County Line Trail, West Virginia GWNF

I had a book I wanted to read and decided to get the peace and quiet necessary to plow through it, I would have to backpack somewhere that didn't have Internet, computer, TV and phone. West Virginia is always a good place for this.

Friday I headed out to the Waites Run area, only to wake up to a soft rain on Saturday morning. So I headed over to the White Star restaurant in Wardensville. This place was opened in 1935 and has pretty much stayed the same since. The prices haven't changed much either which is why I highly recommend it. If you want to talk to the other customers, though, you will need to study Advanced Hillbilly beforehand.

I got back to Waites Run and headed north on the County Line section of the Tuscarora Trail. Again, the Tuscarora is more overgrown and less used than the AT but I favor it over its much traveled cousin. There are a lot of rocks and it can be slippery when wet, but the difficulty gives you a reward with a less-used trail and some spectacular views. Please see that the red fall leaves are just poking through. Most people head south on it from this area, but heading north about 3.5 miles from this location gave me an unbelievable view of both Paddy Ridge, Baker Mountain and Pine Ridge as well as some amazing wild flowers.

I got to the Paul Gerhard shelter, which was nice as shelters go, and made the decision to turn back and go up the ridge to spend the night. This was a bright idea at the time but the minute it turned dark a vicious wind came at me from over the ridge. It was a hot wind too. My tent, which I purchased for the sole purpose was that it could withstand some wind, was beaten around. I drifted in and out of a difficult sleep but I didn't feel like breaking camp in the middle of the night to make the descent to the shelter. I don't like sleeping in shelters.

I awoke to a pleasant day and made my way back on Vance's Cove and Wilson Cove trail. I have a new treat for you guy, since I had time I played around with the video feature on my camera.

Perhaps I spent a little too much time in the gym this summer.

Here are my Wild Flower pics:

Gwynns Falls Bike/Hike, Orianda Mansion, Baltimore

This was another one of my Mountain Club or Maryland hikes but this time I threw in the bike part which was a twist.(They are working on the website so that link may or may not work). The weather was misty, cloudy and lousy, so I was pretty surprised when 3 unsuspecting souls decided to brave the elements with me and join me for this hike/bike event.

Andy, Jan, John and myself started at the trailhead at the Baltimore Rowing Club off of Waterview Avenue. We biked through Pigtown, past the hookers and the tweekers and then headed west on the Gwynns Falls Trail. Since we had had some rain recently the falls were flowing well and didn't smell too bad. We headed into the park and looked up our bikes at the Windsor Mill Road Trailhead (T3). The we took the trails through the park and stopped in at the Carrie Murray Nature Center to see all the neat animals they have in cages. They take in all sorts of reptiles and birds that people had as pets but for which they could no longer care.

We then made our way through the woods to the Orianda Mansion. Never heard of it? Well, it is the mansion part of the Crimea Estate. I've never been in the mansion but our group ran into a man named Rick Smith who offered up a tour. It turns out some group is fixing the place up and you will be able to rent it out for parties, weddings and such. Currently, the Outward bound group occupies the upper 2 floors and they have found a new use for sleeping bags: Window treatments. Who knew?

We then made our way up to the chapel and got to see the inside of that as well but I didn't take any pictures. We meandered back to the bikes and had a pleasant ride back to our cars.

Water Skiing on the Potomac

But wait you say, Cham doesn't own a boat, nor water skis, nor does she know how to water ski, nor does she know anyone that water skis. Relax, just listen to the story.

Considering I was still tired from last week I didn't have any big plans to hike, or bike or tube. I wasn't going to even go anywhere but I didn't feel like staying home. So I decided to drive a short distance to Williamsport on Friday night, ride up the C&O a bit with the bike and camp out at Jordon Junction and decide what to do from there. The plan went well, I swam in the river and fell asleep early when my little campsite appeared to be raided by loud teenagers at around 10:30PM. I lay in my tent preparing to go postal Baltimore style, a routine I reserve for drunks that keep me awake, but I decided to hold off and the kids fell asleep by 11PM so they were lucky. The next morning I awoke to find a brat camp contingent from the Judge Patrick D. Molinari Juvenile Shelter in Manassas. I decided to rat the kids out to their leaders, then I felt bad when the leaders made the kids apologize to me. They turned out to be really nice kids who didn't quite understand campsite etiquette.

I decided to take the car down to Damn #4 near Big Slackwater on the C&O and head north on the tow path with the bike. The map looked like the trail was there. So I set off only to find the trail was unmaintained. The first thing I did was fall off the bike and get all scraped up. Then, I realized there were cobwebs and spiderwebs everywhere that got into my hair and all over me. Then the towpath ended after about 2 miles. I was irritated and my bike was covered with mud. The only good news was that an osprey flew slowly about 20 feet over my head, very neat.

I got back to my car and tried to wash the bike off at the boat ramp by the river when I heard somebody ask me whether I wanted to go water skiing on the Potomac. I wasn't having much fun with the bike and water skiing sounded like a much better option so I agreed even though I didn't really know anything about the sport. The group that invited me consisted of Butch, Danny, Jesse, Caleb, Dave, Scott and Bugs. There was another dog but I forgot the name.

I will not tell you the details of my water skiing lesson but all I can say was that I was not graceful. I fell the first time, the second time I couldn't stand up (not pretty) and finally got up for about 30 seconds the third time. I was pretty sore from falling off the bike so I figured I wouldn't push my luck. Fortunately for me, nobody took a picture of me water skiing but I did take a bunch of everyone else. So here they all are. I had a really great time on the river, thanks very much to all of you for putting up with me!!!!

After skiing I went up to Berkeley Springs and returned to the Red Guitar Coffee Bar and listened to Brooksie Wells complain about her exes. It made me realize I'm glad I'm me. The manager at the coffee bar didn't mind if I spent the night in the parking lot. I was pretty stiff the next day so I hit the Berkeley Springs farmers market, managed to talk myself out of another massage and headed home leisurely.

Little Devil's Staircase

I made a reluctant trip back to the Shenandoah's this weekend. It was the start of the hiking season this weekend, mind you the hiking season last 10.5 months, leaving out half of July and most of August because it is just too darned hot. I wanted an ascent, and when one wants to climb one goes to the staircase: Little Devil's that is. You can get some good elevation changes in this area of the park if you can get mentally beyond that Skyline Drive disaster at the top.

Ernesto came to town and dumped massive amounts of rain on the mountains, I didn't realize how this would affect me. I thought I might be able to do something with Saturday so I left Friday night. I made it all the way to Flint Hill and got sick of the rain so I spent the night in a shopping area parking lot. It was still raining when I woke so I decided to take the car along the north section of Skyline drive. It was raining a lot at the top of the mountain. I had some fun arguing with the park rangers about back country permits, until they caved and told me they could make special arrangements for me if I needed.

I couldn't do much else with the day but read some magazines in the Wal-Mart parking lot and wait for it to clear up. This picture, BTW, is of the Luray Recreational Park's attack dog. When you do any cooking at this place this pomeranian will antagonize you until you hand over some turkey bacon. I spent the night at the Little Devil's trailhead which was very nice and dark, off of Keyser Run Road. I got up and hit the trail around 9AM on Sunday, and realized I had made a bit of a mistake, well, a huge mistake. Keyser run usually is just a picturesque trickle, but after two days of steady rain it was more a series of raging waterfalls. There are 14 stream (river) crossings on Little Devil's Staircase which are usually a piece of cake, on Sunday it was a real chore not to get the socks wet.
The trail was slippery as well.

I managed to make it to the top with one wet and one dry sock. I changed socks and thought that I had finished with the problems. Not so, when I got to the headwaters of Piney River, it was raging. I had to take off my shoes to get across. Then, of course, I hit the dreaded Skyline Drive. I don't know what the allure is, people drive this miserable road, see almost nothing except overlooks and then stop off at the Elkwallow Wayside concession to eat unhealthy food and smoke cigarettes. I can think of better ways to spend the day.

I had to do an easy stretch on the AT to get to the Thornton River Trail, an easy descent but an additional 5 river crossings. The plan was to take the Hull School Trail back to the car. I was going slower than normal because of more treacherous stream crossing and the slick surface of the trail. But I thought I was doing pretty well for time. There is a small problem with the trail markers in the Shenandoahs. They are printed on a metal band wrapped around a concrete pole. You have to have the eyes of the bionic woman to read them. Although I had been in the area before, the whole area looked different due to all the raging water around me. I failed to read the trail markers at every intersection, and I made a really really big booboo.

I went the wrong way.

The sun was going down.

I realized what I needed to do to get back on track and it was 50/50 whether I would make it back to my car before sundown. I had a light jacket, a whistle and headlamp, as well as plenty of food with me but I really didn't feel like using the braille method to get me out of the woods. Luckily there were 2 fly fishermen in the woods and I did something that is very unusual for me.....ask for help.

I told the fishermen about my predicament and asked for a car ride to my car, which they happily obliged. I gave them $10 for their trouble and told them to buy themselves a beer. Even with the wrong turns I still managed about 18 miles and about 3700 feet of elevation change.

I spent the night on Happy Creek Road in Front Royal, where there is a great deal of high speed unsecured WiFi. I made my way back to Baltimore via Winchester, Martinsburg, Williamsport and Hagerstown.