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                              Last Updated: 10/31/11


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Welcome to a web site full of information on hiking in the Mid-Atlantic Region (PA, MD, VA and WV) ... topo maps, 3-D maps, elevation profiles, GPS data, directions, trail notes, photos.... everything you need to prepare for an excursion into the wilderness. Information for 279 hikes and over 3,364 trail miles are now available. Venues such as, but not limited to, Shenandoah National Park/VA,  George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, VA and WV, the Monongahela National Forest in WV, state forests throughout PA, Green Ridge State Forest in MD and regional, state, county and federal parks throughout the Mid-Atlantic region are represented.


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"Yet in the walks I take through nature in quest of truth and demonstration, I recognize a poetry in earth and sea and sky, ruled in their cycles of harmonious actions, deeper and more sublime than ever muse un- taught in science could inspire." William B. Rogers: First State Geologist of VA, First president of M.I.T. and namesake of Mt. Rogers, Va.



Latest Published Hikes

Quehanna Trail-West Backpack, PA

Volkswagen Loop, MD

Watoga State Park Wilderness Adventure, WV

Reddish Knob Summit Backpack, VA

John P. Saylor Backpack, PA





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M.R.Hyker's 2011 Year in Review


Our Fall/Winter Day Hike Schedule is now posted.


M. R. Hyker's Latest Adventure(s)

10/15 to 17/11, Quehanna Trail-West Backpack, PA: I’m a bit late posting this but two days after the hike I had hand surgery. It was a little more painful than expected and the huge dressing made it very difficult to keyboard and work a mouse. The dressing has been greatly reduced and I am mostly pain-free so here we go.

Nine of us piled into Ted E. Bear’s van and made the 3.5 hour drive to Parker Dam S.P. The colors were quite promising as we drove through the mountains but as we reached our destination we found the canopy being ripped off at a rapid rate by a forty mph wind and a bone chilling rain shower. By the time we were ready to roll the rain had, for the most part, ceased but the wind continued. The younger Beech and Maple trees still provided ample color for this last backpack of the year. The first 2.5 miles was nearly flat and followed Little Laurel Run, initially from high above but later along its banks. The water was coursing strongly along all of the streams this weekend. We crossed Laurel Run Road and picked up the old Goodyear Logging Railroad grade which we followed for another 2 miles, finally arriving at the intersection of McGeorge and Wallace Mine Roads. We enjoyed an abrupt change in scenery as the trail paralleled Wallace Mine Road for a bit, passing through a beautiful Red Spruce grove, just before depositing us onto the road again. Here the QT continues straight across the road.
We turned left as the road became part of the West Cross Connector Trail (W.C.C.T.). It is my understanding, and we found it to be true, that the previously blue blazed trails are now carrying yellow paint.)  After a quick 0.8 mile road walk we turned left back into the woods and climbed ever so slightly over a highpoint and then crossed Caledonia Pike. The forest map shows the trail nearly touching the headwaters of Shagger’s Inn Shallow Water impoundment but it actually veers to the right before it and descends to Trout Run. Immediately upon fording it Sparky found a great campsite nestled in a groove of Hemlocks. With the sounds of the owls, coyotes and the babbling stream it was a peaceful night.

The next morning’s hike started as a gentle climb along the run passing several small bogs which have become the epitome of Quehanna Wild Area hiking. The understory of the hardwood forest was a floor of bronze hay scented ferns. In 0.7 miles we crossed Shakers Inn Road and picked up an old gas well road, a lot of which was lined with White Pine and American Larch, obviously planted as some kind of reclamation program. The road ended in 1.5 miles at the abandoned gas well but the trail continued on a rocky footpath along the ridge. We stopped for a break in a miniature rock city where we could both get out of the cool breeze and soak up the sun like so many turtles.  As the trail began to descend we passed a dry campsite with a view. The original trail builders must have realized that the grade was becoming too steep, even for PA standards, and added some switchbacks, first short and somewhat steep but becoming progressively longer and flatter, until the trail finally joined an old grade that paralleled Little Medix Road for a bit before eventually merging with it. After crossing a run on a recently constructed road bridge the trail turned up another old gas well road, crossed a tributary and followed it steeply to the next plateau. The E.G. was about 700 feet over about 0.3 miles but thankfully it was the hardest thing we would have to for the entire trip. We followed the edge of the plateau for 1.4 miles. Here the trail made an abrupt left hand turn and descended to and then along an un-named tributary of Laurel Run. Unlike yesterday, the woods were full of still green ferns, obviously a different variety than the acres of Hay Scented Ferns we had passed through to this point. Of special note is the fact that the Saunders Run Valley was still holding on to some magnificent colors. Here the West Cross Connector ended and the Q.T. continued. All so often road walks can become pretty boring but, to me anyway, this one proved to be one of the highlights. We must have been on the leeward side of the mountain and this allowed the trees to hold onto their leaves a bit longer. We left the road at the driveway of a hunter’s cabin, picked up an old grade and found a beautiful campsite along the run in a stand of mature Beech. Although we were a mere 4.5 miles from the van at a little after 2:00 we stopped for the day, holding true to an old adage: ”Never pass up a sure thing!” ,especially if you don’t know what is in store for you if you continue. It ended up being a good decision. By 4:00 o’clock it was raining and it didn’t let up for several hours. It would have been a long hard drive for Ted to get us all back to our meeting point. Sparky had erected a tarp so we were able to finish our dinners in relative dryness. While some stayed up for a while others sought out the comfort of their tents immediately after the bear bag hanging ceremony. I was in the latter group. The rain stopped around 3:00. As often happens, nature called. I slipped on my boots and exited my tent as quietly as possible (which really isn’t all that quite) and stood before an amazing site. The Harvest Moon was shinning through a thin cloud and the stars shown brightly, illuminating the fall foliage. The leaves seemed silver and the limbs and trunks appeared to be black. It was as if I was standing in the middle of some sort of 3-D photo negative. I briefly contemplated staying up for a while but my 20 degree bag was beckoning me to return and so I did.

The next morning found us packing up wet gear as the sun fought its way through some low lying clouds. By the time we hit the trail it had won the fight and we enjoyed blue skies for the rest of the trip.  The trail soon left the grade, crossing the run on a stout foot bridge. For the next 1.5 to 2 miles the trail undulated up and down on rocky tread as it avoided falling into the stream. Just as this was getting to be old we landed on another railroad grade, giving us time to recover while still hiking. We stopped briefly at the northern terminus of the Cut-off Trail. Here the stream formed many mini-cascades as it tumbled over large boulders. By this time my camera battery was dead but I thought to myself that Gali could do wonders with this scene. Although this was an ideal break spot we pushed on, completing the last climb and taking our break under the sun. The last 1.7 miles was a veritable stroll in the woods as we passed through hardwood forest, Quehanna bogs, Hemlock groves and then a final piece of road walking along the park’s Fairview Road.

In total we covered 20.5 miles, climbed 2020 feet and saw 0 other humans along the way. I have heard others say that this route is not nearly as nice as the eastern section and they might be right. Still, it is a good trek, one that I will probably repeat but the next time I will add more of the Q.T. to it via a short road walk on Medix Road. This will add some additional vistas.



10/08/11, FMF, Volkswagon Loop: I was a little lazy getting up this morning but P-Hyker and I still found ourselves at the Hamburg Road trailhead by 9:15, plenty of time to enjoy a 7 mile hike. The temperature would top out in the high 70s, humidity was low and the sky was as blue as I’ve seen it in a long time. We started off on the wrong trail and my mistake was soon confirmed when we spotted a familiar “No Trespassing” sign. We had hiked this trail with Sixteen Penny when we did the Four Ponds-Rock City Loop over the winter.

We backtracked to the road and immediately found the blue blazed Catoctin Trail. We were going to have to make a right hand turn on a bike trail in a short distance but I had no idea if it would be obvious or not. A passing mountain biker made the turn in front of us. We followed at a distance although P wanted to run with him. The trail was flat and well maintained but the constant bends and sharp curves made the Salamander Trail seem like a ruler. P was even having troubles staying on trail. The architect of this trail was making sure it went over every flat boulder worthy of riding over or jumping off of. Talk about getting your internal gyroscope messed up! I was considering naming it the Worm Trail since Salamander was already spoken for and a snake couldn’t possibly undulate this much when we came upon a lawn ornament with the plastic head of some kind of doll on it. The head seemed to be of a character out of a cartoon or animated movie … sort of like a Kid Neptune or something or other.

 The undulations stopped briefly as we came upon a 4X woods road intersection. We continued straight although in about 5 minutes we realized that turning right would also have worked, both putting us back on the continuation of the bike trail. In about a mile (about a half mile as the crow flies) we crossed Hamburg Road and joined an old haul road that followed the edge of a ridge for a while. After passing the namesake of the trail and crossing a stream on a biker bridge it began a gradual descent until we arrived at another 4X junction. Any direction would work depending on the distance you want to hike. We turned left onto the Catoctin Trail and then left onto an old skid road and followed it towards Clifford Hollow, my favorite section of the forest. The road was maintained in sections but where it made a sharp left turn a biker trail left it and then crossed it further on, ending with a steep descent to the stream. We crossed and took a jerky break on a nice flat rock. P rather enjoyed immersing herself in the cold mountain stream. Another mountain biker came by and chatted with us a bit. He was going to climb a steep biker trail and then downhill on the section of the Catoctin Trail we were going to go up. He was sure he was going to run into us again but this would be the last we saw of him. The hike along the stream was mostly on a gentle old haul road and out of its sight except where we crossed it. We could still hear it and feel its coolness as we walked past the Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron. In a handful of minutes we arrived at a junction with the Catoctin Trail … again. We were again on familiar ground. We had hiked this next section with Dot Com while doing the Clifford Hollow Circuit. We weren’t in a race nor was I trying to catch up with someone or trying to maintain my pace for fellow hikers so we just took our time, stopping twice to check the map and GPS, the whole time knowing exactly where we were. We turned left onto a shortcut trail just before cresting the hill, walked through a grassy stretch lined with dead trees and left onto the same skid road we used to descend to Clifford Hollow earlier. After a very short, gradual climb the road flattened out and alternated between walking through Mountain Laurel Tunnels and young open forest. I should mention here that throughout our hike we enjoyed some nice fall colors. They weren’t that “take your breath away, I can’t believe this is a real photo” kind of color display. The reds, oranges and yellow were more subtle, diluted by the still green oak forest. Somehow the mind has the ability to  filter out some of the green, concentrating the colors on some internal canvas and providing a very soothing sensation. I don’t think there is a camera capable of doing that. A second highlight of the hike was to be a series of three ponds. When we arrived at the breast of the first and largest we found that it had been drained. A biker whom we talked to at the parking area told me that they always dry up in the summer but, upon noticing that the drain pipe had been “spiked” several times along its length, I doubt that it will ever fill up. Perhaps this is one of the ponds that had been drained during the long ago Anthrax investigation. There was another “spiked” drain pipe at a pond along the Salamander hike. After crossing the dam we veered of to the right, joining another bike trail. This in turn connected with the Catoctin Trail and soon deposited us back at our starting point. Just before arriving there we were passed by a guy on a dirt bike. I tried to explain to him that he was committing a big no-no but then his potty mouth started up. I decided not to get too confrontational and ruin our day so I just let him go on about his way. Except for that little distraction it had been a most excellent day in the woods.

Read More Adventures Here!


Latest Outing Critiques

Name: Doug Metzler                                                                                      Hike: Cowans Gap SP - Tuscarora Tr
Date: 10/30/2011                                                                                                   Rating: 4.8

Critique: We hiked this the day after a heavy early snowfall and the snow was ranging from 6 inches to knee deep. It was truly spectacular. The snow made it difficult enough (and daylight was short enough) that we cut out the final loop that comes down the horse shoe trail. Directions were excellent. Blazing and signage at junctions was very good but note that the blazes on the Plessinger trail are now an orangish yellow rather than the red indicated on the map. Since the snow obscured the trail on the Tuscarora trail, and snow was clinging to tree trunks we had to do a little exploring at a couple of places to find the next blaze, but it wasn't too hard. Usually pretty clear where to go. Geyer trail was pretty slippy and difficult in the snow but doable. By the time we hit Plessinger a lot of the ground snow was melted and there were many deep muddy places so I would suggest over ankle boots and gaiters, not low cuts, for these conditions. We drove out from Pittsburgh for th
 is and it was well worth the trip.


Name: Scott_R                                                                                                Hike: Jones Run - Doyles River Loop
Date: 10-25-11                                                                                                         Rating: 4

Critique: This was my second trip to this loop; it is definitely a 'waterfall' hike.  There are not really any vistas or other views included, but for moderate - in time, climb and length - hike, it's ideal.  It was an ideal 'date' hike!

My first trip, I did the 'short' loop returning on the fire trail; there may be better views I missed by skipping the two mile stretch along the Skyline Drive, but based on what I saw between Browns Gap and the Jones Run parking lot, I'm doubtful.

My second trip (about which I report here), I came in by way of Browns Gap Tnpk (the fire road) from below the park, and did this as a sort of out-and-back.  The road is quite well maintained inside the park, but not at all between the last farm field gate and the park boundary; it is passable only on foot for about a mile and half before the boundary.  While the park service does have signage up, they don't even bother with a gate.  We parked to one side (just in case someone came by and wanted to get past) and walked up.

We diverted off the road after the first swale we came to inside the park, and dropped down to where the Doyles and the Jones meet, and then picked up the trail back up to the road, giving us a chance to see the two waterfalls on the Doyles.  We then came back down the fire road.  This was an approximately 5 mile circuit and took about three hours - well worth it.

The second visit was mid-week and we saw nobody at all; my first visit was rather crowded.  There are a number of great swimming holes on the Doyles River and I'll go back for a dip in the summer, but mid-week.  A great short hike!



Name: Bob                                                                                                      Hike: Mt. Rogers Backpack
Date: 10/21-22/11                                                                                                 Rating: 5

Critique: This hike was an amazing experience. To the see awesome fall colors and then walk through a winter wonderland, was amazing. The endless views just blew me away. I did the 2 day version of the hike, but I camped near these two big boulders which offered truly inspirational sunsets and sunrises. Add to the fact that ponies slept beside my tent, and a meteor shower too! just awesome. I've done over 60 hikes, and this was the best hike I ever did. It was a very easy hike on the knees to ;) Check out the pictures from hike and others here: https://picasaweb.google.com/107375326274741613284

This was a real adventure



Name: Scott_R                                                                                                         Hike: St. Mary's Wilderness
Date: 10/1/11                                                                                                          Rating: 4

Critique: I've been drawn to the St. Mary's because it is a nice large wilderness, with a nice swimming hole, fairly close to home.  Unfortunately, it has a few shortcomings.

My early trips have always been out-and-back to the falls using the lower trail from the FS road and parking area.  As noted in the description, this trail was badly damaged by Irene and only continues to deteriorate.  There have been a series of heavy storms and flooding events in this area in late 2010 and early 2011 and the lower trail has deteriorated noticeably in the past year.

This most recent trip was a two night backpacking trip in which we went in by way of the lower falls trail, camped the first night there and then moved in the morning to the campsites near the intersection of Mine Run trail and the River trail.  This was a lovely camping spot - there are several great sites right next to the river and we brought a filter so we had all the water we could ask for.  We did the rest of the loop with just day packs.

This is not an 'easy' hike, but it is moderate; the climb from the valley up the river trail to the Green Pond area is pretty vigorous for the last short stretch, but most of it is moderate to flat.  This would be a tougher climb with a full pack.  However, as the loop is laid out, it's not bad at all.  If you were set on camping at Green Pond, you might reverse the direction since the climb up Mine Run Trail seems easier than the other (though it's also steep).

The other unfortunate part was just that views were only so-so, except from the Flint Mountain overlook.  Still, not crowded and fairly clean.




Name: Jeff                                                                                                                 Hike: Roaring Plains Circuit
Date: 10/21/11-10/23/11                                                                                    Rating: 5+

Critique: Amazing hike, I appreciate all of your hard work putting this page and hike together.  I won't lie and say it was easy but my buddies and I found all the trails, including the infamous tee pee trail. Your directions were invaluable and the trails were just as you described.   We put an extra cairn in the campsite where the tee pee trail intersects the canyon overlook trail at the campsite as we had a little bit of difficulty finding it for a minute.  My only regret for the whole trip was when we walked out on the canyon overlook trail, it was fogged in, I can only imagine what that must look like on a clear day.  When my knees forgive me for this trip, I definitely plan to go back.  Thanks for everything, it was probably the best trip I have ever been on and certainly an amazing adventure.



Name: Keith Selbo                                                                                                   Hike: Brown Mountain - Rocky Top Loop
Date: 10-15 to10-17-2011                                                                                     Rating: 5

Critique: Perfect for a fall hike. Cool temperatures, leaves falling like multi-colored snow, grand vistas, roaring rapids, peaceful valleys, dappled autumn shade and a harvest moon you could read by -- what a hike!



Name: Steve Appler                                                                                                Hike: Hybrid - Roaring Plains Circuit-modified
Date: 10/7-9/11                                                                                                      Rating: 5

Critique: My brother Greg, my son Austin and I just enjoyed a backpacking trip using mostly the trail described here as the MNF-Roaring Plains/Hidden Passage/Canyon Rim Loop, but we didnt turn off at the Tee Pee Trail, but instead followed the Canyon Rim Trail all the way to its junction with the Roaring Plains Trail before returning on the Roaring Plains Trail route.

This was an arduous backpack trip and for those who would prefer to enjoy the spectacular views without the chore carrying a heavy pack through some very difficult terrain I would suggest setting up a base camp as described in Roaring Plains Base Camp and Day Hike and make the Canyon Rim Trail a day hike. M.R.Hyker suggested that to me, but I had to try it.

We reached the western end of the South Prong Trail (also the FR19 end of the Boars Nest Trail) about 5:15pm on Friday and started hiking down the South Prong Trail at 5:35pm. I had not thoroughly read the hike description on this site. Don't make that same mistake. Instead, I followed the trails that came with my Garmin GPS. We got into big trouble. We turned left before reaching the South Fork of Red Creek (this was the mistake) and followed what we thought was the South Prong Trail for some time before it disappeared. (Disappearing trails was to be a frequent theme for this whole weekend trip). We knew we needed to eventually ford the creek, so we bushwhacked our way down a very steep slope through very dense laurel thickets until we reached the creek, crossed without much difficulty and then had to contend with even more dense thickets on the other side. Eventually, we struggled up that steep slope and found a very faint South Prong Trail. By now it was getting dark and we donned our headlamps. We crossed FR70 in the dark and found a group of cars parked there. Ive backpacked there numerous times over the last 20 years and have usually found the gate to FR70 to be locked at FR19, so dont count on driving down this road for a short-cut. We climbed the steep slope up to where there is a great streamside campsite (as described in MNF-Roaring Plains/Hidden Passage/Canyon Rim Loop) and we kept moving on. Very shortly after that we located (actually, my GPS located it and I was damn happy about that) the intersection with the Hidden Passage Trail. I had downloaded the trip coordinates from this site which were extremely helpful throughout the trip since trails were constantly disappearing. (We ran into some hunters training their dogs to hunt bear who said that there were 9 of snow up there the week before and that had obscured many trails by beating down grass and foliage over the trails).

We followed the Hidden Passage Trail (generally) for awhile until we simply lost it. By this time it was about 9:00pm and we decided to give up on the trail and just walk straight to the waypoint of our campsite destination. That wasnt easy since theres a lot of spruce in the way, but we emerged into a semi-meadow area where we found a trail and finally a spectacular site with moonlit views of about 180 degrees. We set up camp and we collapsed. It was about 10:30pm.

We woke to an extremely beautiful scene. Mountaintops far below us rose above mists in the valleys. The leaves were near their colorful peak. The cranberries and blueberries were fiery red and the sunrise lit this spectacular scene magnificently. In my 30+ years of backpacking this was among the most impressive campsites I've experienced. My thanks to M.R. Hyker for bringing this (among many other great trips) to my attention.

We packed up in the morning and enjoyed an easy hike through very Dolly Sods-like plains cranberry & blueberry low-growing brush with grasses and low laurel thickets interspersed with spruce groves until we arrived at the pipeline where we turned left. We delayed making our turn onto the Canyon Rim Trail so that we could enjoy the overlook we found at the top of the pipeline rise. Then we turned back and turned left into the Canyon Rim Trail. Or, so we thought.

If you read the trip description here you will read that the Canyon Rim Trail is the most difficult trail to find. That is VERY true. First, do not follow the obvious trail through an established streamside campsite and down the mountain. Its seductive, but its wrong. We only missed doing that because my son, Austin, pointed out that going down just didnt match the topo there. We then widely and systematically scoured the area looking for any sign of trail and found nothing. (There was another hiker who was looking for that dead tree with a sign in it as described on this site that tree must have fallen down. We met him a long time later coming in from the other direction because he could not find the trail). We had just decided to give up finding the trail and to simply bushwhack our way from GPS waypoint to waypoint starting with a small meadow when the aforementioned hunters came through the meadow towards us. We asked if they knew where the trail was and they responded that we were on it. That's when we learned that the previous weeks snow had caused many mountain trails to be obscured. Once we made our way across the meadow we found and lost the trail numerous times in the dense laurel thickets. We followed the advice of the hunters and MidAtlanticHikes.com and kept the canyon rim close on our left and this worked fine, though the hiking here with packs was exceptionally difficult in the brush and with the constant, though gradual ascent.

There are spectacular overlooks all along the Canyon Rim Trail. The Point is especially beautiful and wide ranging. There were so many views that we started to pass some by and others provided wonderful excuses to remove our loads and to spread ourselves on the cool rocks in the warm sun. It was glorious weather.

We passed a couple nice campsites along the rim, too, though none had the open views of our first nights site. We came across a long section where we had to jump from rock to rock to stay on trail. Thank you to each of you who placed the cairns along that path or we could possibly still be there. That section seemed endless and the trail promptly disappeared again on the western end.
We never noticed where the Canyon Rim Trail met the Tee Pee Trail, but we found the dry campsite that was mentioned there. We knew we were nearing our destination for the night at the junction of the Canyon Rim Trail and the Roaring Plains Trail and since that area was said to be dry we chose to pump water from a small spring under a rock near the dry campsite. We could actually hear the water running behind the rocks. M.R.Hyker had warned me that the water was dirty there, but it looked clear. Of course, he was right and it clogged my filter even through my pre-filter. I found the same thing back in June when I pumped water out of Red Creek down near The Forks. There's some kind of mineral in that water that just clogs filters badly. We got enough water to get by, though, and kept on going.

We collapsed on one more rock outcropping and not long after leaving there stomped through a bog at the edge of some clearings in the spruce and followed the trail up a gentle grade until we finally made it to the trail junction where we found about 20-30 tents already set up. Apparently there was a Washington Backpacking club who came in via the Roaring Plains Trail. There was plenty of room for us, though, and we set up on the edge of the camp with a nice overlook of the valley to the southwest.

The wind howled all night. Over the years Ive found that is typical of most of the Dolly Sods and the Roaring Plains area. We camp in hammocks, so we got a nice rocking motion all night. That is, when we didnt feel like we were being blown out of the trees. We packed up late Sunday morning, doubled back to the Roaring Plains Trail which was our first clearly marked trail of the weekend. It was well blazed and wide open. As a matter of curiosity we found that end of the Tee Pee Trail as we passed by. There were colored flags hanging in the laurel there and my GPS confirmed we were at that junction. We stayed on the Boars Nest Trail, descended, found the pipeline and turned right, and shortly after that came to the end of FR70 onto which we turned left. There were about 10 cars parked there which we passed and shortly afterward we turned left onto the Boars Nest Trail.

The Boars Nest Trail is well marked, wide open and from FR70 climbs steeply for short time before leveling out. There are some great views across the open mountains, meadows, more spruce groves, more laurel thickets and brilliantly lit deciduous forest all around us. Then, we began the painful descent back into the South Fork of the Red Creek valley that lasted more than a mile. I had photography equipment and my load was much weightier than I prefer. Going downhill hurt. We finally made it to the creek and rested. Then we turned our sights to that last very steep climb back to the car. We headed out to Seneca Creek to eat badly and drink great beer in celebration of one more excellent trip.

I'm going back there, but next time I'm going to alter my route and trim my load back to my normal almost ultra light weight. I like long distance backpacking trips, but this trip was long, difficult and with a heavy backpack it wasn't as easy to enjoy the magnificent sites as it would be with a lighter daypack. I'll probably make base camp near where we spent our first night this trip, take the Canyon Rim Trail (now that I know how to find it) as a day trip, turn off at the Tee Pee Trail (if I can find that end of it), turn right onto the Roaring Plains Trail and when I reach the pipeline turn right and walk the mile back up the pipeline until I turn left onto the Hidden Passage Trail and back to camp. Look for me there in a few weeks.




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