Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snow! Gathland State Park to Alternate Route 40 on the Maryland Appalachian Trail

We were supposed to be on duty with Old Rag Mountain Stewards yesterday, but the weather canceled those plans, so we opted for something closer.  We only had one section left of the Maryland Appalachian Trail:  the seven miles from Gathland State Park to Alternate Route 40.  Finishing that section means that we have completed an entire state on the Appalachian Trail!  Granted, Maryland is only 41 miles of more than 2,000 and it is technically our second complete state.  We completed West Virginia's grueling 6 or so miles on this hike in April of this year. 

Driving to the trailhead was a bit demoralizing yesterday.  It pretty much poured the entire way, making us feel that our chances of getting to hike in snow were pretty small.  In the valley just to the east of the trail, there was no sign of the white stuff on the ground or falling from the sky.  Luckily, just before we reached the top of the ridge and the parking area, the rain turned to snow and a couple of inches appeared on the ground.  After setting up the car shuttle, we set off from Gathland State Park, heading north.  We passed the picnic shelter at the parking lot where some very, very determined people were firing up the grill.  From there, the trail heads gently uphill.  As we climbed, the snow gradually got deeper.  The strange thing was seeing bright red and yellow leaves, still on the trees, covered in snow.  Many trees were bent completely over under the weight of the wet, heavy snow.  Throughout the hike, we heard branches falling from trees, some a little too close for comfort.

By the time we reached the top of the ridge, the snow was several inches deep.  We made slow, but steady progress, eventually reaching the White Rocks overlook.  It was socked in by clouds, but we had a pretty view of the snow-covered trees.  From there, we climbed up Lamb's knoll.  At that elevation, there was almost enough snow for snowshoes, but we hadn't brought them.  From Lamb's Knoll, it is an easy descent towards the highway where we parked.  The snow provided an extra, slippery challenge on the rocks, but we were thrilled to be out in it.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 Snow on maple leaves.
 The first chance this season to break out the microspikes.
 Snow on the Appalachian Trail
 The view from the White Rocks Overlook on the Appalachian Trail
 Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel) in the snow.
Yellow leaves in the snow.

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