Saturday, November 19, 2022

Appalachian Trail Overnighter: Gathland State Park to Harpers Ferry

My brother and nephew at Gathland State Park, MD

My nephew collecting water at the spring near the shelter

large afternoon gathering at the shelter

we found a nice quiet camp along the ridge

weaverton cliffs

footbridge into Harpers Ferry

shuttle bus

My brother contacted me and told me that my nephew was interested in some backpacking on the AT. We chose a 10 mile section of trail: Gathland State Park to Harpers Ferry. It was a perfect section to introduce my nephew into the backpacking lifestyle. I met my brother and nephew at the Harpers Ferry Visitors Center lot at 9:00am last Saturday. There was a 20 dollar entrance fee. After filling out a permit to leave my car overnight at the lot, my brother, nephew and I drove my brother's car to Gathland State Park and parked his car there, no fee. After packing up our backpacks, we hit the Appalachian Trail at 10:00 am. Our goal was to hike about five miles and camp, then do five miles on Sunday and call it good. 

It felt great to be back on the trail. We took our time, temps rose into the 60's, gray and overcast. After lunch we came upon the shelter. There was a large group gathered there for a cookout. Our goal was to get some water and hike another mile or so and camp on the ridge. The water was about .4 miles down off the mountain. By 3:00, we were ready to find a place to camp.

We found a nice semi flat area off the trail and set up our tents and made a little fire. After eating dinner, it was already getting dark shortly after 5:00. We managed to stay up until about 7:00 before heading to our tents for the night. Minutes after getting into our tents the wind began to pick up. It was literally old man winter bearing down on the mountains. Temperatures plummeted. The forest was absolutely howling in the middle of the night as a cold front was passing though, I can't recall ever hearing it roar like that before. 

When we woke up in the morning, it was hat/glove/down coat weather. Wind was blowing most of the day Sunday and temperatures stayed in the 40's. After breaking down camp, we hiked down the ridge to Weaverton Cliffs where we enjoyed a nice view. Then we hiked off the mountain to the C&O Canal and hiked a leisurely 3 flat miles to Harpers Ferry. There we picked up a shuttle bus right as we arrived in town which drove us back to the Visitors Center and my car. There we drove back to my brother's car at Gathland State Park. Everything went off without a hitch...

Sunday, November 6, 2022



Man, it's been too long since I posted last. Truth of the matter is, I haven't been out and about hiking and exploring much at all this year. The hiking I have been doing has been very localized and usually a weekend morning just to get a little exercise. I'm definitely in a lull at the moment, but also realize that it's just a different chapter, and things can change.

Speaking of change, it's been a wonderful fall this year. Colors were dampened at first and then suddenly took off. We had a couple days the last two weeks that were among the finest I have ever experienced in Maryland. One occurred when leaves were at their peak. A weather system brought in the cleanest, crystal blue skies I have ever seen around here, and it happened on a weekend. It was God's gift to outdoor lovers in Maryland and I think most of us took advantage of it. I took a forest walk that was among the nicest I have taken in some time. 

At the moment, trees are shedding leaves fast. Day light savings time is over, and early dark nights will once again be upon us. Cold air will return and we will retreat to our warm, cozy places. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Linden Oak Has Died ~ 1722-2022?

Today I was on my way to the local REI to pick up some fuel for a 10-day, bike/camp trip I hope to begin tomorrow. I glanced to my right to catch a glimpse of the Linden Oak, while driving up Wisconsin Avenue. I was saddened to see the Linden Oak has died. It was thought to be 300 years old and Maryland's second oldest tree. It must have died over the winter. I wrote a post about it in 2016, when I revisited it to get some tree measurements.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Bike/Camping Along Part of the C&O Towpath: Part 3 of 3

Breakfast at Brunswick Family Campground

Point of Rocks

Peak Bluebells

Monacacy Aqueduct

Maryland's Largest Tree

 April 15, 2022

I slept pretty well all things considered. It became chilly and a little frosty overnight with a lot of condensation on my tent. I took my time waking and getting up. I slowly packed up my gear and took some time to dry out my tent. It was a cool, crisp, but crystal clear sunny morning. I made some coffee, recharged my batteries in the campground pavilion. I was still feeling high from the first warm days of spring and waking up from the winter slumber. Colors were vivid, wildflowers everywhere, leaves just budding on trees. The Potomac River looked cold and refreshing. Trains moved down the tracks. My bike was in good working order. After packing up and hitting the canal, I found myself saying to no one in particular "I love this!" 

I had 35 miles to ride back to my car. From Brunswick to around mile 20. I noticed some discomfort in my left knee again after a few miles which I wasn't thrilled about. I stopped for lunch at the Monacacy Aqueduct and scored a picnic table all to myself nearby. I drank in the cool shade and the vivid greens and blues all around me. Downed an Ibuprofen for my knee. After lunch, I stopped by and paid a visit to Maryland's Largest Tree, about a mile detour. I hid my bike in the forest and hiked to the tree. A stiff headwind picked up in the afternoon, but the miles were ticking off easily enough. My knee felt no worse than before. I bought another Gatorade and chips at White's Ferry. Later met a guy with a backpack hiking north on the towpath. I asked him how far he was heading. He said he was walking all the way to San Francisco and had been on the trail for two weeks! As I approached mile 20 and the end of my trip, I slowed down considerably and just soaked in the perfect weather and ease of the bike. Before long, I was back to my car and had successfully completed my first bike/camping trip. 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Bike/Camping Along Part of the C&O Towpath ~ Day 2 of 3

Had to stop and fix my front pannier rack which kept slipping when I'd hit a bump

Although I didn't need to use them, I was relieved to discover that the water pump handles at the hiker/biker campsites had been installed for the season just a few days prior.

Virginia bluebells were in peak bloom

Biking into White's Ferry

I stopped by the store for a morning Gatorade and snack.

Ferry still not in service due to a land dispute

Big snapping turtle waking up from a winter's nap

Big maple tree near Dickerson Conservation Park

Baby snapper on the towpath

Dickerson power plant

One of my favorite landmarks along the towpath: The Monacacy Aqueduct.

Point of Rocks

Camp for the night: Brunswick Family Campground

 My allergies were out of control the night before. So stuffed up, then my nose would run like a faucet, headache. Somehow, I managed to sleep through the night despite those issues. Woke up groggy, but ready for another day. Coffee would do me good. My allergies were probably due to the fact that the tree leaves were just starting to bud and I was camped in grass. Usually I have a couple bad days of allergies in the spring, and then I'm good to go for the rest of the spring/summer. In hindsight, this was the case once again.

The morning temperatures were perfect for riding, and once again, found myself really, really enjoying the morning bike ride. Before long, I was in White's Ferry and stopped for a short break and snack. Several other bikers were coming and going, as well as a few other visitors. North of White's Ferry felt like a dreamland, as Virginia Bluebells, in peak bloom, lined both sides of the towpath. It was a feast for the eyes, colors everywhere. I was fascinated how different it looked compared to the usual green tunnel in the summer. An older woman, a C&O towpath volunteer asked me where I camped the night before. She said it was the perfect time to see the bluebells along the river. I had to agree. Later, I saw a red tailed hawk swoop down and pick a snake out of the canal.

By the time I reached the Monocacy Aqueduct, it began to cloud up a bit, although temps were still warm. Eventually I arrived in Point of Rocks where I was hoping to buy a sub sandwich from the deli. I was sad to see that it was closed when I arrived. I'm not sure if it was closed for the day or permanently. Hard to tell these days. Instead, I ate a snack under a pavilion in town. My left knee started to hurt a little, which concerned me a bit. I've had two knee surgeries on it a long time ago. My knee never really gave me any issue on all of the hikes I have done. But it was definitely hurting and feeling tender from riding the bike. I had to push on 5 more miles to get to the Brunswick Family Campground for the night, and just tried not to put too much pressure on it.

Just as it began to rain a little, I reached the campground in Brunswick and scored a campsite in the field. There were only a few other campers there for the night, so it made for a really peaceful evening. I've always liked the campground, despite the train noises. It adds to the experience in my opinion. I was treated to a really nice sunset in the evening. Another great day overall...