and gave me a work out without needing too many breaks.

Right near Tom's Run, we came across a blue blazed trail called Sunset Rocks.  We decided to take a detour and check out the trail.  It was nearly sunset, and we thought perhaps we might manage to see a spectacular one.  As we headed up the trail, we passed a group of young men, perhaps in their early 20's, coming back down the trail.  They warned us to be careful because the trail gets steep.  We thanked them and we all went on our way.  I mentioned to my mom that my idea of steep and their idea of steep probably aren't the same since they had on skateboarding shoes.  We just figured they saw two women and thought we might be delicate.  Then we came to the steep part.
The photo doesn't do the incline justice.
Steep doesn't even do it justice.  It's around 1,000 feet of elevation gain in about a quarter of a mile.  Parts of the trail require the use of your hands.  I had to stop a lot on the way up, and I considered turning back more than once.  But I was determined to get up the hill.  Especially when I spied two guys below me on the trail (not carrying any packs or extra weight I might add).  They were also stopping often along the way, and not because we were in their way.  We stopped and moved to the side to let them pass, but they were resting (Ha!).  So we continued up and eventually made it to the top of the ridge.  The view was gorgeous, but I was too tired to take a photo, plus there were a lot of trees in the way.  After making taking some time to catch our breath, we started making our way back down.  I was concerned about the descent because the trail still had some snow and ice on it, but we managed to get down quickly without too many problems.  My "Badass" was acting up a little, and my knees were screaming.  By the end I was exhausted, but very pleased with myself.  Prior to getting my injury treated, I would not have been able to make that hike up that incline.  There's no way.  It was worse than anything we had encountered on the Appalachian Trail so far, and the inclines I have done previously sent me off the trail early.  It was a complete victory for me: I made it up a huge elevation gain without too much pain, and at the end when I stopped, so did the pain.  On our overnight trip, the pain never let up and only intensified which is why I had to end my hike.  If the pain lets up when I stop and allows me to sleep at night and rest, I think I can manage.
I wouldn't mind doing this blue blazed trail again.  The trail actually takes you through the former WWII POW camp in Michaux.  I knew the POW camp was there, but didn't realize this was the trail that went by it.  I checked out info on the camp for possible inclusion in my book about paranormal happenings on the AT, but this POW camp wasn't a bad one.  The prisoners were treated well, and they were often plied with liquor to get them to reveal enemy secrets.
All in all, it was a great hike and one I'd recommend checking out.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

On the Mend

It just occurred to me that I hadn't blogged about the hike we took back on October 9th.  We were supposed to do an overnight hike from Dahlgren Campground to the Ed Garvey Shelter and down into Harper's Ferry.  As luck would have it, the weather was rainy, and we opted not to go.  It would have been my son's first overnight, and I didn't want crappy weather to sour him to backpacking.
Luckily, Sunday was a gorgeous day.  We parked in the parking area on Weverton Rd and hiked up to Weverton Cliffs.  It was all uphill and full of switchbacks.  My injury typically flares up on inclines, so I was concerned how I was going to handle it.  I made it to the cliffs with minimal rest stops.  We enjoyed the view for a bit, took a bunch of photos and chatted with the other hikers out enjoying the day.  Then we headed back down to head to Harper's Ferry. 
The hike into Harper's Ferry is an easy one once you're past the parking area.  Here the Appalachian Trail travels along part of the C&O Canal Towpath which is a level hike.  While I was getting tired, my injury was holding up pretty well.  I learned that if I take smaller strides, there was less strain on my hip muscles.
Along the way to Harper's Ferry, we were passed by two trains, and watched a Great Blue Heron fishing in the Potomac.  The only drawback in my opinion was the bicyclists.  While some are polite when sharing the trail, some are rather rude and indignant, as if hikers shouldn't be hiking along their bike path.

We finally made it to the footbridge heading into Harper's Ferry.  The sun was starting to set, and we were all getting a little tired.  We stopped for some ice cream before my cousin went to get her car to take us back to the starting point.  It was a great hike, especially for me as I was mostly pain free.  It was a sure sign that I'm on the mend.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Hikes and Haunts

This weekend, we headed out to enjoy the unseasonably warm temperatures and gorgeous weather.  Since Halloween was just around the corner, the decision was made to try to check out one of the haunted areas of the trail.  So, checking some options and factoring the amount of time we had before the sun set, we ended up choosing an area known as Dead Womans Hollow.

The Appalachian Trail crosses Dead Womans Hollow Rd as it heads south into Michaux State Forest.  The name of the road is a strange one.  Many years ago, Native Americans encountered the body of a woman who had been bitten by a poisonous snake.  Her ghost is said to haunt the area.

Because the parking was limited for a point-to-point hike, we ended up finding another trail to check  out.  Near the parking area we were planning to use was a trail called the Rocky Knob Trail.  This trail crosses the Appalachian Trail just south of Dead Woman Hollow, and it has its own sinister story.  Back in 1988, two women were enjoying some time hiking and camping on the Appalachian Trail.  The women were camping near a shelter one morning when they encountered a man who asked them for cigarettes.  The man seemed a little odd, so the two women decided to pack up and hike south to find a more secluded campsite.  As they hiked, the man appeared again asking if they were lost and this time he also had a .22 rifle slung over his shoulder.  The women eventually took an off shoot trail called Rocky Knob Trail.  They hiked until they found a good campsite beside a stream and set up camp.  Unbeknownst to them, the man had followed.  He also sometimes lived in the woods around there  and knew the area well.  He was aware that the side trail the women had taken was a loop trail, and he could easily catch up with them.  That evening, the man fired 8 shots at the women.  One woman was hit twice in her head and back.  She died from her wounds.  The other woman was shot five times in her head, neck, arm and face and survived.  She managed to hike out of the woods and back to the main road, approximately 4 miles.  The man was eventually caught after an extensive man hunt and is serving a life sentence. 
This trail seems to have a very heavy feeling.  Perhaps it just comes from knowing what transpired here, or maybe it's from the history itself.  Environments can hold on to energy, whether it's joy or pain or terror, and it seems like this place is definitely holding on to its past.  On a positive note, you can't deny the heroic efforts of the woman who survived.  We hiked out the way she would have gone to reach first the gravel state forest road and then drove the road down to the area where she received help.  It's taxing when you're perfectly healthy, let alone suffering from 5 gunshots. 
My son kept asking about spooky stories from the trail during our hike and wanted to know what was my favorite that I've come across so far.  My answer is that the scariest stories in my opinion are the ones that deal with murder like the story above.  The AT is a relatively safe place to hike.  In fact, walking around a city might be a lot more dangerous that being out in the wilds of the Appalachian Trail.  But the murders that have happened along the length of the trail seem to carry either some mystery as to who committed the crime, or the perpetrator was an odd, creepy person.  Throw in the idea that you're completely isolated in some areas, and it makes for one seriously scary tale. 

Switching gears a bit, Michaux State Forest is also one of the leading areas for Bigfoot sightings in the state.  While we didn't see any  Bigfoot creatures, we were catching a whiff of an odd odor that we described as pungent and musky.  This is a description that often occurs in Bigfoot sighting stories along the trail.  Throw in a couple of trees with scratched areas and you start worrying about bears Bigfoot.  And then there's the Hidebehind which has been talked about since Native American times.  The Hidebehind is a creature similar to a Bigfoot that tends to follow people and peek at them from behind trees.  It's not a good idea to be last in line in Hidebehind territory, and if you are last, don't ever look over your shoulder because you might just end up disappearing. 
We didn't see any Hidebehinds or Bigfoot, but we did do a little investigating along the trail.

All in all it was the perfect pre-Halloween hike and one I'd recommend and plan on doing again in the future.  And I want to stress that while ghosts and Bigfoot and Halloween are all in good fun, never did we consider the loss of life in this area a joke.  We all have nothing but the utmost respect for both women involved: one for her selfless command telling her friend to run and hide while she herself lay dying, and one for having the courage and bravery to persevere and seek help. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Escaping Stress


The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~Wendell Berry

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

This Hurricane

Everyone is talking about Hurricane Matthew.  Not a surprise at all since it's the strongest Atlantic storm in 9 years and it's a killer.  Three people have died as a direct result of this storm and right now it's bearing down on Haiti- a place still devastated by the earthquake in 2010. 
I should have expected this to happen since there was a backpacking trip planned this weekend to finish the MD section of the Appalachian Trail.  If you remember, something similar happened last year when Hurricane Joachim was set to arrive along with a Nor'easter right when we were hiking for the first time.  That story is here.  You might also remember that I predicted trouble since my cousin and I seem to attract nothing but and you can learn about that here.  So, should this Hurricane be headed our way, we will be canceling the trip.  Sadly, we probably won't be able to reschedule before the weather changes.  Stay safe out there and pray for those in the path of this massive storm.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pre-Hike Hike

In just a little more than a week, we'll be hitting the trail again to finish the Maryland section.  It will also be my son's first backpacking trip.  We hiked a local trail this past weekend (Game Day Sunday obvious from the photo) to work on breaking in his new hiking boots.  I'm slightly concerned about this trip with him.  There were comments like "This downhill is killing my knees!" (it was about a 6 inch elevation change- when he stepped down off a rock) and "Wow, I think we've gone about 3 miles so far, my legs are killing me!" (we hadn't even gone a half a mile).  Our first day is about 11 miles.  I'm just hoping I can bring a lot of Snickers bars because he is going to turn into a monster ever mile or so.  Luckily we've figured out his food for the most part.  He likes Ramen noodles and he likes the Mountain House Mac & Cheese.  We still have to try eggs in the form of a burrito (Mountain House eggs with cheese rolled in a tortilla), but he won't starve, and I'm comfortable that he'll have enough protein.  I'm just hoping that we can find enough to talk about to keep his mind off how much walking he's doing.  I don't think I know enough about Minecraft to get the job done.
As for me, I'm slightly worried about my hip/butt injury.  I've been seeing a chiropractor, and I'm down to just one visit every other week.  But I still have pain on hills and with added weight.  I've been doing squats daily (really, Mom, I have) to try to build up my butt muscles.  This last hike we did I was pain free, but I also wasn't carrying my pack, and it wasn't too strenuous.  But I'll be taking my Vitamin I (ibuprofen), and I'll also be trying out some Salonpas pain patches per the doctor's suggestion.  So now it just a matter of finalizing food, packing the packs and getting some decent weather.