Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Scramble up Sugarloaf Mountain

Saturday started as a warm balmy morning which was just great as I was meeting one of my groups in Maryland to hike Sugarloaf Mountain. This has been on my list of 'to do's' for a long time so I was excited to finally go. I drove up via country lanes, avoiding all traffic, and arrived happy and ready to start. The mountain could be seen as I approached and the setting was spectacular. It's owned by the Stronghold family and they have kept the area looking beautifully natural while adding rock steps and picnic areas to enhance the experience. It's open year round and I had really expected the trees to be bare, yet there were many brightly colored leaves holding defiantly onto their branches, reminding me of scraps of brightly colored patchwork fabric.
The group were very friendly and we were all pals before we'd even set off. We stood chatting about what food we'd brought to share at our picnic lunch afterwards, and one guy was starting early, earnestly packing away a big bag of gummy bears and not able to join in the conversation as he was chewing so hard.
And then we set off, a fine drizzle in the air that failed to dampen any of our spirits. The first part was going to be a rock scramble.
I really enjoyed this part but parts of it were steep and some of our group looked a little fearfully up at the incline.  Bob hovered at the top asking if anyone had a Honda Fit, and if they did, could they throw him their keys as he needed spare parts. He was obviously banking on some of us not making it! I took the photo above quickly, hence the blur, but the expressions on the faces are obvious, horror and resignation. And everyone made it. Just a bit further of a steep path and then we had our first overlook.
The rain was coming down harder now and a fog hung over the valley. Which actually helped to enhance the view since we were looking down toward The Potomac in Virginia and the ugly Dickerson nuclear plant on its bank was shrouded by the mist. Bob told us how in the Civil War many soldiers had drowned while trying to cross the river here. He explained that the paintings of the time don't show this, or that many of them stripped off their clothes to try and make their crossing less encumbered.
The rain made our footing a little slippery with so many leaves on the trails and rocks but it also enhanced the colors of the beautiful natural scenery surrounding us, the autumnal palette just popped everywhere I looked. Lichens on the rocks burst with teals and aquamarines from their beds of chestnut hued leaves and every time we passed a maple tree, the path below us was spotted with golds and scarlets.
At one of the overlooks that we stopped at stood old stone ruins, probably a remnant of the Civil War look out posts, and we all stood on top in the rain for a photo.
KC made us laugh with her makeshift waterproof cape, Bob called her a Goodwill super hero!
We got back to the parking lot and promptly started unloading our cars for the picnic. Everybody had brought sumptuous food to share and the light drizzle wasn't hampering anybody's appetites. Bob made me howl with his comment about Alan, who is reaching over the table for food in the photo above. Apparently everyone was sitting or standing and just staring at all the food, and Alan's eyes, as he walked around the table, didn't stray for one minute. He succeeded in pulling off the best impression of a flounder that Bob had ever seen, with eyes determinedly staying fixed on the food whichever way his head turned! I couldn't stop laughing and Alan was a great sport. I don't know why my 'thumbs up' appears so huge in this image!
We all sat and feasted and I was actually very reluctant to go, we were having such fun, and this was a great group, but as tummies filled to maximum capacity we started to pack up and head for home. This had been a wonderful hike and I'll be back to sugarloaf Mountain again for sure
 The website is here.

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