Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hiking Christmas Gifts

I got a few Christmas gifts this year, and most of them has a hiking orientation.  How'd that happen?  :^)

I got my very first pair of trekking poles.  I have used trekking poles on a few backpacking trips in recent years and love them!  My gift pair should be great.  I choose them for a reason - they fold up in three sections and will easily fit in luggage.  This is important because I have plans to hike in a foreign country in the coming year, and nothing I had would fit in a suitcase.  These will, as each section is only about 40-45 cm long.  They are Black Diamond Z-Pole Trekking Poles.  They don't have the adjustable lengths or shock absorbency of a more traditional trekking poles, but being able to put them in a suitcase was a key requirement.  They are aluminum, but still seem strong and light, with a total weight for both of about a pound.

Next, I got a new headlamp, also from Black Diamond.  This one is the Black Diamond Storm, which was highly rated as a great deal by Backpacker Magazine.  It is very bright, but can be adjusted downward, and has red light also for times when you don't want to lose your night vision.  The power goes from four to 100 lumens.  It is also waterproof, which is really handy if you are out in the back country and forced to move after dark in a driving rain.  It will replace my current headlamp, which, while serviceable, is not nearly as bright, nor is it water proof.

I got a book: "50 Hikes in West Virginia," by Leonard Adkins.  I live a long way from the Mountaineer State, and have never hiked there.  But I think that the latter needs to change, and 2014 would be a great year to make that happen.  I would love to backpack in the Cranberry Glades Wilderness in the upcoming year, and perhaps do some day hikes as well.  Almost heaven, West Virginia!

And finally, I got a $50 REI gift card.  That may well go towards new rain gear that I am likely to buy as my next major gear purchase.

I am happy with these gifts and cannot wait to try them out!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

How I Did on My 2013 Hiking Goals

A year ago, I wrote out a set of goals I wanted to try to reach for 2013.  I did reasonably well attaining them, and here is my report.

1. Take 10 new hikes:  I got up to nine, and then things conspired to prevent me reaching 10.  If I counted hikes of less than four miles, I would have reached 10.  For example, I took three hikes in Cape May, NJ, that totaled more than four miles, but any one hike was less than four.  Here is my list -
Great Dismal Swamp - a wonderful and unique place to see, plus I saw four otters
River Bank Trail (Staunton River SP) - This park is off the beaten path and worth walking in.
Prince William Forest Park - the highlight was seeing the 17 year cicadas
Shackeford Banks - the ocean, wild horses, and great sea shells?  Who could ask for more, other than some shade and drinking water?
Mount Judah - This hike had spectacular views, plus I got to hike a few miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Old Indian Trail - This hike was in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and had great Lake Michigan views.
Savage River Lodge - I did three nice hikes here, and the orange loop was just over four miles.
Buck Hollow Loop - this was my only hike of the year in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and was all uphill or downhill.
High Bridge Trail State Park - Great walk along a "rails to trails" route

2. Hike in two states that I didn't hike in during 2013.  I hiked in five states in 2013, and three of them were not ones I hiked in during 2013: California, North Carolina, and Maryland.

3. Hike in one state I have never hiked in: I hiked in two, California and Maryland

4. Take two backpacking trips.  Fate conspired to make me miss this goal.  I did the Shackleford Banks trip for two nights (and 26 pounds of water carried), but I missed my planned hike to Virginia's "Triple Crown" when work interfered, and I had to cancel a solo trip to Matthews Arm in Shenandoah National Park when I hurt my back stepping off an unseen step.

5.  Keep this blog going: Obviously, I succeeded with that.

6.  Explore other writing outlets: Nope, didn't happen.

Stay tuned for 2014 (yes, 2014 - can you believe it?) goals.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Next Big Purchase?

I haven't had a chance to hike lately, although I am taking walks as the time allows.  So instead of writing about a hike, I will write about gear.

I've been thinking about 2014 coming up, and realizing that one goal for the new year will be to replace something major I have now with a new piece of equipment.  And I have narrowed it down to three possibilities, since in the last few years I have replaced my boots, water filter, and sleeping pad, and bought a tent and camping stove.  I also bought a warm sleeping bag, good to 15 degrees, and was very glad that I did on two trips in particular when the mercury dipped to or below that point.

My three possibilities for gear replacement in 2014 are: a new backpack, new rain gear, and yes, a new sleeping bag.

I list the backpack first because that is the most likely.  I've had my current backpack about six years.  I bought it without a lot of thought for a backpacking trip in New Hampshire, and it has served me well.  It has a lot of nice features.  But it just never seems to have enough room for bulky stuff, especially the sleeping bag.  When I packed up a month or so ago for the overnighter that I cancelled because I hurt my back, my bulky sleeping bag took up most of the room in the main pack.  I had to cram my other gear around it.  I am somewhere between the ultra light hiker and the guy who carries everything but the kitchen sink, so I do have a challenge getting everything into the pack.

A couple of trips ago, I think the Mount Rogers trip with my friend Hawkeye, he let me try his fully loaded pack the morning we left.  I hoisted it on, and without any adjustments, it was so much more comfortable and balanced than my pack.  We were both carrying about the same weight.  That has made a lasting impression, and I've had "pack envy" ever since.

But if I don't get a pack, maybe I should replace my rain gear (not my reindeer, my rain gear!).  It is at least a dozen years old, fairly heavy, and seems to have lost its water proofing.  The last time I hiked in the rain, up at Savage River State Forest, I got soaked right through my rain gear.  So, replacing it would be useful on both day hikes and backpacking trips.  But there also may be a way to restore the water proof characteristics.  Still, it might be better to replace it.

Which brings me to my sleeping bags.  I have two, neither of which is a down bag.  The first is comfortable to about 40 degrees, and although it is heavier and bulkier than a down bag, it is not bad.  The other is just a few years old and is a comfortable bag even in 15 degree temperatures - field tested by me twice at those levels up in the mountains.  But a down bag that has the same temperature rating would shave maybe a pound off the weight and significantly free up bulk.  When I camped at Mount Rogers, I used my lighter weight bag so I would have more room in my pack, and suffered a bit that first night when the mercury dipped into the upper 20's.  On the other hand, a roomier pack would mean that a somewhat bulkier sleeping bag is less of a problem.

Pack? Rain gear? Sleeping bag?  One of those three is likely to be replaced in 2014.  But which one?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Powhite Park Orienteering

On Friday, I got an email from the Meetup Group that I sometimes go hiking with, Richmond / Charlottesville Adventurers, asking if I would be interested in orienteering at Powhite Park yesterday.  I have never done formal orienteering on a course before, and it sounded like fun, so I replied "yes."  And yesterday being a really nice late fall day, I showed up at the park, compass in hand.

My compass and route finding skills are pretty rusty.  How rusty?  Well, let's say if I had the same skill level for my job, I would have been fired long ago.  Especially since the advent of handheld geographic positioning system receivers, the compass pretty much stays in my emergency gear bag buried in my pack.  I always bring it when I hike, but it never sees the light of day.  And that is bad.  Anything electronic, like a GPS, can fail at any time, and having a compass that I have forgotten to use is not really a backup, is it?  So I think I need to make a goal of relying less on the GPS and relearning those orienteering skills - and improving significantly on what I used to know.

It turns out that the founders of my meet up group, Alec and Ellen, are also very active in the Central Virginia Orienteering Club, who put on events like this every month or so.
When I got there, I paid $5 for my map (a compass is next to worthless without a map - compass and map are one of the 10 essentials you should always take hiking).  I bought the beginner course map.  Then Ellen gave several us an orientation to orienteering, explaining how to navigate and what to do when we find one of the 17 "flags."  For this course, as it turns out, we could pretty much move along an extensive and unmarked trail system to locate the flags, so the map was really essential, and the compass less so.  The map we got was amazingly detailed, even marking things such as gullies, boulders, and large uprooted trees.  Whoever prepared it did a wonderful job, and after I had found a few flags, I learned how to make use of all of the information beyond just the contour lines.

Here is a section of the map showing more detail.  The paths (which are unmarked) are the dashed lines and the 3 meter contour lines are the narrow orange lines.  The numbered purple circles mark the locations of flags we are to find.  You can see number 3, 4, 5, and 7 here.
Here is a partial legend for the map.  On the left are a few of the symbols and markings found on the map.  On the right are some of the flags we are to find with their identifying letters.  For example, if you are looking for #8 and the flag you are looking at doesn't have an "X" on it, you are in the wrong spot.  They also give a clue what type of feature each flag is near.  For example, flag #7 is in a small gully.

After our orientation, I signed in to get my time marked down - people do this competitively as a race - and started moving to find the first "flag."  The woods are still lovely this time of year, even without many leaves.
This is an example of one of the flags.  They are meant to be easy to see.  This is not geocaching, where things are hidden.  See the red hole punch hanging below the flag?  I'll explain that in a second.  One young girl, who was trail running the more advanced course, told me how much she loves orienteering and how geocaching (which actually sounds kind of fun to me) is for "weaklings."  I had to laugh at her enthusiasm, and it was great to see a girl out by herself developing her sense of confidence and strength.  I ran into her parents later back at the starting point and complemented them on raising their kids.  They had three girls out doing this course yesterday.
So, on the side of the map is a series of little numbered boxes.  Each one represents the flag we are to find for that number.  The flags are marked with letters, and have a hole punch.  Each punch has a different pattern, so it can be determined if you really found the exact flag.  We are supposed to find the flags in numeric order, which I did, except for a little mishap where I got disoriented (and I knew I was but I didn't check my compass for some reason) and ended up finding flag 13 (which was on the east side of the park) instead of flag 8 (which was on the west side).  But even so, I did not punch the box for 13 until I found it again after 12.  I also found about 3 of the advanced course flags just by chance, because the orange and white stands out in the November woods.
Some of the paths are very easy to follow, like this one.  Others, because of leaf fall, are obscured and hard to find and see.  That is why I ended up at flag 13 instead of 8.  I knew I was going in the wrong direction but couldn't find the intersecting paths.  So I backtracked all the way back to 7, my last known exact condition, and tried again until I found it.
Flag 10 was by this pretty river.  I had lunch near here.  What, lunch, during a timed event?  Well, I was doing this for fun, not competition, and my peanut butter sandwich was calling.  It was after this point I ran into another guy, I think at flag 12, and we did the rest of the course together.  It was nice to chat with someone else while walking through the woods.
Can you imagine the force needed to snap these two large trees about 15-20 feet up?  Must have been a helluva storm!
When I got back to the start, I got my time recorded (it was a total of about 2 hours and 7 minutes, something like that.)  I don't know how far I walked.  If you did the course point to point, I assume along compass bearings, it would have been 3.2 kilometers.  But I did it along trails for the most part, and made some gaffes, so I would guess it was more like 6 or 7K.  I enjoyed this and would like to do it again, and become better and finding my way through the woods with map and compass.  Something to focus on in 2014?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My New "Water Shoes"

For my aborted backpacking trip of last week, I was pretty sure I would have to ford a river - the North Fork of the Thornton River.  I don't think it would be a wide, deep river, but from what I had read about the trail, I would have to find a shallow spot to wade across rather be able to rock hop it.  And I was not eager to have soaked boots.  My pair of river shoes is supremely uncomfortable.  I had bought them years ago out of desperation when unexpected kayaking the Contoocook River.  They are also bulky and heavy.  Time for something more comfortable and light that can just slip in my pack.

So last week, I went back to REI and picked out a pair of Teva Terra Fi Lite shoes, kind of like a sandal.  I figured I could switch out of my boots at the Thornton River, slip these on, and wade across.  Plus, they looked comfortable enough to wear around my campsite, although with the dipping temperatures I expected, maybe not warm enough.  The salesperson who I talked to told me that he actually uses them exclusively now for hiking, and does not even bother with boots.  He recommended a special pair of socks to go with them, so I got them too.

As it turned out, I scrubbed my trip because of the back injury.  I wondered if I should return the Teva's, but then decided I would use them at some point.  So on my six mile hike at High Bridge Trail State Park last Saturday, I decided to try wearing them to see how they would do.  It was an easy, level trail with a nice gravel surface.  To my surprise, I really liked them.  I don't know if I will ever use these instead of boots, but I do know they will be in my pack in the future when I hike anywhere I may have to cross water.  I may even try hiking in them in the mountains at some point, just to see how they do.
Here is my left foot in the funky socks that I bought.  I am trying to spread my toes out so you can see that they are kind of like gloves.  I was surprised to find that I kind of like them!
I can see wearing the Teva's a lot in warmer weather without socks, especially if I were not planning a lot of walking.  I think to hike in them without socks would invite friction.  And my original intent being to get a new pair of water shoes, these will be perfect for using in a kayak or canoe, or for making a portage with a canoe - not that I have had the pleasure of that event in many years.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

High Bridge Trail State Park

When I woke up yesterday, the miracles of chiropractic care and ice had my back feeling almost normal, so I decided on a hike on a nice late fall day.  I didn't want to drive all the way to the mountains and do something rugged until I test the back out.  So I went to High Bridge Trail State Park, a converted rails to trails project, near Farmville.  The trail is 31 miles long and ideal for walking and bike riding.  I don't think that the state park encompasses the entire trail length, but it has the part with the High Bridge, which looms 125 feet over the Appomattox River and is nearly a half mile long.  And that is the high point, literally and figuratively, of this hike.

The map below shows my route, just over three miles out and three back.  It also shows thumb nails of three of the photos later on.

The current bridge was built in 1914, the one before that in 1853.  It must have been an engineering and construction marvel.  The original bridge was involved in military action just days before Lee's surrender of his army in April, 1865.
Here is a view back after I had crossed about a third of the bridge.
The Appomattox River far below is little more than a wide stream at this point in its journey to meet the James River at City Point in Hopewell.  From there, it will have a date with the Chesapeake Bay.
Here is a view back showing some of the outside of the bridge.
If you click on the photo, you will see the bridge on the left the river right of center.  You can see that peak foliage is well past here.
Here is the gravel trail looking back from the south.
This nice field was one of the open views along my hike.
 If you look at the topo map above, you might notice a short branch on my hike.  I saw a narrow and rutted gravel road climbing through the woods and decided to see where it went.  After maybe 0.2 miles, I came to two parked trucks and several guys.  I asked them if it would be disturbing to any hunters if I continued.  The oldest said to me, "You shouldn't be walking back this way.  Stick to the trail.  There are people hunting in here."  We chatted for a minute or so and then I turned back.  I didn't want to disturb anyone, nor did I want to be mistaken for a deer.

Friday, November 8, 2013

So Frustrating!

I have today off from work and had big plans.  I should be on the road right now, heading for Shenandoah National Park for two days of backpacking.  This is my makeup trip from the longer trip I had to cancel last month because of work.  It would have been a bit chilly up in the mountains - highs of about 47 and lows in the mid to upper 20's as of now - but I was prepared for it.  I learned my lesson at Mount Rogers last year and was taking my bulkier and heavier, but much warmer, sleeping bag.  It takes up almost half the space in my pack!

On Wednesday, I did a presentation for work at a conference near here.  I was leaving the building and carrying a large and awkward flip chart stand that totally blocked my vision.  I had forgotten that as you leave the conference building, there was a single step to step down to the portico before getting on the short flight of stairs leading to the ground.  So I stepped off, not expecting a drop of six inches.  Strong legs and good balance kept me from falling.  Luck prevented a sprained or broken left ankle.  And I thought all was well.

Then yesterday, the left side of my back started hurting.  I obviously wrenched it during the unexpected step down.  It wasn't too bad, but kept getting a little worse.  I got my gear organized and was all packed up by 10PM, ready to head out this morning.  I figured I could deal with a sore back.  But this morning, it is even more sore and clearly needs to be adjusted.  So I stopped thinking with my male brain and - after carrying my pack downstairs and making final preparations to go - I used my more rational brain and decided that this is nuts!  To head out alone for two days carrying a 35 pound pack over very rugged and remote terrain does not concern me.  But doing all that with a sore back is just crazy.  So around 6:45, I made the decision to cancel the trip and call a chiropractor as soon as they open at 8:30.  If an adjustment works, I will try a short hike later today and if it still feels good in the morning, then I can at least go for a nice day hike in the mountains.  But for the second (and likely last) time this fall, I am cancelling a backpacking trip.  It is very frustrating, but compared to a broken leg or a bad fall from the misstep, not really that bad.

I am showing my roughly 17 mile route - where I planned on going - below: starting and ending at the orange arrow top left, camping at the orange triangle bottom right, and moving clockwise.  This area is in the northern section of Shenandoah NP, and other than a hike a few years ago up Little Devil Stairs, would all have been new territory for me.  I'll plan on doing this trip next fall.  As for today, I will find something to turn lemons into lemonade.

Friday, November 1, 2013

On Election Day, Vote for Strong Abs!

Virginia has elections Tuesday, including for governor.  Most people seem to dislike both the Democratic candidate (Terry McAuliffe) and the Republican candidate (Ken Cuccinelli), and wouldn't trade a bucket of warm spit for either of them, from what I read and hear.

But there is a vote that everyone should be in favor of on Tuesday!  On the drive up to hike Buck Hollow on Sunday, I saw these two political signs next to one another in a rural area:

So, who is with me, America?  On Tuesday, cast your vote for "Strong Abs" (or at the least for "Strong Abbs").  Who can be opposed to that?  It's political "crunch" time!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Buck Hollow Loop

Sunday being a gorgeous fall day, it seemed like a perfect time to head to the mountains for a hike.  So I asked a friend, Matt, if he wanted to go, and we headed up to Shenandoah National Park for the day.  It is hard to believe that it was my first time there in 2013!

There are over 500 miles of hiking trails in the park, including more than 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Someday, it would be fun to hike all 500 of them, but Sunday, I picked out a six mile loop, Buck Ridge and Buck Hollow.  The map below shows this route.  We started and ended at the orange arrow on the lower left, and hiked counter-clockwise.  We headed out on the Buck Ridge Trail, which had a few level sections but was mostly downhill, and came back up through the long, uphill slog on the Buck Hollow Trail.
Here is the elevation profile (click for a better view).  We lost and gained about 2,100 feet.  Just before we reached the turn around point, where the Buck Ridge Trail intersected the Buck Hollow Trail, we descended about 500 feet in a quarter of a mile.  It was very steep there, and the trail crew had put in a seemingly endless series of log steps.  Both Matt and I have sore knees from running injuries, so it was difficult at times.
Before we started hiking, we stopped at an overlook and I got some photos of the foliage from on high,
as well as the hollow that we would descend into and the ascend from.
Then, we drove to the trail head and started hiking, beginning with gloves and jackets in the cool mountain air.  Before we had gone much more than a mile or two, jackets and gloves were in our packs.  Here is the Buck Ridge Trail near the start of the hike.
I love the flashes of red in the autumn woods.  They are not as common in Virginia as further north, but are a real treat to me when I find them.
Matt holds a huge maple leaf (I think) about a mile into our hike.
We had some partial views from Buck Ridge as we hiked.  This one looks across the hollow that we would ascend through later.
Everywhere we walked, the glories of Mother Nature were obvious.
Once we reached the junction of Buck Ridge Trail and Buck Hollow Trail, we stopped for lunch.  Matt's knees were killing him, and there was a place he could have hiked out to a road here for later pickup, but he said he would continue hiking.  It was at our lunch spot that a large yellow jacket crawled up my pant leg for some reason and stung my knee.  I am sure I presented quite the sight stripping off my trousers and trying to find out what it was that had caused me so much pain!  Eventually, I figured it out, but by then, my knee hurt a lot for the rest of the hike.

It was shortly after lunch that we encountered a beautiful stream, which was our companion for most of the uphill hike out.
Here is another shot of the stream, forming a little waterfall of sorts.  This happened over and over.  It was pretty, and the sound very pleasant.
We both were tired when we got back to the car, and marveled at the two guys we saw running the trail - four times!  That is 24 miles of running on rocky and fairly steep trails, with over 8,000 feet elevation gain and loss.  Hiking it once was enough exercise for me.

I had a great hike, and it was wonderful to return to Shenandoah National Park.  This was my eighth new hike of 2013, so I have two more to reach my goal.  Now that my half marathon is in the past, I hope I can make that happen.  Training for a race like that consumes a lot of time and energy! (But compared to running the trail today four times, a half marathon seems kind of wimpy!)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fall Friday Lunch Walk

Because of my work last weekend, the same work that required me to cancel my four day backpacking trip, my boss told me to take a couple of hours off yesterday, so I used the time to take a three hour lunch break and get in a downtown hike on a brisk but lovely fall day.  I decided to use my time to walk near the James River, heading first to Belle Isle - my favorite spot in the city - and from there through James River Park.

I walked a total of 7.25 miles, taking the route marked in purple below, and starting and ending at the star where my office is.  I crossed the river on footbridges, having not quite acquired the ability to walk on water!  You can see where I did the loop trail on Belle Isle as part of my walk.  The route marked in red is the Richmond Liberty Trail that I walked this past spring.
My first stop was for lunch on the rocks by the Hollywood Rapids.  Here is a panoramic view of the James at this point.
And here is a close-up of part of the rapids.
After (reluctantly) leaving the rapids and doing the Belle Isle loop, I headed over to the southside of the river and picked up a path through the city's James River Park.  A good many years back, this was supposedly a pretty rough spot, frequented by drug users and associated ilk, and a good place to get mugged or robbed at gunpoint.  The city has done a great job turning this into a much-loved urban park.  I eventually was on the Buttermilk Spring Trail, which I have hiked the length of before.
After a while, I ended up in Forest Hills Park, where I have never been.  I walked about a mile in the park, and can see that I will need to get back to explore some more.  Along the way, I ran into this fellow.
Is there any time of year better than fall?
I had to turn around at the lake in Forest Hill Park to get back to work, and once I left that park and re-entered the James River Park, I got back on the Buttermilk Spring Trail.  You can see how it got its name.  I wonder how many modern day Americans can imagine not having a refrigerator?
As I crossed the utility footbridge back to Belle Isle, still maybe 1.5 miles from work, I saw this great blue heron catching some rays along the quiet backwater portion of the James.  I had to zoom my camera to its digital maximum to get this close.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Outer Loop Trail, Savage River Lodge

I should be getting up right about now, my fourth morning on the trail on my backpacking trip to "Virginia's Triple Crown," but instead, I am up early at home monitoring our project at work.  Ah well, some day I shall be retired and worrying about work stuff will be someone elses responsibility.  Right now, I will just feel grateful to have a job, and I will write about hiking instead of doing it.

After lunch a week ago, I decided to go for a third hike in the Savage River Lodge area.  For our morning hike, it had stopped raining and I thought that the weather was finally turning.  How wrong could I be!  When we left the restaurant at the lodge after lunch, it was raining steadily.  But I had come here to get in some hiking, and hike I would!  I put on my rain jacket and pants, shouldered my pack, and started out.  This time, I would be doing the longest trail in the area, the Outer Loop Trail.  Adding in the distance to get to the trail by starting out on Bodie's Trail near our cabin and ending back at our cabin, it should be just over four miles long.  Given that four miles is my minimum distance to count a new hike, I could then add Savage River to my list of new hikes, and Maryland to my list of states hiked in.

Let's start with the elevation profile.  A little bit of this hike covered distance I had returned over on my first hike the day before.  This would be the initial downhill portion on the elevation profile: 
To begin with, after leaving the road our cabin was on, I started back on the green blazed Bodie's trail.  If you look at the map posted on the account of my first hike (the orange blazed trail), this hike (including the beginning section on Bodie's trail) will be the one with track marked in red.
From there, I got on the red blazed Outer Loop Trail, which was very easy to follow and very well marked for about 95% of the distance.  I'll talk about the other 5% later.  This was the first trail that I hiked on at Savage River with many nice encounters with streams.  I think this one is called Mud Lick Stream.
Here is another view of the same stream a little later on.
I also liked this partridge berry on the ground near this stream.
You can see one of the red blazes of the trail here, and see how it easy it is to follow.
After crossing the road (there is a parking spot here for the state forest where you can leave a car and jump on the trail), I passed one of the few nice open areas, most of this trail being in thick forest:
From here, things got dicey for a while.  The trail kind of disappeared in thick undergrowth.  At this point, it was pouring, and the rain seemed to soak through my rain jacket, which is pretty old and probably needs to be water repellent treated or replaced.  I was completely soaked, and pushing through undergrowth, guessing where the trail was.  I even retraced my steps at the point shown below, as the "trail" was only about 18 inches wide at this point and climbed steeply over this stream.
But it was also at this point that I saw a faded red blaze, so I kept going, pushing through even more thick undergrowth.  Then suddenly, after less than a quarter mile, the trail opened up and there were plentiful red blazes again.  It remained that way for the rest of the way back.  Because it continued to pour and I was soaked, I shortcut about a third of a mile or so by taking the gray blazed trail (I forget its name) back to the cabin.  But I still got just over four miles in, and thus can check off another new hike this year, and add the great state of Maryland, my mother's birth state, to my list of states hiked in!

If someone wanted to come into this area for a day hike, I would drive in and park at the little state forest parking lot.  Then, I would head to the left and cross the road, picking up the red trail in the opposite direction that I hiked it (hiking the loop clockwise).  Follow the red blazes, and if you want, when you get to the green-blazed Bodie's trail, take this trail a short distance to the Savage River Lodge.  Have a nice lunch or a drink, then reverse your track back up Bodie's trail the red-blazed Outer Loop Trail, turning to the right to continue in a clockwise direction.  This will take you back to your car, with about a quarter mile of it being overgrown and difficult to follow (unless I just somehow got off the real trail for a little while - maybe coming back from that direction it is obvious, especially if it is not pouring).

This trail would also be great for cross country skiing , although that one overgrown area would be rough.  It is a beautiful little hike, with lots of interesting things along the way.  I would guess you might see wildlife (wear orange in deer hunting season) if it were not pouring rain.