Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hiking Woodlawn Preserve...Again - May 23, 2010

Dave and I have been anxious for the hiking and geocaching binge to continue, so we made plans to get together at 7:30am today to do a little of both. The weather forecast was for cool overcast skies and scattered showers, but we both agreed that the chance to get out was worth it, even if the weather was less than ideal. Unless we woke to a heavy rain, Dave would meet me at my house and we would head over to a hike I had mapped out in the Woodlawn Preserve. I am still amazed at the amount of hiking trails in that area, all within a 10 minute drive of my house. Before I got involved in geocaching, I never paid any attention to that area, which turns out to have been my loss.

My job last night was to plan our hike. With all due diligence, I did my obsessive best to be prepared... Satellite image printouts, cache descriptions, trail maps, and a laminated trail plan. All of which came in very handy this morning when the day turned out to be exactly what was forecast; gray, cool and misty. And wet. Dave arrived on time, and with a quick stop for gas, coffee and Gatorade, off we went to brave the elements.

What I laid out ended up being exactly what we did, with a two-car shuttle hike of about 4 miles (it turned out to be 3.8 miles) where we could grab 5 caches along the way. We left Dave's car parked along Ramsay Road (orange dot at upper left) and took my car to the far eastern end of the track, where we could park in a hotel lot within 30 feet of a trail head (orange dot at lower right).

About 50 feet down the trail is a cache that Julia and I found yesterday afternoon, but Dave was able to grab it today. Our path took us west and north through a mixed area of stream valleys, woods and fields. The five black squares are the geocaches we found along the way. For the most part what we found today were very typical of woodland caches - ammo boxes in hollow trees, stumps, fallen logs and rock piles. It seems that I have developed a pretty good eye in a short period of time for the kind of places that people are likely to hide caches (at least in the woods).

We ended up 5 for 5 in this section of our hike, with no "did not finds". We passed Dave's car on the way west to get the final two caches, and did a small loop at the end of the western section before doubling back along our path to Dave's car. The green shaded area to the south of our track is Delaware's Brandywine Creek State Park. I am working my way south to the park as I clear the geocaches in this area.

The picture below is typical of what we hiked in today - rolling hills and woodlots scattered around horse farms.

After completing the first part of our hike, we hopped in Dave's car for a 7 or 8 minute drive to a parking area on Route 100 from which we could get a couple more caches located along a short stretch of the Mason Dixon Trail. I don't know much about this trail and want to do a little research on it. It connects the Appalachian Trail out around York with something else, but I don't remember what... I tried to get a map last night on the internet, and found a web site for the trail, but maps were $19 and only available from a few places, or via mail order, so no map was available on short notice. Oh well, I will find this someday soon. The completist in me cannot allow a local trail to be unknown to me. Hmm. I wonder what that says about me (I do love maps). Anyway...
We parked at the right end of the track (east), hiked along a side road, and found the blue-blazed trail markers to head cross-country. The small section we did started out ugly, with a fence-line walk through waist high grass alongside a farmer's field.
Once we got to the woods it got better, and the more northerly of the two caches was the nicest of the day - a wet slippery scramble up onto a huge boulder pile. Fun! The picture below shows Dave standing in front of the boulder pile for scale. The cache was at the very top. This wouldn't have been quite as difficult as it was on a drier day. As it was today, footing was treacherous and we went very deliberately and safely. It was rated a 3.5 on the 1-5 scale (with 5 being the most difficult), but today it was probably a 4 or 4+.

Another great day hiking and geocaching with Dave, and another section of practically my own backyard that I have now explored. My next hike in this area needs to be in the State park itself.
For a few last observations, it was definitely a different feel in the woods today because of the weather. It was dimly lit, everything was wet, and the footing was slippery at times. More noticeable was the difference in the sounds of the woods - normally at this time of year you would be accompanied by non-stop bird sounds, but today there were very few birds to be heard. There was also less rustling of little critters in the underbrush. The most prevalent sound by far was the dripping of water from the forest canopy, and not much else. The colors were also very muted, given the lack of sunlight. Not a bad thing necessarily, but different.

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