Saturday was a gorgeous day to hike. I decided to hike the beautiful path at Germantown MetroPark. I parked at a nearby community park and picked up the trailhead off a bike path. I was a little surprised at how cold it was at 8:00 am – I was anticipating temperatures in the 50s by afternoon but the hike started in the 20s. I truly embraced the colder temperatures because the ground was still frozen and there were few areas that were going to get slippery once the sun warmed the earth. There is one section of the loop around the Germantown MetroPark that is low ground and is sometimes underwater when the creek floods its banks. I decided to try this section as early as I could and hope that the mud was still frozen. I got to this section about 9:00 and by 9:30 I had navigated the section with minimal sliding – it was just beginning to thaw and would have produced miserable hiking by 10:30.
The trail is definitely in transformation from winter to spring. The shadows and the protection of trees allow some of the path to remain in hibernation, covered with ice and snow. But other sections have absorbed all the melted snow and are dry and even dusty. The majority of the trail, however, is performing like a yo-yo. All the moisture in the ground freezes at night causing the mud to turn hard as rock. Then, during the day the temperatures rise transforming the ice crystals into water and the hardened ground into sloppy mud. Then the night comes again to freeze the trail into a solid, weight-bearing path. The two pictures on this blog show some of the contrast on the trail. The two pictures are taken 50 steps apart. The snow/ice is replaced with a soft trail with no evidence of a hard winter.
I hiked until noon without seeing anyone else on the trail. So, I decided to plug in my ear phones and listen to some of a murder mystery that I had packed for company. Just like throwing a switch, I began to pass several people on the trail. There were several that just wanted to exchange trail greetings (“Hi, there. Great day for a hike.”); one young lady, who was hiking with her two dogs, wanted to warn me about the muddy conditions on the lower sections; and two friendly guys who jokingly wanted to know if the bar was still open around the next bend. Those kinds of encounters can be successful with ear buds in place. But I met a man and woman along the trail that smiled with expressions of interest in my huge pack and they asked if I was camping or just putting in miles. I asked if they could wait while I paused my book. I shared about my preparation for the A.T. The woman said, “Well maybe we’ll see you on Katahdin in September!” Turns out that they are section hikers and all they have left in order to complete the Appalachian Trail is the state of Maine. We stood and talked for 10 minutes – I always enjoy sharing with people who have been there and have experienced the trail. They were very helpful and encouraging.
It was a good day to be in the sun!