Saturday, December 27, 2014

Getting Lost is a Perk of Hiking

Approx 7:45 a.m. Sun rising over
the I- 95 bridge
Sometime the purpose of a hike is to get lost. But today, I think it's the trail that got lost not me.

Today I went to Susquehanna State Park in Maryland. It's about an hour drive south on 95. It sounds
far because it's in another state but the drive was only a few minutes more than driving out to French Creek SP in PA. I wanted to visit this park after seeing Destrie, an MLC trail runner, posting about it. Great views and lots of climbing. I need the climbing to get ready for super hike and great views are always a plus.

I studied the park maps online but did not have one with me. I saw that the red blazed ridge trail had a trailhead at the boat launch on Lapidurm Road and I headed there to start. I couldn't find the trail at first. I started down an abandoned railroad but when that became too overgrown to pass through I turned around. I was just about to give up and drive to another spot when I noticed a rocky ledge with signpost near it. I walked over to look at it and that's when I saw the trail marker.

As soon as I was on the trail I could see why Destrie likes the ridge trail so much. It is a narrow tree lined trail that climbs and descends repeatedly opening up at times to provide awesome views of the river. There quite a few views through the trees but those will disappear in Spring and Summer. I look forward to seeing the trail then, too.

A short way in I came to the junction with the white blazed Land of Promise Trail. I made a mental note of where I was. My plan was to follow the ridge trail to the northern end of the park at the Deer Creek picnic area then follow the Farm Road Trail back to the grist mill and then the Land of Promise Trail back to this spot. That was the plan, anyway.

The ridge trail descended to the road just before the grist mill. I discovered a historic walking trail and decided to take that. I figured it probably went around the Rock Run Historic Area and would bring me back to the street eventually. It did and on the way I got a nice tour of the area. I also found the connection to the Land of Promise Trail which I would need to know for later.

Back at the street and the mill I tried to resume my hike on the ridge trail. I found the red blazes on two trees along the road and then - poof - they disappeared. I went back and forth a couple of times but found no marker indicating a turn. I followed the road for a bit knowing that I really wanted to be up there...
In real life it was steeper
than it looks here. The photo begins
partway up the hill
I toyed briefly with the idea of climbing up that hillside to find the trail. I decided against it for two reasons. #1 If I got up there and the trail wasn't there I'd have to come back down. In my head, coming down is harder than going up. I am afraid of falling. In fact, reason #1a would be that I could get part way up and if I stopped and looked down I'd freeze and have to be rescued by the fire department or something like that. And reason #2 for not climbing up was that although there did appear to be sufficient rocks, roots and trees to keep me moving and supported in an upward direction, if I was wrong and fell down the hill I would land on a somewhat busy street with a blind curve right there.

So instead I followed the Mason Dixon Trail which was now following the river. This meant much more flatland than I had anticipated but it was better than no hike at all. I figured I'd follow this for a couple of miles and if I didn't find the Deer Creek picnic area I would simply turn around and retrace my steps back to the car. A few miles later I came to a trail and bridge that went across a creek away from the Mason Dixon Trail. No signage except for a Susquehanna Heritage Trail sign similar to the ones I had seen back at the Grist Mill town. I have to admit that I pulled up the GPS on my phone here to see if I could tell where the Deer Creek picnic area was. It looked like this spur trail went in the general direction of the picnic area so I decided to try it.
Deer Creek
I came to a road with a directional sign for the picnic area. Just off the road was a dirt trail (better than road any day). I decided to follow it figuring that if it strayed from following the road I'd hop back down to the road. Just as the trail started to veer off from the road I was met by a couple and their dog. They informed me that yes this trail led to the picnic area. Not in a straight line but I did get there.

I found a map kiosk and determined where the trails back to the Grist Mill went off. I found the junction of the Farm Road Trail and the Ridge Trail. I decided to go back on the Ridge Trail so I could find out where it meets up with the Grist Mill village. Well,it turns out the Ridge Trail follows a road to the left just past the Mill for a short distance and then descends to cross the creek and head back up to the ridge. When I got to the road I looked again....and there is no clear indication of that in terms of trail blazes. I suppose if I had a park trail map I might have found it but I didn't.

I passed on the creek crossing here. I got half way across and realized I was going to end up IN the creek no matter what and I just wasn't in the mood for it. I had a towel and dry socks in my pack but still opted to cut off on a trail that others had blazed back out to the street and cross the creek on the bridge. Wimpy perhaps but that water was going to be very cold.

Also, as I approached the village I stopped to look down at the road where I had contemplated climbing up. Now that I knew for certain the trail was at the top, I think I could have made it. But it was a smart move to skip that adventure without that knowledge.

I found the Land of Promise trail and followed it around to the ridge trail and back to my car. The ridge trail has great views but I think the Land of Promise trail had more climbing. I'll look at my Garmin info more closely later to see of that's true or if it just felt that way because I was nearing the end of a 4 hour hike.

I had a great time today. I recommend a visit to this area. If you don't want to climb there is plenty of trail along the river instead. Long post today. Thanks for staying with me.

Keep smiling and keep moving,

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy.

Which may (partly) explain the obsession with shadow pictures. 

Media is "Everybody's Hometown" and I guess that makes Ridley Creek State Park "Everybody's Hometown Park". At least it's mine. Less than 10 minute drive from my house it is perfect for Sunday morning hikes. I can sleep in a bit (something I seem to want to do more as I get older), get in a decent hike and be home before the day is all but gone. It's nice to follow up Saturday's longer adventures with a shorter, familiar hikes close to home. RCSP is also big enough that I can put longer hikes together when I want. My longest to date is 13+ miles and there was plenty more to go without doubling back yet. 

Another benefit to RCSP is that bikes are restricted to the multi-use trail. I appreciate that mountain biking is the sport of choice for many and when I go to places like Smedley Park or Wissahickon I expect to be sharing the trails with them and I'm ok with that. It's a different kind of hike though. It's nice to have a spot I can go and not have to be on that kind of alert. 

Yesterday's gray skies gave way to full sunshine. I took my time enjoying the sun and the trails. I'll say no more and just leave you with a few pictures. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

HST Hike: Scotts Run Lake to Northside Road

..... and UP to Critter hill. That is significant after a 9 mile hike.

Today's hike started at Scotts Run Lake at French Creek State Park (the start and finish of last year's MLC 50 SOS). On the way there I picked up Alexis at her house which is very near our planned end point. We left my car at Scotts Run Lake and began the hike back to Northside Road. Today was a gray December day; temps in the low 30s and cloudy. I had propped my sunglasses on top of my hat before leaving but never put them on during the hike. Despite the gray the hike was anything but dreary. I enjoyed the chance to catch up with Alexis and be out on the trails. I did not get out last weekend. I had to work on Saturday and had family stuff and errands to do on Sunday. I did nothing at all during this week either and I did wonder if 9 miles was too ambitious. But I'm home now (duh) had a shower and I feel pretty good. And even after the hour long ride home getting out of the car was not bad. I could tell I had hiked but did not wobble (or fall down!)

The Horse-shoe trail takes off from Scott Run Lake by going across the lake then taking a large counter clockwise loop in the woods around the edges of the park on the other side of the lake. You can see the map my Garmin drew here. After passing along Hopewell lake the trail enters into Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. If you look closely at the Garmin map you can see the blip of a detour we took to visit the restrooms at the visitor center and have a snack. It was here that we encountered some runners who commented on the thoroughness of the blaze orange we both wore. The runners had some flashes of it but not full coverage. I commented that we were not moving as fast as they were. They laughed but I felt like they wished they were wearing more. We did not encounter any hunters directly this time but we could hear the gunshots at different times today.

After Hopewell the trail is mostly in woods again except for a gravel road section called Green Lane. It was on Green Lane that we saw a pile of junk. It wasn't garbage trash but rather personal belongings of sorts. I thought it looked like someone had moved recently and didn't have room in their new place so they dumped the stuff. Whatever the reason it's wrong and sad. Alexis found an address on something in the pile and planned to report it to the park office when we got back.

Photo does not do Alexis'
driveway justice. It winds and
climbs quite a bit
We reached Northside Road and headed for Alexis' house. She and her family live on a hill.To get to the house from the street one must climb a long winding driveway. A cruel joke after a long hike after about 10 days of inactivity. This was the only part of today's miles that I felt out of breath. Alexis runs this for hill-work. I'm very much in awe of her!

According to the guide book it's about 9 trail miles from Scotts Run to Northside Road. My Garmin and Alexis' Strava app on her phone were about a mile apart most of  the way. My guess is that reality is somewhere in between.I left the Garmin running during the stop at Hopewell and still we averaged a really good pace. A great day on the trails and now I have to try to keep some workout momentum going.

With today's section I've completed just under 40 miles of the HST from Valley Forge to French Creek State Park. Only 100 or so more to go! :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Slow run in the cold beats warm bike ride to nowhere beats sitting on the couch.

Tonight began what will likely become a love-hate relationship with the Olive Street Parking Garage. I walked to the garage from home to warm up. Beside the fact that warming up is a good idea it is near freezing out tonight with wind chill near 20. Once there, I ran up the stairs on the Baltimore Pike side to the top (3rd) level; around the top level to the Baker Street side and then down the steps; around the block to the Baltimore Pike stairs and repeated for a total of 4 circuits. Then I jogged home.

Details here.

Just over 2.5 miles total. Longest run on pavement in over two years and longest run period since last Bob Potts training run 18 months ago. Except for feeling lopsided - tighter on the right side - it felt good to run. And the reminder that I need to get back to strength exercises was a good thing. It felt good to get my heart rate up and feel the cold in my lungs & on my skin. There are some things about running that I miss. Like watching your breath in the beam of a headlamp. Under the influence of mind altering drugs it would probably be hours of entertainment. As it was sober me was giggling at it most of the way home. Talk about distraction!

For those betting when I will (if ever) use the bike that's now sitting on the trainer, there's still hope to win that bet. You can admit that you are betting against me. Heck, *I'm* betting against me. However, faced with the option of riding the bike to nowhere or gearing up for a stair workout in the cold .... I opted to go outside and run up and down stairs. The bike being set up and ready to go meant no excuses. I had to do something. So I've already benefited from the setting up bike without ever sitting on it...yet. Whatever works!

Oh and walking to warm up, followed by running the stairs, followed by a jog home resulted in progressively faster average pace across time tonight! Yay!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rainy Morning on Misery and Joy

The rain held off until the last mile of today's hike.
This is taken out the care window before leaving. 
Actually it was Joy and Misery since we did our 'usual' loop in reverse today. Today was my first day back on the trails (any trails) in three weeks. In my head Joy is easier than Misery so I suggested we go the reverse route. In reality it's not that much easier just different and truthfully starting out almost always feels harder than later when your legs are warmed up. But since so much of any of this is a mind game ya gotta go with what works.

The rains held off for 5 of today's 6 miles. I had the company of Julius, Sara and Tootsie for 4 of them and we ran (walked) into Gary and Kristen V along the way. These adventures are always so much more fun with friends - even in passing.

I felt good despite the long layoff. My hips, knees and back all held up well. Even after the drive home my back is not bothering me. I'm very happy about that.

I fell twice today. Once I tripped over nothing (that I could see) and landed hard on my hands trying to keep my legs out of the muddy leaves. I'll feel that later probably. And a second time I stepped on a log and my foot went right out from under me. I'm not sure why I even stepped there. Probably yakking with friends and not paying attention. It's all good though. No damage done.

The mouthpiece popped off the hose from my hydration pack at one point and water dribbled down my leg for a few seconds while I figure out what was going on. Fortunately my friend Tootsie spotted to piece in the pile of leaves so I don't have to get a replacement.

Despite the falls and leaky water I had a great time as always. Hike details from Garmin.

Map of the route which included
a little off trail stuff at the end. 
Elevation profile