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Friday, October 23, 2020

Fall Color on the Devil's Hole Loop Trail

 This story is an example of a hiking trail that offered us much more than we anticipated when we planned the hike.  Devil's Hole Loop Trail is described in All Trails, a hiker website, as follows:

"Devil's Hole Loop is a 4.5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and nature trips and is best used from April until October."

We thought we would have a nice walk in the woods with some late fall colors.  Boy, did we underestimate this hike!  Here we our, in our pre-trail innocence:

The trail did not even wait a quarter mile before surprising us.  No sooner did we get past the Game Lands gate, than we entered a long, narrow, downward sloping tunnel of gigantic rhododendrons.  They were so big that they dwarfed us:

We thought, "Hey, what a great, unexpected reward!"  Already we were happy with our hike.  But just wait.

Here was our first view of Devil's Hole Creek:

Apparently there is no firm record why this area is known as Devil's Hole.  One of the local legends is that there was a bottomless lake in the area and anyone who swam in it sank and went to Hell—hence the name “Devil’s Hole.” The lake is said to have disappeared after the large flood that hit the area in 1955.  It is possible to imagine that the rocky terrain hides large caverns or spaces underground -- although none are known -- which might have swallowed up the lake when a flood or earthquake shifted the terrain.

We knew none of this as we hiked, but we did know that this stream was very pretty and drew us further and further into our hike.

Some hikers describe this trail as rocky, indistinct and unmarked.  That is all true, but we feel lucky enough to have experience trail-finding and bushwhacking, and we soon learned that the entire trail follows old woods roads.  At every turn, the trail was distinct enough for us to find it, and it led us through some beautiful terrain:

If you read the AllTrails description above, you will notice that it says nothing about stream crossings.  We just want you, and any future hikers, to know that this hike involves FIVE stream crossings.  While none have formal improvements such as bridges, etc.,  There are many rocks in convenient places, and we were able to accomplish all our crossings (admittedly in the Fall during lower water levels) simply by rock-hopping.  Here, David demonstrates the correct procedure for dancing across the water without getting any toes wet:

Within a mile or so, we came across these unsigned ruins situated near the creek.  We had no idea what they might be:

According to the website, Atlas Obscura, which we consulted after our hike, these ruins may have been built in the 1920's or 1930's, and could have been a ski lodge, resort, speakeasy or magnificent home.  As surprising as it may be, no one has found records to confirm what the ruins were.  The website states, "Whatever it was, it’s suspected that the building met its demise in the mid-1950s, either by a large fire or possibly [the flood that hit this area in 1955, referred to above]."

The most credible explanation of the ruins appears on a website called, "DCSki," which documents ski resorts, including a section exploring "lost ski area."  The author of the section on Devil's Hole did a substantial amount of investigation and analysis on the site and concludes, with significant credibility, that it was a ski resort.  He found remnants of old ski tow lines and what appear to be graded ski runs.  He buttresses his arguments with information from satellite photos and topographical maps.

Still, however, no one knows what the resort was, its name, or any further details.

We just could not ponder these mysteries for very long, because the late fall colors, and the leaves falling like snow around us, kept distracting us.  We were lucky to keep our footing on the rocky trail, we were so taken with the foliage:

We have spent October moving into a mountain cottage in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania which will be our Covid Retreat for the winter of 2020-2021.  Unfortunately, we've done more than our share of cleaning and dusting and vacuuming and wet-mopping -- whether of our new cottage retreat or to store our motorhome in the driveway for the winter.  One thing we are familiar with is dust.  We marvel where dust can gather and how dusty things can get.  Yet, as we took this break from our labors and enjoyed the mountain scenery, we marvelled at how UNdirty and UNdusty the woods are!  Look at those crisp, clean lines and colors.  Not a dust mote to be found.  Even the fungi are beautiful, crispy white, without a smudge of dirt:

Our hike was advertised to be 4.1 miles.  With a side-trail out to a viewpoint, where we decided to stop for lunch, the total mileage was 5.5 miles.  At about halfway, we found the end of the sidetrail, which was marked with a fire ring and wooden cairn, and we recognized that we had gotten to our "viewpoint."  While there was no clear view from this spot, however, we nevertheless stopped and ate our lunch:

While eating lunch, we discovered a short, steep trail down the hillside toward the far stream valley.  Kathy led the way and found a beautiful viewpoint that reminded us of some of the views from Raccoon Ridge on the Appalachian Trail near the Mohican Outdoor Center, which we frequented with our Appalachian Mountain Club friends some 10-15 years ago (has it been that long???):

We finished lunch and returned to the main trail, which now began its steady descent back to Devil's Hole Creek.  Along the way, we marveled at complete hillsides filled with red splashes of high-bush blueberry bushes.  In this particular spot, one yellow-green-leafed plant dares to erupt through the riot of red:

We walked across a wide, flat plain that was so remarkable, it caused David to remark, "This must have been a very large river at one time, because it created such a big floodplain."  More likely, perhaps, is that we were hiking across the former lakebed of Devil's Hole Lake!

The silvery-blue colors evoked by the rocks and fog struck a calming counterpoint to the colorful fall leaves:

This trail was not done with its surprises.  At about mile 4 we ran into an old stone cabin -- obviously once a residence but now apparently an informal winter warming hut.  It was intact, with a good, though old and primitive roof.  It sat at a point where our old woods road trail suddenly became a very distinct gravel, then macadam, road.  Either this was the home of a settler who carved a road up to his place, or it was the residence of a watchman who kept a keen eye on highway construction equipment a quarter of a mile or so down the old road.

All we know is that it is now known as, "The Cabin":

And if you thought that there was no highway construction equipment for the cabin resident to watch over, well, my friend, think again.  David found this piece of machinery whose pistons are as shiny stainless steel as they day they were born.  The equipment seemed to be used in a rock and gravel mining operation for the construction of nearby roads, but we learned no more than that.  David was pleased just to sit on the seat of history:

From here, we hiked back down to Devil's Hole Creek, crossed it one last time, and climbed back up through the Rhododendron Tunnel to the trailhead parking lot, where we met some young hikers that had popped over to explore the trail but had stopped at the creek without really crossing it or exploring it, and had no idea what adventures this trail would offer them, if only they would accept the invitation and dive across Devil's Hole Creek.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Eddie and George Begin Their Poconos Hibernation

Winter is coming, Eddie and George.  You'd better get ready for your hibernation.

We moved into our Poconos cottage on October 1, 2020.  While it is fully furnished, we had lots of work to do to make it our own and make it homey for our 6 month stay here.

The cottage has a pretty setting:

The boys set right to work.  Eddie ordered some furniture that would be useful, and the deliveries started the very day we arrived!  It was George's job to assemble the furniture while Eddie got the kitchen into shape.  In the photo below, George scratches his head about the next step in assembling the hall tree for our coats and shoes:

Eddie was less confused.  Here, she is whipping the kitchen into shape:

It was a long day's work, and everyone was exhausted by the time dinner arrived.  After dinner, Eddie and George joined Bubu Bear and Rugie Bear in a quiet evening of television before their well-earned first night's sleep in their new home:

It took a couple of days to finish the move-in chores, but the bears were up to the challenge.  They finally sank into bed and began their long Poconos winter hibernation:

"Good night, George."

"Good night, Eddie.  See you in April."

Winterizing Buster or Lessons in Murphy's Law

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Hi Blog!

Did you know that Murphy's Law ("If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong and usually does go wrong.") was born at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949. It was named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on Air Force Project MX981, designed to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash. One day, after finding that a transducer was wired wrong, he cursed the technician responsible and said, "If there is any way to do it wrong, he'll find it." The contractor's project manager kept a list of "laws" and added this one, which he called Murphy's Law.

Now, you might be wondering why we started this blog by mentioning Murphy's Law. Well, for the first time in almost 9 years of RVing, we are winterizing our RV.  What could possible go wrong. After all, thousands of RVers put their rigs to bed every winter.  However, Mr. Murphy's Law kept running through our heads.

Dave studied the Owner's Manual and came up with a game plan.

First, empty the hot water heater. While the anode rod couldn't be saved, the draining of the tank went more or less as planned, well except for the wet shoes.

Next, give the holding tanks a good cleaning. We use this short extension hose to drop down through the compartment floor when we have the sewer hose hooked up for longer stays. In three years, we have never had a problem with this little hose, until today. Yes, it popped off just as the black tank was emptying. Dave to the rescue. Needless to say, his shoes are now beyond just wet.

With the sewer hose firmly in place, it was time to clean up. Unfortunately, the water spigot was frozen open. The campground attached a splitter, however, one side of the splitter wouldn't shut off. High pressure water began spewing from the faucet. Dave was able to muscle the broken splitter down to a mere trickle. With all the water than sprayed, Dave's shoes, while even more wet, were at least a lot cleaner.

Once the holding tanks were empty, it was time to use the air compressor to "blow out" the water lines. As we unpacked the compressor, one of the handles on the clamp was missing. Seriously Murphy, haven't we suffered enough!

After 9 years of RVing, we have amassed an amazing tape collection - scotch tape, double-sided tape, duct tape, metal tape, teflon tape, masking tape, painters tape, 3M industrial double-sided tape and insulated electrical tape. After a quick wrap, the handle of the clamp was good as new. Adding the antifreeze went according to the instructions. Perhaps Mr. Murphy heard our prayers after all.

The RV is now parked in the driveway of our rental house in Tobyhanna, PA. It will get a good cleaning before going into hibernation. In the meantime, we are busy nesting in our new temporary home. Ruby was happy to help line the cupboards with new self paper. She's such a good little helper!

It may take a few weeks to settle in, but we hope to get out and explore our new neighborhood. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Hiking the Appalachian Trail in the G. Richard Thompson WMA

 Hi!  Dave here.  Normally, my blog entries are written in the first person plural, since they are about adventures we both have.  However, one aspect of this adventure applies just to me, and it is easier to tell the whole story in the first person singular.  Without further ado, the story:

Today is September 24, 2020.  Twelve days ago, on a hike with Kathy and young William, I slipped on a section of wet trail with flat rocks.  My feet flew up as quickly as if I had been walking on ice.  I landed hard (luckily on my glutteus, without any harm), but to break my fall, I instinctively caught myself with my left arm and hand, and the strain and shock of landing that way strained every muscle, ligament and tendon from my shoulder to my thumb.  

Everything is slowly recovering without permanent injury, but one unexpected result of that initial shock was that my body's resistance fell substantially while it devoted its energies to repairing the injuries.  Until a couple years ago, whenever my resistance has fallen too far, I succumb to a strange allergic reaction that was caused by my walking bare-legged through hogweed, way back in 2012 in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  When the reaction is triggered, I suffer 24-36 hours of severe fever and chills.  When those have finished, my left leg, which was the leg that swept through the hogweed. swells with edema and becomes blotchy with fierce red patches.  My leg's skin reacts to the red patches as if it were sunbured:  it itches and burns.  Normally the edema and rash last for 1-2 weeks.  Nothing can be done for the fever -- which in the case 12 days ago, reached 104F -- other than to take typical fever-reducing over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen; nothing can be done for the leg swelling and rash other than to soothe it with aloe vera, and to wear compression stockings which help reduce the leg symptoms.

I had thought the allergic leg rash and fever had finally passed out of my system, because I had not experienced it for almost 3 years.  So, when I suddenly fell to a 104F fever, all of the possibilities -- other than the allergic rash -- crossed my mind.  The fever and chills continued into the next day, and I decided that I should be tested for Covid-19.  Before the test result came back (it was negative), the fever disappeared and the leg rash appeared.  It appeared clear that this was my old allergic reaction, and not the dreaded coronavirus.

I took about 9 days, until yesterday, for my body to recover from all of these plagues.  While still not quite 100%, my arm is fully functional and improving rapidly.  The leg rash, while I still feel it, can deal with longer hikes.  So Kathy and I decided to jump on this opportunity to take another hike on the Appalachian Trail here in Northern Virginia.  We will be moving up to Gettysburg this Sunday, and this would be our last chance to explore the A.T. in this area.

There is a section of the Appalachian Trail that we have not hiked, stretching between the Manassas Gap Shelter, on the south end, and the northern border of the G. Richard Thompson Wildlife Management Area on the north end.  We've hiked both sides of Trumbo Hollow to the south, and we've hiked the Sky Meadow section to the north, but this would be new.

We got to the trailhead late this morning:

We picked this section partly because it gives views of Lake Thompson.  In the photos, the lake looked like this --

-- but today, at any rate, it looked like this:

An historically 10-acre lake appears to have shrunk to barely more than a pond.  The road to parking for the lake had been gated and now operates mainly as a footpath, so we assume that the lake is barely holding its own.  Still it was pretty, as you can see from this detail of boulders and grasses along the shoreline, and it reminded us of some of the glacial tarns we have seen above treeline:

Our plan was to hike at least three miles south, past the lake and up to the Appalachian Trail, and then as far south as made sense until we found an acceptable picnic spot.  Immediately after passing the pond, we started a steep climb, which, after about a mile, brought us to the edge of a large farm and a vineyard:

From the fenceline, we had expansive views to the northeast --

-- and the southeast, down the Blue Ridge where the Appalachian Trail threads its way toward Georgia:

It is just early Fall, and we are starting to see the first hints of color in the leaves along the trail:

Not many leaves have fallen, but enough to tell us that Winter is coming.  This was one of the first colored leaves we spotted --

-- and these two perhaps the most colorful:

Yet, while the leaf colors were diverting, fall blossoms still had some things to show us, such as this multi-hued beauty:

As we neared our final approach to the Appalachian Trail, we saw the ruins of an old cabin alongside the trail.  Nothing is left but the metal skin and roof.  It hulks there, like the spirit of an old homesteader still tending his land long after it has become overgrown and unfarmable:

At about 2.5 miles, we reached our junction with the Appalachian Trail.  What an anticlimax!  There was no sign to announce the A.T., nor a sign on the A.T. naming the trail we climbed.  We only knew our old friend from the friendly, ubiquitous white blazes appearing along the trail as it crossed our approach trail -- one side heading north, the other south:

About a half mile south on the Appalachian Trail, we found a junction with the Tricot Trail, which, according to Kathy's GPS, led to a nearby cell or communications tower.  We recognized, however, that the trail was also a formal approach trial for the A.T., because it was blazed in the standard blue of an A.T. side trail.  With conveniently positioned logs and suitably cut stumps, this was the perfect place to stop for lunch before turning around.

As I sat eating my PB&J sandwich, I looked down at my hiking boots:

These are new hiking boots, which I bought this last week.  After recovering from my fall, I realized that my slip on the flat wet rock was caused mostly by the worn tread on my hiking boots.  I decided I needed new hiking boots, and I did some research to find boots with the most slip-resistant tread.  While I was at it, I also thought that it was time to try some new technology and experiment with lighter weight boots to prepare for our training for some future backpacks.  These passed all the tests!  They are light as a feather, waterproof, and ultra-slip resistant.  As a bonus, they also perform much better on loose pebbles and stones than my old hiking boots did.

I jabbered on about all this to Kathy as we returned down the trail.  Kathy got one of her favorite types of hikes -- all downhill after lunch.  We enjoyed the beautiful early Fall air and spent more time enjoying the scenery, as we knew our way back.

Approaching the lake, we saw two fishermen trying their luck after work.  We felt we had already caught our limit for the day, and were happy with it.

The Mouse That Went To The Moon - Part I

The Mouse That Went To The Moon
by William H. Scranton 
Logistical support provided by David and Kathleen Scranton 

One day there was a mouse that went to the moon.  He wasn’t supposed to go to the moon, but there he was, on the moon. Nobody knew how he got on to the moon, in fact, nobody even knew he was on the moon.

One day there was a mouse who lived in a hole in a Rocket ship. He was surprised one day when he felt rumbling under his feet. He rushed to his window,and saw the ground getting smaller and smaller.

He also saw red hot flames shooting out from under the rocket ship. “I wonder why there are flames shooting from the bottom of my house?” "Why does the Earth look so small?"

[Ed.: Before the author left, he added this photo but did not have time to explain it.  We understand that this is a photo of the mouse on the moon.  But clarification and further details will have to come from the author when he publishes Part 2.]


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Exploring the Trails of Lake Fairfax Park

 Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Hi Blog!

After an action packed, fun filled weekend with William, we took Monday off to sleep in, clean the rig and rest our weary bones. Tuesday morning dawned bright and chilly (50F). The smoke from the wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington has reached all the way over to the East Coast. The morning sky was hazy and the sun glowed a strange peach color. Our hearts go out to our family and friends who are dealing with much worse conditions out west. We are doing what we can to support the Go Fund Me campaign that is feeding the fireman and the Red Cross, who are sheltering the displaced. All we can do now is hope the weather changes and this nightmare ends.

After taking in the morning news, all we really wanted to do was crawl back under the covers and hide, but nature called to us and we had to answer. Lake Fairfax Park, where we are camped, is over 476 acres, 18 of which is Lake Fairfax. There are 26 separate multi-use trails. It isn't often we get to start a six mile hike right from our rig, but here we could. 

First, we needed a better map, so our first stop was the Visitor Center. With map in hand, we set out to find the North Boundary Trail. The trail was a bit overgrown in this section, which made it a perfect grazing ground for a flock of geese resting on their way south.

Lake Fairfax is formed by a dam on Colvin Run. A spillway lets part of Colvin Run continue on its journey to the Potomac River. A small bridge allowed us to cross the run.

On the other side of Colvin Run, the North Boundary Trail became easier to follow as it joined the Rails to River Trail.

The Hunter Mill Bypass is an old farm road. The wide woods road made it easy to walk side-by-side.

There are a number of old farm buildings in the park being left to return to nature. The pastures are now being used as cricket fields.

During our trek, we hiked on every conceivable surface from grass fields to gravel roads, bridle baths to mountain bike single tracks.

As we followed the South Side Trail, we found ourselves next to huge "Yuppie estate" properties. The development was so new, several of the houses were not even occupied yet. Each lot had their own entrance gate to the park. 

It just wouldn't be a good hike if we didn't run into some fun guys along the way.

After four miles, we decided to find a spot to rest and recharge. Nothing is better than a yummy veggie wrap and warm sunshine for lunch.

As we began our hike north along the Rails to River Trail, we found ourselves following Colvin Run, only this time it was heading toward Lake Fairfax.

In order to explore more of the west side of the park, we left the Rails to River Trail and picked up the Bentana Park Connector.

This connector trail took us right along the stream bank.

After a leisurely stroll along the stream, we found ourselves back at Lake Fairfax. We found a short-cut to the campground and finished our hike of just under 6 miles.

It may be a few days before we blog again. We have to take Baxter to the vet to have his eye checked. So far, he seems to be recovering nicely. The vet will let us know if he has any infection left. On Thursday, we move back to Bull Run Regional Park. Then, on Friday, it is another weekend of adventure with William. 

Until then, stay safe my friends.