Catoctin Trail, Cat Rock Frederick, Maryland

I wouldn't even bother to write about today except that it was so darned hilarious.

Today's adventure almost never happened. It started off with ActiveCham having a conversation with LazyCham this morning.

ActiveCham: For God's sakes, we've been lazying around in this house for 2 days. Let's get out of the bed and do something!
LazyCham: But this bed is so nice and toasty warm. Let's stay home.
ActiveCham: Our muscles are atrophying, get up.
LazyCham: Bed, bed, bed.
ActiveCham: Okay, we'll compromise, we'll take a quick daytrip to a trail that is really close to home and we will be back early.
LazyCham: Okay, but not too far.

I got up and was in the car by 9AM. I was so proud of myself because I remembered to pack the headlamp and emergency blanket. All I needed was some petrol and coffee and I was going to be off....until I got to the gas station. While pumping my gas I did notice that one of my rear tires looked very close to exploding, it was misshapen and bald. Okay, hike cancelled, off to the tire store.

I drove to Sam's Club and spoke to the tire guy. I am pretty sure I told him that I needed some new tars (have I lived here that long?). Tire guy was very nice and within 20 minutes I was sporting a new set of Goodrich's at a very competitive price. Thanks tire guy for the speedy service!

So now it is 9:40AM. On the way to the trail I had a little problem with my bladder. No not that bladder, the one that goes in my pack. So this involves another stop and I finally end up in the Catoctin Manor area at 11AM. I thought I was completely prepared for a day of hiking although a little late until I hit the trail.

I noticed a group of orange circus clowns with guns at the trailhead. I forgot, today is the opening day of firearms season for bambi here in Merryland and I had seriously forgotten to wear orange. I was dressed very fashionably head to toe in black, and, I might say so myself, I did look rather stylish but not noticeable in, let's say, fuschia or magenta which probably would have been a better color choice for the day. You never know which one of these hunting fruitloops are on the sauce and which one of them is working with their 3 year old on their first kill which is why you want to be as visible as possible.

I figured I would take my chances and head out anyway, there was a light dusting of the first snow on the ground from the night before. I saw probably 30 hunters but only one deer carcass. One hunter was complaining about his knees another whined that he was tired, and none of these unhappy hunters were more than a half mile from the trailhead. Every hunter I know in my personal and professional life is either an alcoholic or spends 11 month of the year in their basement making bullets. And yet the first day of deer season they start traipsing in the woods expecting to walk for miles and be able to drag a 50 pound carcass back to their cars.

One hunter even had the nerve to tell me I shouldn't be in the woods. I told him that shooting me would be a very very bad idea. What I should have said was, "Honey, I am out in these woods all year every year, if anything, you are on my turf. Maryland is still a blue state and I am sure my family would make that negligent homicide charge stick to you like a cheap suit."

Since it was cold and brisk I was able to make incredible time and did the 6 miles to Cat Rock in 1.5 hours, the trail has about a 1000 foot rise. I decided to go as fast as I could on the way back until I got to Bob's Hill overlook where I met another hiker named Jeb who was from Finksburg. I decided to walk with Jeb back to the car since if somebody fired at us I'd have a 50/50 chance of survival. Jeb, by the way, wants to make sure that I mention in the blog that he hiked the Grand Canyon 7 times.

The nice thing about being done early is that one has time to get a civilized meal in Frederick. I want to mention something about the wonderful little town of Frederick, Maryland. I've been hiking in this region for 23 year. When I first visited Frederick it seemed like every storefront was either empty or had thrift shop with the exception of Bushwallers and The Trail House. Over the last 23 years, the population of Frederick changed from a sleepy farm community to a suburb of a suburb of Montgomery County. Mind you, the place has the ugliest townhomes on the planet and a sea of hideous big box retailers on its outskirts, but there is no, if, ands, or buts, Frederick's downtown area is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Every storefront is occupied with wonderful restaurants, jewelry and crafts stores. And, best of all, there is not one chain restaurant in its 8 or 9 blocks. I don't know how the little city pulled that off but it was marvelously successful. If you ever want a great experience, visit Frederick.

White Oak Canyon Shenadoahs, Luray, Waterfall Mountain, Virginia

I lied about the biscuits. I wanted to have an adventure last weekend but I was ill. A smart move would have been to wait until Thanksgiving and have a 4-day extravaganza but the weather was to be stupendous and I was restless so I hastily planned a trip, more like I did no planning at all.

Basically what I did was throw a clean shirt and some socks in the car and drove off at 7AM Saturday morning. I've always wanted to hike Whiteoak Canyon in the Shenandoahs, I had heard some good things about the trail so I thought I should give it a go. Naturally it would have been helpful to have a map of the area and some food but you can't plan everything. On my way there I stopped in the Sheetz Station in Warren, VA to buy a sandwich and was helpful in performing a successful Spanish to Ebonics translation for a latino and the counter help. It was evident that Saturday was going to be a great day.

I then had the problem of finding the trailhead, I knew White Oak was near Old Rag so I headed off in that direction.. When I got to Old Rag Mountain in Virginia I didn't know whether I had found a trailhead or experienced black friday at Wal-Mart. I never saw so many crazed hikers in one spot in my life. I wanted to run screaming through the parking lot, "Boyscouts, this is not what hiking and the outdoors is about. Please run away from your troop leaders immediately and find a more peaceful mountain!" But I was pressed for time and I still didn't know where the Whiteoak trailhead was so I refrained from causing a scene.

After driving around directionless I stumbled upon a sign for the Whiteoak trailhead. Although there were a number of hikers there too, they were in good spirits and I didn't mind the company. This particular trail in the canyon has a whole bunch of waterfalls and here are some pictures that I took with my cell phone, as my digital camera is on loan. The first part of the hike was a 2000 foot ascent but it felt like 500 feet because of all the nice switchbacks and well maintained trail. I met a couple of guys, John and George, who had roomed together at East Carolina State and were off on a hiking adventure of their own. They gave me some trail mix which was much appreciated because, of course, I failed to bring any food with me other than my Sheetz sandwich.

Normally I avoid the Shenandoahs like the plague because I feel that when you get to a precipice of a mountain you should be treated to peaceful serenity and a beautiful view, not cars and fatties which is what you get here because of the easy vehicle access of Skyline Drive that traverses the range. Sure enough I arrived at the top and there was a large family of orbs at the Whiteoak sweatpants...standing next to their giant SUV. I was temporarily blinded but sallied forth anyway.

Not wanting to go back the same way I came I figured I would romp south on the white-dotted trail a bit. It was cold up there and I saw lots of ice, which should have told me something about what to expect during the night. I met one guy from Salisbury State University complaining about all the beer he had to lug around while backpacking. I told him that in this weather the last thing he should have in his backpack was beer but he was determined, I hope he didn't catch influenza or somesuch.

Now things were going swimmingly up to this point in my adventure. However, during this time of year you have to pay special attention to the clock since sundown is at a firm 5PM. If you don't get out of the woods early you end up with a grande problemo. Naturally I forgot to take my headlamp and emergency blanket (I always seem to forget to take my headlamp and emergency blanket). I thought everything was going to be okay because I had 3 miles left, it was 2:40PM and I hike at 3 miles per hour. So I figured I would be back at my car at 3:40PM. What I had failed to realize was that I had a 2000 foot descent in a 2 mile distance on the Cedar Run trail. This trail was hardly maintained at all, was straight down and it was treacherous, especially since I was on the east side of the mountain and had no light. To make matters worse I had met 2 souls on the trail that were lost so I had to get them off the trail too. I had no clue as to where I was going and had to deal with about 4 stream crossings which were no picnic.

I arrived at my car at 5PM on the nose. The sun had just about disappeared and I didn't want to start driving around so I decided to stay put and sleep at the trailhead for the night. There wasn't much to do at the trailhead so I decided to go to bed eary after eating my remaining half a sandwich. All I can say is that it was colder than a witch's tit there and I had a heck of a time trying to get some sleep. I felt incredibly sorry for all those trying to sleep in the shelters at the top of the Shenandoah ridge. Brrrrr.

This morning I woke up and decided to head into Luray, VA for breakfast. Virginia to me means country ham and I wanted a big slice. I found Uncle Buck's Family Restaurant in downtown Luray. That place had pork and steak and trout and country ham and biscuits and gravy on the breakfast menu. I was very hungry, the food was absolutely delicious. I had the ham but I was dying to try the breakfast trout. I bet dinner there is amazing.

I felt my legs getting a little stiff and I knew I wasn't up for another 10 mile steep hike, so I drove toward the Masanuttens to see what I could see. I found the Storybook Trail over at Waterfall Mountain, 1/4 mile of paved trail with an overlook deck, with signage of information about geology. This trail was all I could do, I just wasn't up for a rock scramble over at Duncan Knob. I learned all about sandstone, shale and limestone and about how mountains folded and crumbled, but most of the information has already leaked out of my noggin. All I remember was that all these caverns in the area were formed by shale dissolving away or maybe it was limestone. Either way, I'm not that fond of caves because I find them claustraphobic so I don't really need to know anyway.

After I got done over at Waterfall Mountain I couldn't think of anything else to do with my time since I was too stiff to hike, so I drove home.

East Side Hike

The East Side Hike was something I concocted when I was logging one of my many many miles that I trek through Baltimore City. I was over on the East Side last year and I thought, "Why am I the only white person around here? This place is so beautiful it has to be seen by the masses!" So I decided to devise a route that would be strenuous enough to attract hikers yet picturesque enough to be interesting. Soon after I came back from Peru I scouted my hike and was satisfied that it would entertain.

However, I wondered about how I would get the word out that I was offering this hike on November 5th. Being the creative and organized person that I am I placed word of the hike on two event calendars hoping to attract at least one other person. Those calendars were on Live Baltimore and the Baltimore Sun. I also handed flyers out at the Mountain Club of Maryland picnic.

I was a little concerned that nobody would want to come on my hike. The last week of October I received a call from an intern at the Baltimore Sun. She said she wanted some more details about the hike so I gave them to her without a second thought. Live Baltimore also asked for a few more details. By Halloween 4 people from MCOM had requested to go on my hike so I was glad that I wouldn't be alone. On November 2nd, Live Baltimore posted a link to my hike and my email box became full very quickly with people requesting more information. On November 3rd the Baltimore Sun published this article and my poor cell phone started ringing off the hook. I ended up with more people than I could count.

Anyhoo, here are some of the pics. We started at the Pagoda. The Patterson Park people were nice enough to open it up for my group. Then we headed north to the Brewery.
Baltimore Cemetery

Then we went to Clifton Park which was beautiful in the fall.

After that, Lake Montabello where we traversed the Jersey wall. Afterwards we went to Waveryly to enjoy lunch. Many hikers had a civilized meal at the Thai Restaurant

Guilford, pretty colors and so very peaceful.

The crowd creates a mutiny and demands we visit Greenmount Cemetery which was not on my original route. Turns out it was an excellent idea.

Hopkins Billings Building was beautiful against the afternoon sky. Then we returned to the Patterson Park area.

The nice folks over at REI gave me some give-aways. That was very nice of them. Everyone got a water bottle, key chain, carabener and coupon. Thank you REI.