Monday, February 23, 2015

Six Miler

Three of the 7 going on The Trip
 Saturday brought some significant snow to our area.  I'm guessing it was around 8 inches or so.  Needless to say, it caused some issues with our planned Sunday hike.  With a little maneuvering and a couple of phone calls, we decided to walk along the road in the Gettysburg National Battlefield Park.  Walking along the road isn't my favorite thing to do, but I'd rather be outside (especially when the weather is sunny and in the 40's) than sitting in the house.  So off we went.
The weather was great after dealing with several days of subzero windchill and snow.  We walked/hiked one way until we got the an area that was closed then turned around and walked the other way.  All total we did about 6 miles.  Physically I was feeling pretty good.  The only issue I had was my hip.  I fell on it last year and every now and then it gives me a little problem.  It had actually been fine, but today it was really aching.  It probably warrants a trip to the doctor to get it double checked.  When I got home, I ran a hot bath, lit my stress relief candle and put on some Chopin and soaked in a hot bubble bath.  Between that and some ibuprofen, I was feeling better.  Looking forward to the next hike we have planned and hoping we have weather as nice as today (except without the snow covering the ground).

A couple of scenic shots from the hike.
A random canon on the left and Eisenhower Farm on the right.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Trekking Poles or No Trekking Poles

When I began looking into the things I would need for this hike, I was on the fence about trekking poles.  I knew they were a popular accessory, but I wondered how useful they really were.  Honestly, they seemed more like a cool toy than a trail necessity.  Then I began to read about how they can help take some of the stress off your joints- like your knees and hips.  And since I have pretty beat up knees from various horse riding injuries, I figured trekking poles might be worth the try. My brother, who is one of the 7 going on the trip, got me a pair of poles for Christmas.  I began using them right away.  No, really, I used them in the house.
I took them with me on my first hike of the New Year.  I had been pretty sick the night before (and I was still running a low grade fever when I went out on the hike) and I was feeling a bit run down.  The poles were a Godsend on that particular day even though we were hiking a very easy trail.  I also discovered that they are extremely useful in distracting 8 year old boys from whining about how much further and if we're almost done.  And they helped him maintain his balance and gave him confidence in crossing a small stream.  Score one for the poles. 
Since then, I've had them with me on several occasions and they've been used by a few people.  On a winter camping trip with my son's Cub Scout Pack, one parent who had recent arm surgery used one of the poles to help her with balance and keeping her footing (I used the other one for the same reason- ice was everywhere).  I've taken them on each of my hiking trips, and it's true that they help build up your upper body muscles.  Each hike not only are my legs feeling sore, but my arms and shoulder are sore from using the poles- which is a good thing.  The last hike that we went on was closer to the terrain we'll encounter on the AT, meaning it had a few steep inclines.  The poles were a definite benefit in hauling my butt up the hills and took strain off my knees on the downhill.  The trail also had quite a bit of ice covering it so they were again useful in keeping my footing.  I'll definitely be taking them with me on the big trip, and I'm also going to be getting a set for my husband and my 8 year old.  Then maybe I can use both of my poles at the same time instead of sharing.
So, basically I'm saying Yes, trekking poles are definitely worth having on any trail.  They build upper body strength, take strain off joints, help with balance (a plus I'm guessing when carrying a pack), help cross streams and counteract boredom.  And that's just in the winter.  I'm sure they're helpful in the event there might be a snake around, an unleashed dog, a bear, mud, etc.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hike #5

 We set up a goal to try to hike at least once a week to try and prepare ourselves for the final trip.  But this weekend wasn't looking so great weather wise.  Saturday was supposed to be the better of the two days.  Sunday was forecasted to be high of only 11 degrees with windchills below 0- not ideal hiking weather.  So Saturday found me at my mom's house contemplating what to do.  I had been out taking care of my chickens and nearly getting frostbite, so I wasn't sure a hike was the best idea.  The original plan was to just go for an extended walk my from my parents house.  There was a snow storm moving in along with high winds and sub zero temperatures, so we wanted to make sure we didn't get caught outside in nasty weather.  But because the sun was out and the temperature was hovering in the low 30's, we changed our plans at the last minute and decided to check out the trails at the local Nature Center.
We set out on their 1.5 mile trail.  If the weather started to change, we were close enough to bail and head for home.  The Vista trail took us up a decent incline and through a grove of pines and eventually brought us to an aviary with some owls and raptors.  It was a pleasant surprise and gave us a little rest.  We ventured on to the 3 mile yellow trail.  It was a little icy in areas, but we managed.  Well, except for my little spill where I ended up sprawled on the ice.  My loving husband told me if I did that on the trip, he and the rest of the group would use their poop shovels to bury me there.
There were many things to discover along our travels.  Someone had constructed emergency shelters in the pine trees, and we climbed in to check it out.   My 8 year old became nervous when he spied a sign telling horseback riders there was a dangerous bridge ahead.  It turned out to be only dangerous to horses.   It was a pretty good hike, except for the whining- and not just the whining from the 8 year old.  There were a few steep inclines that had my husband and I muttering under our breath.  And I also realized, as I looked to the top of the hill from somewhere near the bottom, that my 60 year old mother was kicking my butt (as she looked down at me from up near the top).  In total we hiked about 3 miles and for about 2 hours before the snow and wind moved in. I learned a few things on the hike: there's a reason why in all the research I've done on how to physically prepare for a back packing trip they all say the best thing is to get out and hike.  This hike had terrain closer to the type of terrain I'll encounter on the AT and I had muscles hurting that don't hurt after an hour at the gym.  I also learned that my boots need to be replaced.  I had pretty much already come to that decision, but this hike drove the point home.  My feet were sliding and hitting the front of the boot, now I really can't wait to get to REI.  And finally, I think I'm pretty confident that I won't have a heart attack from hiking (though I haven't done anything with a pack yet).  Ever since my physical showed diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, I've been worried about my heart.  My dad was only 6 years older than I am now when he had quintuple bypass surgery, so I worry about every twinge.  I'm happy to say that yesterday I paid attention and I was twinge free on every hill.    

Taking a break (5 minutes into the hike

Dangerous bridge!
The not so dangerous bridge

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Get Lost

Of course I'm speaking figuratively not literally. On the second hike I went on this winter (I know, I'm out of order since I've been on 4 so far), my hiking partners and I opted to head to a local covered bridge and hike along the creek. There wasn't much of a path, and what there was didn't go very far so we opted to just follow the creek.  A few times we ended up on the wrong side of a fence because of fallen trees taking the fence down, but it only took a minute to get back on track.
Eventually we came to an area where another small creek merged with the larger one.  With no way to cross, we had no other choice but to turn around and head back.   It was probably time to head back anyway since it was raining, and it was getting darker and colder by the minute. 
Hikes like these are some of my favorites.  I like the idea of being able to wander without a path and get lost in nature.  Of course, with the creek right there, we weren't in any actual danger of getting lost (because I have no desire to actually get lost in the woods).

3 of the 7 going on "The Trip" 
I am hoping that this weekend I will  be able to make it out and about again.  However, Saturday's weather is predicting 37 degrees, 16MPH winds and 80% chance of snow.  Sunday is forecasted as 11 degrees and 24MPH winds.  So far, Saturday is the looking like the best option.  Hopefully the wind won't be too bad and we can get out and hike.  I enjoy my gym workouts, but nothing beats being outside, even if it is cold and windy and there is no path.


I came across the link for this video in one of the Facebook groups I belong to.  I must say, if this doesn't inspire you to get out on the trail, I don't know what will.  It definitely has been dreaming of a thru hike more than I was.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Haunted Appalachian Trail: Maryland

I want to preface this by saying that I believe that Maryland is the most paranormally active section of the entire AT.  I've read that the Smokies and the Shenandoah National Park are considered the most haunted, but with only 40 miles, Maryland packs quite a punch for its relatively short distance.  Perhaps the fact that Maryland is the only place along the entire trail corridor where the AT passes through a major Civil War battlefield has something to do with that.

 Crampton's Gap

The Battle of South Mountain is the basis for many of the area's ghost stories.   In the area of Crampton's
Gap, people have seen campfires in the woods at night. They've also heard canon fire and the screams of the wounded men and have seen ghostly soldiers walking the battlefields.  Not far away, there is an area known as Spook Hill where your car seems to roll uphill while in neutral.  Legend says that ghosts of Confederate soldiers are the ones pushing the car thinking it is one of their canons they refuse to leave for the Union Army to take over.  It's said if you sprinkle flour on the trunk of your car, you'll see their hand prints.

 The Purple Church

Just past Crampton's Gap on the road sits an old dilapidated church.  The church is supposedly haunted and it is said that in the 1980's it was the site of Satanic Rituals.  

Fox's Gap

In the area of Fox's Gap the focal point for the Battle of South Mountain, there was a farm owned by Daniel
Wise who lived there with his children.  During the battle the family fled to the safety of a nearby church and their home was used as a Union hospital.  After the battle, the Union dumped 58 Confederate bodies in a well on the property.  The bodies remained there for 12 years before being re-interred at the Confederate Cemetery in Hagerstown.  Now people hear the thud of the bodies being thrown in the well and see soldiers walking the battlefield.

Washington Monument

The rocks below the monument house a maze of caves.  Legend says that a young Civil war soldier stopped
at a nearby farm to get a drink from the well.  He met the farmer's daughter and they fell in love.  She begged the soldier to leave the army and the war and run away with her.  The soldier deserted and they both hid in the caves.  A rockslide ended up trapping the young couple in the caves and they died.  The distressing cries of the couple can be heard as they try to escape.

George "Gath" Townsend

George Townsend was a journalist and a novelist who built an estate in what is now Gathland State Park.  He also built the first War Correspondents memorial.  Though he died in New York and was buried in Philadelphia, Mr. Townsend's ghost still walks the grounds of his estate.


 Old South Mountain Inn

Just off the Appalachian trail is the Old South Mountain Inn.  In the 1800's, owner Madeleine Dahlgren was
hosting overnight guests.  One hot evening, one of her house guests opened the bedroom window and sat dozing in a rocking chair.  She awoke suddenly when she sensed something different- the crickets were quiet. Seeing a glow coming from the window, the woman looked out and saw a glowing figure about 50 yards from the house.  The specter was taller than any normal human being and hovered above the ground.  Terrified the woman closed the shutters and hid in the bed under  the covers.   Several nights later, another friend was occupying the same room.  As she got ready for bed, the woman noticed a strange glow coming from the window.  When she went to investigate, she saw the same ghostly figure.  The woman ran to get Madeleine to bear witness to what she had seen.  As both women watched, the figure spread a pair of large luminous wings.  Madeleine slammed the shutters closed and both women dropped to their knees and prayed.

Though she has since passed away, Madeleine Dahlgren still resides in her home at Old South Mountain Inn.  The current owners tell a story about how the ghost of Madeleine saved the Inn.  One evening, the cleaning man was staying late at the Inn waiting for a delivery of linens.  He noticed that a door that was always kept closed was sitting open.  The janitor smelled smoke through the open door and called 911.  A fire had started in the rear of the Inn, but the smell of smoke coming from he open door alerted the man and the Inn was saved.  The current owner also mentions seeing a "flash of something" in the attic one day as she was looking for some holiday decorations.

The White Woman

There are reports of a banshee roaming the South Mountain.  This banshee is said to be a harbinger of death or disaster.  A young girl saw a shrouded figure rise out of the ground and pass through her house.  Two days later her uncle died and the house burned.  The White Woman was also seen by a woman caring for her nine day old grandchild.  The banshee was seen leaning over looking at the child in her cradle.  Not long after, the child died. The White Woman has been seen other times, though there were no deaths associated with her sighting.

The area of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Maryland isn't just known for its ghost stories- it also has its fair share of cryptids (a creature whose existence has been suggested but hasn't yet been discovered or documented by the scientific community). And personally, I find the cryptids a little more frightening than the ghosts.  Afterall, the ghosts are not alive, the cryptids are...


The snallygaster is described as being part reptile and part bird with scaly body, lizard tail, and metallic beak
lined with razor sharp teeth.  Some descriptions report octopus like tentacles as well.  It has hooked claws, one large eye, poisonous breath and its screech sounds like a train whistle.  It flies over South Mountain looking for prey, and once it finds a meal, it tears the flesh from the victim and sucks the veins dry. So when you're laying in your sleeping bag at night on the Appalachian Trail on South Mountain and you hear a train whistle you'll wonder "Is that really a train or the Snallygaster looking for a meal?"


The Dwayyo is said to be similar to a wolf with the arms, stance and stature of  man.  It has a dark colored
shaggy coat and a bushy tail.  The Dwayyo is tall with some estimates claiming it's 7-9ft tall and leaves enormous clawed footprints.  It makes a frightful screaming noise.  Chickens and cattle have been found dead in area where the Dwayyo has been sighted, and dogs have refused to hunt the animal and hide when they sense the Dwayyo is near.  It has allegedly attempted to attack several people and shows up every summer.

Snarly Yow

The Snarly Yow is possibly more ghost than cryptid, but no one knows that for sure.  It's described as a
phantom black dog with a grotesque red mouth and fangs.  While most descriptions say it's black, some say the animal appeared as a white headless dog and some say that the dog had the ability to change color from black to white.  The Snarly Yow is known to chase cars and jumps out of bushes to scare passing hikers.  Many have heard its werewolf like howl.


You can't have a list of cryptids located in a wooded area without adding Bigfoot.  Maryland isn't without Bigfoot sightings, and some hail from the South Mountain area.  There are some who believe that the Appalachian Trail is used by Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) to migrate along the mountain range.

When you're out and about on South Mountain, keep your eyes and ears open-
 there's no telling what you might encounter.

For more in depth information on some of the hauntings/cryptids, 
please check out the Gettysburg Ghosts blog.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Weekend Hike With the Scouts

 This past week I wasn't able to make it to the gym, and with a weekend camping trip planned with the Cub Scouts, I wasn't sure I would get a decent hike in either.  Luckily, the weather cooperated, and we were able to get out on the trail.  Our Scout District's local camp actually has part of the Appalachian Trail running through it.  I had plans to try to hike to it, but the boys were cold and the snow got deeper and harder to walk through the higher in elevation we got. 

I love taking the Scouts on hikes.  Most of them are so eager to learn and see hikes as a mini adventure.  Because of the snow on the ground, I was able to point out deer, rabbit and racoon tracks.  We also worked on identifying different tree species. But mostly the kids were interested in finding "hiking sticks".

 We hiked for a while until the majority of the group pleaded to head back to camp (there were some who wore sneakers instead of boots), so we decided to turn back.  Though my son, in a rare adventurous moment, asked to hike to the next bend in the road because he saw something interesting he wanted to check out.  We hiked until the snow became a little too deep to walk through comfortably (especially for a smallish person), but we were able to see that the area of interest was the Boy Scout Shotgun Range. 

 All in all, it was a great hike 
and it felt good to be outdoors.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bears on the Bucket List

Me on Smokey's lap
 Ever since I was a little girl, I had a thing for bears.  In fact, I wanted to marry Smokey the Bear back in the day (and if you've ever seen my husband with his shirt off or witnessed him scratching his back on the doorjamb, you'll see my young girl's dream more or less came true).  Even now I can sing the Smokey the Bear song, and I get excited when I get to see him at events. 
Naturally, because of this bear love of mine, I've always wanted to see a bear out in the wild.  I've seen them at the zoo of course, but I want to see one in its natural habitat.  I've looked for them as I've driven through through the mountains, but I've never been able to spy one.  My grandmother saw a small cub once while she was traveling through the George Washington National Forest, but even though I've spent a lot of time in that same forest I've never seen so much as a pile of scat. So this backpacking trip has the ability to let me cross off two things on my bucket list- the trip itself and seeing a bear in the wild.
While the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Shenandoah National Park are the two best spots on the Appalachian Trail to see a bear, there are black bears in Maryland.  Several years ago there was even a report that a hiker staying at the Pine Knob Shelter woke in the middle of the night to find a black bear rooting through their pack.  Even though that was a few years ago, the bear population in Maryland has rebounded quite a bit over the years.  The Maryland DNR's last count in 2011 estimated the bear population at 701 adult and sub-adult bears.  Just a couple of years ago, there was a young black bear roaming Gettysburg and even ventured into parts of Maryland (he spent time in the small town where I live and no, I didn't see him). 
Even though I have a crazy desire to see a bear in the wild, you don't need to worry about me pulling an Arliss on Old Yeller and grabbing a bear cub by the leg to drag it home (my mom would never let me keep it in the barn anyway).  Seriously, I'm aware of the dangers of bears on the trail.    So, here's a basic bear safety run down.

  1. Be Bear Aware- Look for signs of recent bear activity while on the trail.  Things like fresh paw prints, scat and scratched trees can indicate a bear is in the area.  Also, don't hang around animal carcasses (not sure why you would, but don't).  Use bear bags for food and strong smelling items like toothpaste, deodorant or trash and be sure to hang it at night.
  2. Make Your Presence Known-  When hiking through bear country, wear a bear bell, talk or sing while hiking.   
  3. Stay Calm- If you come across a bear that hasn't noticed you, speak quietly, leave the area and don't do anything to provoke it.  Don't try to get closer to get a better picture!
  4. Don't Run- Bears run faster than you.  Also, they climb trees faster than you too.
  5. Wave Your Arms- make yourself look bigger than you are.  If you're in a group, link arms to make your group look like one large creature (all I see is my group of hiking friends linking arms and doing a Rockettes imitation)
  6. Walk Away- But don't turn your back to the bear and don't look him in the eyes.
  7. If a Bear Charges- Don't panic, throw something at the ground to distract it.
  8. If a Bear Attacks- Fight back! Use whatever you have handy- rocks, camera, hiking poles aimed at the bear's eyes, nose or face.
This is just a basic overview of bear safety that applies to Black Bears.  Grizzlies (which aren't on the AT) have a completely different set of rules.  Use your common sense.  Bears are wild animals not cuddly toys.   

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Haunted Appalachian Trail

I mentioned previously that I had come across information about parts of the Appalachian Trail being haunted.  While I'm not surprised to learn that the trail is haunted, I am surprised that it wasn't something I had even considered.  I've been a paranormal investigator for many years, and before that I was a paranormal junkie- going back to the age of 4.  Typically my adventures start with the paranormal, but this particular trip was only about accomplishing something on my list and enjoying the outdoors.  For me, adding in the paranormal has made this the ultimate adventure.
Since I've been trying to come up with something interesting to blog about on my ghost blog (Gettysburg Ghosts), I came up with the idea that I would research ghosts and other paranormal occurrences along the AT.  So from time to time, as I gather my information, I'll throw a post up here about the ghosts and legends of one of 14 states along the AT.  I decided to start with Maryland as that is the state I'll be spending most of my time in during my section hike in October, and it's the state that I have the most knowledge about as far as the paranormal. 
So stay tuned! 
Unless you're worried you'll be too scared to sleep in those shelters.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Getting Out There

Sunday, I made it out on the trail.  Well, not the trail, but a trail at a local state park.  I was joined by my husband, mother and friend who are also going on the big hike plus my son and my friend's son and husband. The trail was muddy and mostly covered in snow, but the temperature was in the low 40's and the wind had stopped. 
Even though this trail is only about 20 minutes from my house, it was the first time I had been on it. The trail is about 1.5 miles and works its way around Lake Marburg.  It's the steeper of the 2 trails there in the park, so it gave us the opportunity to start working on climbing hills.  It also provided insight into who was more adept at following the trail (my husband won't be navigating) and what some of the concerns might be (my husband is worried about food).
This has been the best hike out of the few I've managed so far this year.  Though not as long as I had hoped, it did offer some different terrain.  While going to the gym and working out is definitely something that is needed, nothing compares to actually going out and hiking the trails.  Letting your body experience the actual conditions you're working on tackling (like terrain) prepares you more than working on the smooth elliptical or treadmill.  And nothing compares to being out in nature, which is also a mood booster.  All in all, it was a great way to spend some time in the afternoon with friends and family.  And did I mention not once did my 8 year old ask "How much further" or "Are we almost done" or "Can we go back", instead he asked if we could turn around and hike it again in the opposite direction. Though we didn't turn around and hike back (though part of me is sorry we didn't), we do plan on going out at least once each weekend to hike various trails in the area.  There will also be some overnight trips planned once the weather improves.  I am beyond excited about all of it, not just the actual trip (though I'm soo ready to go!) but all the preparing leading up to it.  Knowing there are going to be regular hikes each week gives me something to look forward to.
So, for those of you dealing with the winter blues or SAD or depression or couch potatoitis, get out there.  Take your kids and go outside and hike.  It really does make you happier. 

Photo of 4 out of the 7 of our motley crew of hikers who 
will be braving the section hike in October.