Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Dog, A Trail and Some Snow - Day 2

We tossed and turned a lot during the night.  The temperature dipped into the 20s and Ginger kept tossing and turning all night (me too).  I tired to get her into my bag, but she couldn't figure out what I was doing.  I ended  up covering her with her own blanket and around 0700 the woods began to lighten with the dawn. 

Ginger greeting the day
Since today's hike wasn't going to be very far, I leisurely went about the morning camp chores.  I got the fire going again and started getting ready to heat some water for coffee.  The thermometer said about 25 degrees and the water in my bottle was a little slushy. 

It was so cold, my alcohol stove didn't want to light. Luckily the fire was going nice and there was a spot to set the pot, so I used the fire to heat my water.  The problem with alcohol stoves at cold temperatures is the alcohol needs to vaporize and that is what catches aflame.  It was so cold that the alcohol wouldn't evaporate and therefore I couldn't get it lit with my ferro rod. 

The fire did its job and I had some hot coffee and cold cereal for breakfast.  Ginger had a nice helping of dry dog food and I slowly got everything packed and ready to go. 

We set out on the trail at around 0900.  The trail quickly heads up Lamb's Knoll, named after a family by the name of Lamb who farmed the summit in the 1830s.  It is the second tallest peak on South Mountain in Maryland.  Shortly after crossing the road that leads to the peak, I searched for and found my last geocache of the trip.  The hint was right on and I quickly saw a place to look for the cache after bushwhacking for a while and there it was.  We ambled along the trail, neither one of us in a hurry.  Pileated woodpeckers would belt out their laugh like call and their pounding would echo deeply throughout the forest.  Ginger would stop and wonder what the bass like rapping was every once and a while.

Deer skull
I knew we would be coming to the White Rocks overlook soon and just before we arrived we came across this cool deer skull up in a tree.  As we came down the trail to the overlook we saw two hikers hanging out at the view.  We dropped packs and had some water. We talked a little and I learned of a campsite down in the valley near the cabin but far enough away to avoid disturbing the current residents if they were still in occupancy.  I knew that someone had rented out the cabin for the weekend and technically I wasn't supposed to check in until 1500, but if they were gone, I was moving in.  The guys said that a couple had been at the cabin when they checked it out. 

What a view
As we were checking out the view and taking pictures, three other hikers came down the trail from the south.  We had another nice talk about the things all hikers talk about and before long the five guys were heading north and Ginger and I continued south.
I know you have a snack in your hand

It was just another .6 of a mile until our blue blaze trail down to the cabin and not even 1030 yet, so slow going was the rule of the day.  Before long we came to the sign that told us to now follow the blazes colored blue instead of white, and they headed down hill.  We would move to almost the bottom of this valley before our hike was done for the day.  About 560 feet in elevation.

After about a half mile or so, we came to Bear Spring.  The water looked delicious coming out of the hillside and of course we filled up and cameled up at the same time.  Within about 100 yards of the spring was the campsite that the guys had mentioned.  I figured it was time to take another break as it was only around 1100.  I went over to the fire pit and felt that there was still quite a bit of heat coming from the coals.  Before long I had another nice fire going to help warm us as we sat still and killed some time.  There was plenty of wood nearby. 

We ate some snacks and explored around a little.  As we were hanging out a couple with a german shepherd came by and said hello as they passed down the trail towards the cabin.  Ginger got a little possessive (and she doesn't like german shepherds much for some reason) and she had to give a little aggressive display as they passed.  Before long I figured it was time to check out the cabin.  If the occupants were still there, we could continue down to the parking area and just so some more hiking.  As we were heading down, the couple with the dog were coming back up and we talked a while.  They had mistakenly thought that all the blue blazes connect together.  They had started near Gathland State Park and had thought they could get back there by following the blue blaze down the hillside.  Unfortunately they had a nice uphill climb to get back to the AT and eventually back to their starting point.  The one thing they did was confirm that the cabin was empty. 
Bear Spring
Down the trail we went and before long we could see the cabin and its summer kitchen pavilion.  It was a cool looking sight.  One of the rules of staying in the cabin was to leave at least enough dry wood in the cabin to run the stove the first night.  After checking that there was a large amount of wood in the cabin, I started doing some gathering.  I wanted to make sure I had gathered enough wood (and then some) for my needs this night as I was pretty sure the ground was going to be covered with that cold white stuff in the morning and I certainly didn't want to be trying to find good wood and cutting it in the cold snowy morning.  So that was my priority.  We made about three trips out into the level forest and I had a nice pile of uncut wood going.  It was now time to break for lunch.  We had a nice lunch in the cabin and then it was time to bring in some more wood. 

Just as we headed into the forest, I looked back and saw a hiker by the cabin.  I headed back and there was a family of three checking out the site.  We started talking some more and they conveyed that they were thinking of renting the cabin some day.  I immediately invited them in to check out the cabin and we talked for a while.  They were heading for Rocky Run shelter tonight and continuing north in the morning to where we had parked at the Rt 40/70 trail head.  Before long they were on their way up the trail with the excitement of one day renting the cabin and I was back into the forest looking for some bigger sized dead logs to cut up.  I found a very nice tree that looked like it had fallen fairly recently.  It was long dead and perfectly dry.  I broke some pieces off and lugged a very long piece back to the cutting area and my wood gathering was complete.  It was now time to make wood burner sized pieces out of them. 

That chore didn't take too long and it really got the blood flowing.  Once I had most of the wood cut and stacked, I took a large bundle into the cabin and it was now time to get the placed heated up some.
Bear Spring cabin
Once we got the fire going and the cabin warmed up, it was time for a nap.  We rested for an hour or two and then we just played around the cabin site and explored some.  The creek runs right behind the cabin so I filled a water jug for some cooking water and soon it was time for dinner.  I had tried to warm water on the stove, but it didn't get real hot and when I put my can of chicken into the mixture, it was so cold that it lowered the temperature of the whole meal.  I warmed it up some on the stove, but it just wasn't doing the trick, so Ginger got a second dinner of my left overs. 
Wood burner
The sun went behind the mountain a little earlier this day since we were so far down the side of the ridge and I saw a flake or two falling around 1900.  We went inside and I lit some candles and we just laid around and read for a while.  I finally rolled over to sleep near 2100.  It was time for our second night on the trail.  The cabin had warmed up nicely, but I knew it wouldn't last the whole night.  I had my trusty sleeping bag and Ginger had her blanket.  Bring on the snow...

Summer Kitchen
To be continued... Day 3 - The snow arrives and we find a trail angel. 

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